The Management of Statistics Sierra Leone has defended the sacking of over 200 workers it says are incompetent.
Officials of the government agency responsible for generating statistical data on Friday confirmed the dismissal of a total of 244 employees who they say were found to be either not qualified to serve in the positions they occupied or were recruited through the wrong procedure.
A new recruitment drive has been put in motion to fill the vacancies created by these sacking, they said.
The confirmation comes amidst growing public outcry after rumours about the dismissals appeared on social media.
Critics of the government say the move is part of an ongoing purge of people thought to be supporters and sympathizers of the main opposition All People’s Congress.
Professor Osman Sankoh, Statistician General, said the decision was based purely on efforts to revive the agency and make it more efficient. He said as head of the institution, he would need a competent team to help him achieve his goals.
“We are trying to regain Statistics Sierra Leone’s credibility,” Sankoh told journalists at a press conference, noting that lack of competence among the bloated staff base of the institution had been found to be hindering its progress.
Professor Sankoh, a renowned Statistician with international repute, assumed the leadership of the organization in April last year after being appointed by former President Ernest Bai Koroma. Until then he headed the international research outfit, INDEPTH Network, which is based in Ghana and specializes in health data management.
Thursday’s press briefing was designed to present the state of the agency since he took over.
In a power point presentation to an audience that also included senior staff of the institution and members of the Statistics Sierra Leone Council, the Statistician General highlighted the achievements he’s realized as Chief Executive Officer of the institution and his goals.
“We want to be a winner and we cannot be a winner if the team behind me is not strong enough,” he said.
Prof. Sankoh added that there was a need for credible statistics to not just save Sierra Leone’s image internationally, but also to help the Government make evidence based policies for development.
“Efficiency is not possible with staffs that are misfits,” he stressed. Established in 2002, SSL, which was recently rebranded as Stats SL, operates as a corporate body, tasked with the responsibility to collect, compile, analyse and disseminate accurate, reliable and timely statistical information on priority areas of the government to enable it make informed decisions.
Statistics SL is governed by the Statistics Sierra Leone Council which provides guidance for the Statistician General who presides over the implementation of the decisions taken by the Council.
Before the mass sacking, the agency had a total number of 321 staff. Over 200 of these were at the head office in Freetown.
The dismissed staffs are from all over the country, according to the agency. Other than the Statistician General, only the Council has the power to hire and fire employees of Statistics Sierra Leone, according to the Act that established the institution.
Members of the Statistics SL Council are appointed by the President and subject to parliamentary approval. The membership is drawn from diverse group of people, representing all the regions of the country as well as institutional representatives from relevant government Ministries, Departments and Agencies, and the civil society, including the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists.
Veteran staffer at Statistics Sierra Leone, Moses Williams, has been chair of the Council since June last year. He reiterated the reason behind the review that led to the mass sacking.
“This is an institution that has to be efficient. It has to have the right competence,” he said, adding: “If you are in a place without the right procedure, we have to correct that.”
Mr. Williams dismissed suggestions that people had been targeted based on their perceived political affiliation. He said as a Council they had no idea where those affected by the review were from, noting that if they were predominantly from a single region, then it only meant that that region had been unduly favoured in the Council.
Williams said in spite of the situation, all those sacked have equal opportunity to apply when the job vacancy adverts are out.
“If a person applies and has the requirement, they have a chance,” he said.