Uganda’s National Census Delayed Due to Procurement Setbacks

Uganda's National Census Delayed Due to Procurement Setbacks

The National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) in Uganda recently announced the postponement of the highly anticipated national housing and population census. Initially set for August 24-25, 2023, the national census has been delayed due to procurement issues. The new date for the census has not been revealed, leaving many stakeholders anxiously awaiting further information.

In a press conference last Thursday, UBOS Deputy Executive Director, Godfrey Nabongo, shed light on the circumstances that led to the postponement. He explained that the lack of confirmed funding resulted in delayed procurement, ultimately triggering the decision to postpone the national census.

“It’s a critical process. Until you have confirmed funding, you don’t proceed with the procurement. We didn’t have confirmed funding at the required moment in time,” Nabongo stated, highlighting the importance of stable financing in executing the census.

The census process is a complex, yet essential operation that relies heavily on technology. In fact, UBOS had earlier sought Shs132 billion to procure tablets to be used in the census process. In a significant development, Nabongo confirmed that the Ministry of Finance has now found the requisite funds, paving the way for the procurement process to commence.

In addition to the domestic funding, the government has secured $10 million (Shs3.7 billion) in funding from the World Bank, further bolstering the project’s financial resources. This considerable financial backing underscores the importance of the national census and its integral role in shaping policy decisions.

Furthermore, in an effort to streamline procurement and save resources, the United Nations will oversee the procurement of tablets directly from their manufacturers. “The UN has been supporting many African countries to procure tablets for their censuses. Through the UN system, we shall be acquiring these tablets at a much lower cost, less than 50% if we went for open bidding,” Nabongo elaborated.

Once the national census is completed, these tablets won’t become obsolete; they will serve different levels of the government. From strengthening administrative data to supporting public service delivery points like schools, hospitals, and police stations, the technology’s residual value will contribute to the government’s efficiency.

The government, through UBOS, conducts a national census every decade. The last national census took place in 2014, recording Uganda’s population at 36 million. Current data from the United Nations now estimates the population of Uganda to be approximately 48.9 million, highlighting the urgency and necessity of conducting an updated national census.

However, the bureau has been grappling with internal challenges as well. The High Court recently dismissed an application by Henry Dhikusooka, a former UBOS employee, who sought restraining orders after being subjected to a disciplinary process. Dhikusooka was dismissed over gross misconduct offences in May 2023, although he alleges his dismissal was due to whistleblowing.

While UBOS contends that Dhikusooka and other dismissed staff have begun a smear campaign to undermine the institution, they vehemently deny these allegations. Amid claims of expired contracts and accusations of nepotism and poor financial management, the bureau maintains its adherence to national laws, guidelines, and procedures in its mandate of developing, producing, and disseminating official statistics.

As UBOS confronts these challenges, it is clear that the importance of the national census cannot be overstated. It serves as a key tool for planning, policy-making, and resource allocation. Amidst the postponements and controversies, the goal remains to ensure an accurate, timely, and efficient census that accurately reflects Uganda’s rapidly growing population.

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