RIOTOUS PNG CENSUS WORKERS AN EMBARRASSMENT

Editorial

The National

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (July 27, 2011) – The government ought to immediately step in to stop the fracas in the national census that is fast becoming a national embarrassment in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

We heard of the mob rule in Chimbu headquarters, Kundiawa, a couple of days back which turned the provincial government office into something resembling a tribal battle field.

Some 3,000 census workers were protesting delay in payment for census work.

Today, we carry a story where interviewers from Lae’s ward six are threatening to burn all census forms or pads if they are not paid their outstanding allowances after completing their seven days of survey.

Provincial administrator Kemas Tomala has been called on by the census officials in Lae to step in to sort out suspected discrepancies associated with their allowances.

The interviewers are claiming that there has been poor administration of the census operations in the city, resulting in them not being paid the standard allowance as was the advice given to them during their training last month.

During the five-day training, the interviewers were promised 125 kina [US$55].

However, at the conclusion of the survey, the interviewers got 95 kina [US$42] while their supervisors got 110 kina [US$48], which is K30 and K15 short respectively.

Furthermore, one week after completing their zones, they say they are still waiting to be paid the K40 daily allowances totalling 280 kina [US$123] for each interviewer.

How this has been allowed to happen is beyond understanding.

The census occurs every 10 years. That is a very long time and more than enough time for the National Statistical Office (NSO) to prepare for the census.

Despite that, when it fell due last year, the NSO was caught unprepared and the entire process was deferred by a whole year.

A great deal of money had been allocated in the national budget for the exercise.

Yet, despite the delay and the big outlay of the funds, the entire exercise appears poorly managed.

Why should interviewers be frustrated over non-payment of their allowances when all of these should have been factored from the word "go"?

This seems to be a national malady.

It is not the first time that we have seen people engaged for national events complain about not being paid their allowances or being short-changed.

It happens at every national or local election and it happens at census.

The Buka situation, of course, is quite unique. There, the bank has run out of money so census workers cannot be paid.

Elsewhere, the complaint is coming in thick and fast that census managers have not paid interviewers.

If threats to burn census pads or interview forms are carried out, the entire exercise will have been a waste of time and money.

We agree with the interviewer who, yesterday, said: "We have been totally committed as officers during the census.

Now we call on Tomala to find out where the money problem is in the system and let all census officers in Lae and Morobe know why they are not being paid as promised."

Yes, why ever not?

The views of the ward six officers reflect the views of many other census workers right around the country.

It is a shame that interviewers have to wait for two weeks before expressing their disgust. We appreciate their anger.

In the National Capital District, census mop-up has not yet started; another indicator which points to lack of forward planning and management.

Officers told The National that they were still waiting for advice from the National Capital District (NCD) census coordinating team, based at City Hall, for the mop-up to continue.

This is obvious for the Waigani and Morata areas because census listings for houses not covered during the main enumeration two weeks ago are still being finalized.

If this is just happening in the capital where access is excellent, it is anybody’s guess what must be happening throughout the country.

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