Politics

GHANA STATISTICAL SERVICE CREDIBILITY AT RISK OVER FAKE DATA COMPILATION AND DATA MANIPULATION

If the credibility of the Statistical Service is not restored then the outside world including international organisations will lose faith in our data which will eventually adversely affect our image. It is time the service saves itself as the risk of faith erosion looms large with repeated report withholding.

The independence of the statistical service is a prerequisite for performing its function without bias and fear. Even under our military regimes, the statistical service was largely independent but of late its independence seems to be eroding. Collection and dissemination of statistical information began in 1891, when Gold Coast conducted its first population census. In 1948, after the end of the world war, the office of the Government Statistician was established and in 1961, the Nkrumah government expanded and renamed the office as the Central Bureau of Statistics.

The PNDC administration passed the Statistical service law 135, which established the Ghana Statistical Service and placed under the Ghana public service. The Ghana Statistical service conducts various censuses, surveys and compiles socioeconomic data.

The truth is that, the country’s statistics across board have become dubious and questionable. Such questions have arisen in the last three years and at regular intervals whenever new sets of data on Ghana’s economic growth, inflation or employment generation have been either released or held back and in some cases, even junked. That these doubts and questions surfaced more prominently and frequently after the Akufo-Addo government was inaugurated in 2017. This new dimension has also contributed to the construction of an overall political narrative of the Akufo-Addo government that is obsessed with controlling and manipulating state institutions, but also the country’s economic data.

This emerging trend is clearly a new phase for Ghana’s socioeconomic data and represents a near precipitous fall from the high standards that prevailed under past regimes.

Before 2017, the Ghana Statistical service had emerged as a major world class centre of its kind. Heads like Dr Oti Boateng, Dr Twum Baah among others, received global recognition because of diligence they attached to their work.

Any statistics that cast an iota of doubt on the claimed achievements of the government seem to get revised or suppressed on the basis of some questionable methodology. This unusual call over Ghana’s statistical integrity comes amid mounting scepticism about the government’s official gross domestic product estimates, Gross International Reserves figures, inflation projection, employment data, which have grown increasingly opaque and out of sync with other leading indicators, such as private investment, employment and unemployment growth and credit growth. The Akufo-Addo government says Ghana’s economy is among the fastest growing in the world. It has also dismissed the negative effects of the administration’s bad policies which led to the depreciation of the cedi and collapse of businesses. Agriculture growth has dropped, the service sector is going through challenges, financial institutions have collapsed, unemployment has increased. Yet in the statistical service and government’s report before the covid-19 pandemic their GDP growth estimates, inflation figure improved , saying economic growth had accelerated only to be exposed by the covid-19 pandemic.

Big controversy arose over the authenticity of employment data brought out by government institutions. Those figures showed a significant increase in the number of jobs created by this administration. The Agric Minister said his ministry has created millions of Jobs, the Health Ministry came out with its figures, which in turn means a sharp increase in jobs creation. The government’s own official data and official information showed that the data from the ministries were politically manipulated just to show an exaggerated rise in employment. Government in collaboration with the statistical service came out with statistics which showed a significant increase in average consumption spending by Ghanaians, which in turn meant a sharp decline in poverty levels. Is that the prevailing reality? Look at the way Ghanaians struggled for the food government, the opposition and private persons distributed during the lockdown. Complicating it further was the failure of government to quickly produce the back data of GDP, based on new series

If the doubts cast on Ghana’s data were not enough, the Akufo-Addo government scored an own goal by furnishing the IMF with data different from what is captured in its official report. These are acts of political interference to deter the publication of data that could embarrass the ruling establishment.

The Akufo-Addo government’s disdain for survey based data became evident once again when the Agric Minister told Ghanaians that Ghc 5 could buy a bunch of plantain and told us prices of foodstuffs had reduced significantly. Market women denied the agric minister’s claim and expressed shock. The truth is that consumer spending in real terms has for the first time in a decade, fallen drastically. This is having serious implications for the country’s poverty level, which could have arisen as a consequence.

The inescapable conclusion from the recent data related developments is that the Akufo-Addo government has undermined and undermining the once robust statistical system and data collection methodologies. Government has not refrained from hiding roughshod over the independent offices that should oversee the system of Statistics collection and dissemination.

If the statistical service wants to restore people’s faith in the data or statistics their release, it must start operate as a truly independent body and must rely on internationally approved methodologies in its calculations and refrain from taking orders and directives from political actors

I got extremely worried when I heard the deputy Government statistician predict that the inflation figure is likely to drop soon. I am still struggling to understand why he made that prediction without considering the situation we find ourselves and the projected economic consequences. It is wrong on his part to raise our expectations when the President and the manager of our treasury have already hinted of the likely consequences. Was he preparing our minds towards their usual inaccurate figures? The current development is very serious issue as it is that first time in the country’s history that a government is interfering and manipulating data in collaboration with the once respected Statistical service.

I pray that the newly appointed Government statistician, Prof. Annim, saves the Ghana Statistical service as the risk of faith erosion looms large with repeated report withholding. Amen!

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