Tanzania: Researchers Urge Govt to Amend Statistics Act 2015

(file photo).

Dar es Salaam — Research stakeholders have called for the government to re-table the Statistics Act 2015 in parliament for amendment, warning that failure to do so would adversely affect development where such statistics are key for planning.

Their call came hard on the heels of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announcement on its website that it had started the process for amending the Statistics Regulation of 2017 to suit the amendments in the Act.

The bill for amendments of the Act, was moved for the second reading in the House through "The Written Laws Miscellaneous Amendments Act No. 3 of 2018 by the Attorney General, Dr Adelardus Kilangi, in September for debate and deliberation.

"In the course of preparations of the regulations for enforcement of the law, our stakeholders will be invited for comments," reads part of the NBS statement.

However, Repoa strategic research director Abel Kinyondo turned down the invitation by the NBS, saying it would change nothing. "The issue is not about the regulations, but the law, because the former cannot contradict the latter," said Dr Kinyondo.

"If the government really wished to seek suggestions from us, it would fully involve us on the amendments of the law and not the regulations."

He warned that unless the Act was re-tabled in the House, it would threaten funding of researches by Western countries due to the 2018 amendments, which were likely to infringe upon the objectivity of researchers.

Dr Kinyondo cautioned that proposed amendments were likely to cause distortion of origin of data due to the condition, which prohibits researchers from disseminating their findings for public consumption without approval from the NBS.

"The amendments were meant to limit the freedom of institutions and individual researchers, and hence leveraging on production of poor quality researches," he worried.

"Tanzania's data can be accessed elsewhere globally. Funders can alternatively support researchers from other countries that can objectively conduct a research with a case study of Tanzania.

As it stands, over 90 per cent of researches in the country are funded by the Western countries.

Recently, the World Bank threatened to suspend funding to Tanzania after expressing concerns about new legislation, which would punish anyone who questions official statistics.

However, a few days ago, the World Bank's Vice President for Africa, Dr Hafez Ghanem, pledged to continue supporting the government after holding discussions with the government on the matter.

"We made this clear to the government and the government made it clear to us that they are open to discussions on implementation and modalities of dealing with this, again, our technical team and statisticians are working with the government on the details," he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a director from one of the largest research institutions, shared similar sentiments, saying there was nothing urgent to rush the amendments without consulting stakeholders properly. He punched holes on the law, saying it was denying comparability and hence limits learning opportunity to NBS.

"No single entity is perfect, NBS makes mistakes too. Restricting researches from criticising official data by the government would discourage intellectual rigour and hence daunt creativity," the source warned.

He suggested that in the course of preparation of the regulations, the government should classify information and that only the very sensitive ones be censored.

"There is no need for censorship of information which have no serious threat to security and economic development. Citizenry and other basic information should be free-censored because they don't change the fact," he opined.

"The regulations should focus on reducing the burden of the body instead of further burdening it with more censorship duties. More censorship should be on new entrants and not the trusted institutions.

"Spirit of regulations should be more capacity building and not punitive in nature,"

The efforts to reach the NBS lawyer, Mr Oscar Mangula, for comment proved futile as his phone went unanswered.

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