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CensusMonitor: Due to large number of reports of irregularities, results of the Census are questionable

Alisa Karović

IMG_4538BiH institutions were not sufficiently prepared for the Census. Contracts and Confidentiality Agreements were not signed, a certain number of enumerators was not trained well for the job, and the questions in the questionnaire were not entirely clear to the citizens.

According to the data gathered by UG “Zašto ne” and Coalition “Equality” within the framework of the project CensusMonitor, a lot of things went wrong. “There was no central area for storage of the Census materials and there was not enough of questionnaires prepared. Also, the information campaign did not exist, the web page had only random data and they were published periodically in PDF documents, which are not accessible to all citizens. The call center was opened four days before the Census and was working till 5pm on working days only. Our colleagues from CensusMonitor were working all the time every day of the Census, and they had a budget 20 times smaller than the official institutions” said Dalio Sijah, activist of UG “Zašto ne”

Sijah emphasized that none of the official institutions ever responded to external campaigns which were conducted for the purpose of suggesting giving false answers or even of calling for an open violation of the law.

“In regard to this issue one of the campaigns was held by the former Srebrnica municipality council members, who went to Serbia and urged people who have properties in Srebrenica to declare themselves as citizens of Srebrenica or similarly, the campaign of the Croatian State Office for Croats Abroad urged the Croats from outside of BiH to go and be enumerated in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Also, the law on the protection of personal data has not been respected because census materials were illegally stored in houses instead of in local Census commissions. Because of that there was a possibility of gaining insight into citizens’ questionnaires, as they were not protected enough.” added Sijah.

And even though during the its press conference, BiH Agency for Statistics claimed that there were no issues or only minor technical problems, CensusMonitor through its website, phone or social networks received 1,539 questions and more than 600 problem reports.

“No institution has made a campaign why and how the Census was conducted. The most sensitive issues of questions 24, 25, 26 were not clear to the citizens. The most common questions concerned the rights and training of enumerators. Also people were afraid that they would lose other citizenship status (i.e. Croatian) if they declare themselves as somebody different than a Croat, furthermore they feared that their property will be taken from them and so on” said Damir Berilo from CensusMonitor.

Most reports came from Sarajevo, Tuzla, Banja Luka, Srebrenica, Prijedor, Gradiška, Trebinje and Mostar.

“The credibility of the Census is questionable in more than 500 Census units and there is a reasonable doubt if 20% of the filled questionnaires is reliable. The obtained data on the socio-economic characteristics, as well as about the population will be better than the currently available ones, but their credibility is questionable”, said Sijah.