First it was shifted from January to October for pandemic, now a procurement delay pushing the enumeration further most likely to next year
Bangladesh’s overdue population census, considered crucial for the country’s future policy planning, is getting delayed again due to the authorities’ failure to complete the preparations on time.
Government had earlier shifted the enumeration, scheduled in January this year, to October citing the Covid-19 pandemic.
But officials at Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) told Dhaka Tribune on Thursday that the schedule will be pushed further as procurement of some 400,000 tablet PCs meant for the enumerators have been delayed.
Since Bangladesh’s first population census in 1974, the BBS has all along being carrying out this flagship census once in each decade – the second one was done in 1981, followed by three more in 1991, 2001, and 2011. But it’s highly unlikely now that BBS would be able to do the sixth one on time.
Kabir Uddin Ahmed, Project Director of the Population and Housing Census 2021, BBS, told this correspondent, “We’ll not be able to carry out the enumeration from October 25 to 31 (rescheduled earlier after pandemic-induced 10-month delay).”
He cited a recent cabinet purchase committee decision of retendering the laptop procurement as reason for failure to meet the current census schedule.
His deputy in the Tk1,578 crore 2021 Population Census project, Lizen Shah Nayem told Dhaka Tribune on Thursday that they’re putting in all efforts now to float the procurement of tablet PCs afresh within a day or two so that BBS can start the enumeration at least by the end of this year.
But sources involved in the process fear the whole retendering process might take longer than that and BBS would miss out the decade cycle of completing the census job.
This sixth round of population census is considered more crucial as the government’s Eighth Five-Year Plan, SDG goals and Delta Plan—all have serious consequences on the outcome of the population and housing census. The government needs the outcome sooner than later.
While talking about puzzling mismatch in country’s current population figure and food production statistics at a recent event, Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque and State Minister for Planning Dr Shamsul Alam emphasized on the need of an authentic new census report for the interest of proper policy planning.
What causes the delay
The project’s deputy head Lizen Shah Nayem told this correspondent on Thursday that unlike five previous censuses, the sixth round of population census would be done digitally and using sophisticated software, which is expected to generate all vital nationwide data in quick time with utmost authenticity.
That’s why BBS is spending almost a third of its over Tk1,500 crore census budget on procurement of digital devices and associated software to equip census manpower in all 400,000 enumeration units in the whole country.
Accordingly, BBS floated a tender seeking to buy some 400,000 tablet PCs in June this year. Eight companies bought the tender documents but later only two — Walton Digitech Industries Ltd and Fair Electronics Ltd (manufacturer and distributor of Samsung products in Bangladesh) participated in the bidding process.
Fair Electronics submitted a proposal of Tk548 crore, while Walton placed its proposal of Tk402 crore for supplying the tablet PCs.
But a BBS tender evaluation panel ultimately found Walton’s bid untenable on quality criterion and duly forwarded note for cabinet purchase body’s approval for the procurement by showing Fair Electronics as the only responsive bidder.
The Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase (CCGP) meeting held virtually with Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal in the chair on August 25 rejected the proposal and asked for a retender.
Cabinet Division Additional Secretary Md Shamsul Arefin said the meeting decided to float the tender again for procuring the tablet PCs.