Statistics SA (Stats SA) Strategic Plan and Budget 2010/11

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Finance Standing Committee

12 April 2010
Chairperson: Mr T Mufamadi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Minister Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency for National Planning, welcomed and introduced the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) team to the Committee. He commented that the work programme of Stats SA, in accordance with the Statistics Act, should be prioritised.  He noted that the work programme of Stats SA was ambitious, had taken into account the ten priorities of government, and was in accordance with the Statistics Act.

The Chairperson of the Statistics Council said that the Strategic Plan paved the way for a new direction for statistical development in South Africa over the next five years, that the work programme established the foundation for the new strategy and outlined the challenges as the need to build trust in official statistics, to improve the quality official statistics, to ensure that appropriate skills were available, and to coordinate.

The Statistician General presented the Strategic Plan to the Committee. The briefing session comprised an introduction, the national effort on statistical production, strategic enablers and a conclusion. The presentation set out the statistical themes of prices, economic growth and transformation, health, education, safety and security, population dynamics and sustainable resource management, and outlined the main achievements, aims and challenges in regard to each. There was also discussion around food security, land reform and rural development as well as life circumstances, service delivery and poverty. Stats SA was currently working on the planning for census 2011. The pilot had been conduced in 2009 and the dress rehearsal would be in 2010. Challenges relating to the statistical theme revolved around the enumeration of everyone, the reduction of undercount and legislative provisions for the frequency of censuses. It was noted that Stats SA was adequately capacitated to manage Census 2011. Stats SA aimed at building trust and public confidence through integrated research and development, innovation management, integrated communication and marketing, a dwelling frame, quality management system and improved service delivery and productivity. It furthermore intended to invest in learning and growth through the creation of an enabling technology environment and the development of statistical capacity. The strategic enablers pertained to governance, statistical tools and the regulatory environment. It was stressed that the production of statistics was a national effort and that Stats SA was the lead partner in quality statistics.

Members asked about the oversight of Stats SA, questioned the estimates on the undercount, and asked about the recruitment strategy for the 2011 census. Several members expressed concern about the reliability of data across the intergovernmental spectrum and whether the challenge of people being willing to share information still persisted. Questions were asked about progress on the demarcation programme and its linkage to the 2011 census, as also the publicity for that census, and the adequacy of the budget. Members also suggested that unemployed youth be used for data form collection, and asked whether there were standard formats, whether there was a monitoring tool, and noted their concern that Department of Home Affairs should also be included in the intergovernmental efforts, because of the porous borders.


Meeting report

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA)Strategic Plan and budget 2010/11
Mr Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General (SG), Statistics South Africa presented the organisation’s Strategic Plan to the Committee.

Mr Lehohla said that the strategic importance of statistics was to inform planning, for the importance of monitoring and assessment of programmes and policies and for evidence-based decision making. He emphasised that the production of statistics was a national effort.

Statistical themes pertained to prices, economic growth and transformation, health, education, safety and security, population dynamics and sustainable resource management. Other themes comprised food security, land reform and rural development as well as life circumstances, service delivery and poverty. Each of these was introduced and explained

Mr Lehohla said that the theme of economic growth and development, applied by Statistics SA (Stats SA) had derived from review methods, an improving series and the production of economic growth shared responsibility.

He tabled Stats SA's progress with regards to economic growth and transformation. There had been a large sample survey programme that had deepened the understanding of industrial segmentation. Fragmented business registration systems had previously prevented a consistent view of the economy. Mr Lehohla said that Stats SA was looking towards an integrated business system that underpinned economic profiles. Stats SA wanted survey and administrative records to complement each other so as to create a comprehensive view of the economy. Mr Lehohla added that Stats SA’s objective was to try to have all economic statistics under a single statistical authority.

Challenges pertaining to economic growth and transformation related to intergovernmental collaboration with the South African Revenue Services (SARS), Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO) as well as other role players.

With regards to pricing, reference was made to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) debacle of 2003. Stats SA had introduced a new collection methodology for the CPI as well as for the Income and Expenditure (IES) survey. The way forward for Stats SA with regards to prices was to aim for a regularly updated CPI and industry-specific Producer Price Index (PPI). Challenges related to the reviewing of the PPI and the need for a rolling survey programme.

For the employment, job creation and decent work statistical theme, reference was made to the bi-annual labour force survey and the Quarterly Employment statistics survey from the formal sector. Stats SA wanted an integrated registration system that underpinned employment information. It  also wanted surveys and administrative records that complemented each other so as to identify a comprehensive view of employment within the country. Challenges within the statistical theme of employment, job creation and decent work related to the synchronisation of source data and the business sampling frame.

Regarding the statistical theme of life circumstances, service delivery and poverty, Stats SA had published annual information on life circumstances and service delivery through conducting censuses and surveys. Mr Lehohla noted that the General Household Survey did not provide information at lower levels. He said the quality of administrative records at municipalities was questionable and that Stats SA had developed methodology for establishing a poverty line. It had also conducted a living conditions survey. Municipal data had also been based on irregular surveys and not administrative records. Stats SA was looking towards attaining functional administrative systems at municipal level that included a dwelling frame as well as an integrated social statistics system to inform development outcomes. Challenges pertaining to the life circumstances, service delivery and poverty statistical theme pertained to lower level estimation, capacity constraints on Stats SA and municipalities as well as fragmented sources and systems.

For the statistical theme of population dynamics and demographic profile, reference was made to the high levels of undercount, the community survey, midyear population estimates and the population censuses that had been conducted in 1996 and 2001. Mr Lehohla said that Stats SA was currently working on the planning for census 2011. The pilot had been conduced in 2009 and the “dress rehearsal” would be in 2010. Challenges relating to the statistical theme revolved around the enumeration of everyone, the reduction of undercount and legislative provisions for the frequency of censuses. He assured the Committee that Stats SA was adequately capacitated to manage Census 2011.

With regards to Stats SA’s education statistical theme, education statistics had been derived by the Department of Education through annual surveys. The statistics had also been produced through the General Household Survey (GHS) and population census. Mr Lehohla said that Stats SA had established interdepartmental collaboration to improve the quality of education statistics, and that developed education standards were based on the South African Statistical Quality Assessment Framework (SASQAF). Challenges and areas of intervention with regards to the education statistical theme pertained to the functionality of the management information system and resource constraints for Stats SA and the Department of Basic Education.

Health statistics had been produced by the Department of Health via administrative records, demographic surveys and health surveys. Health statistics had also been produced by Stats SA via the processing of birth and death notifications. Stats SA was experiencing fragmented and irregular publication of health statistics. In this area too, it had established an interdepartmental collaboration for the improvement of heath care statistics quality. Challenges revolved around statistical standards for health statistics, fragmented health information subsystems and resource constraints for Stats SA and the Department of Health.

Mr Lehohla reported that crime statistics had been derived from the Departments of Police, Justice and Constitutional Development, and the National Prosecuting (NPA) administrative records. Stats SA had also produced crime statistics via the Victims of Crime Survey in 1998. However, there was a general lack of trust regarding the accuracy of crime statistics and that an interdepartmental collaboration had commenced. Challenges pertaining to the safety and security statistical theme revolved around resource constraints, statistical standards and accountability reporting at police stations.

Stats SA’s objective for the sustainable resource management statistical theme was that water, minerals and energy statistics be published according to economic environmental accounts. Challenges experienced with the sustainable resource management statistical theme related to the implementation of international standards for South African economic environmental accounts.

With regard to food security, land reform and rural development, Mr Lehohla said that there had been a lack of appropriate data to inform policy programmes. Stats SA was aiming for integrated products, and official statistics for the food security, land reform and rural development statistical theme. Challenges for this theme revolved around the integration of systems and sources and the development of tools to achieve collaborative measurements with key role players.

Stats SA aimed at building trust and public confidence through integrative research and development, innovation management, integrated communication and marketing, a dwelling frame, quality management system and improved service delivery and productivity. Stats SA intended to invest in learning and growth through the creation of an enabling technology environment and the development of statistical capacity.

Mr Lehohla tabled Stats SA’s strategic enablers to the Committee.  The enablers pertained to governance, statistical tools and the regulatory environment.

Mr Lehohla noted that the production of statistics was a national effort and that Stats SA was the lead partner in quality statistics. He tabled Stats SA’s future plans to the Committee.

Comment by Minister in the Presidency for National Planning, and Chairperson of Statistics Council
Minister Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency for National Planning welcomed the Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) team to the Committee. In his foreword pertaining to Stats SA’s work programme for 2010/11, he had referred to Section 5 (1)(a) of the Statistics Act No. 6 of 1999. He noted that this section read that on the recommendation of the Statistician-General (SG) and on the advice of the Statistics Council, the work programme of Stats SA should be prioritised.

Minister Manuel found the work programme of Stats SA to be ‘ambitious’ and noted that it had ‘accordingly taken into account the ten priorities of government’. He said that the work programme had met the statutory obligations as contemplated in section 3 of the Statistics Act.

Mr Howard Gabriels, Chairperson of the Statistics Council, said that the Strategic Plan paved the way for a new direction for statistical development in South Africa over the next five years. He added that the work programme for 2010/11 was one of the first steps to establish the foundation on the new strategy. He said that the four challenges that needed to be faced were the building of trust in official statistics, the improvement of quality official statistics, intervention to ensure that appropriate skills are available and coordination.

Discussion
Ms A Dreyer (DA) said that she was standing in for her caucus colleagues. She displayed concern with regards to the oversight of Stats SA and wanted to know what had happened to the oversight of the entity. She added that she did not recall Stats SA ever coming to the Committee before and wanted to know they were doing so only now.

Minister Manuel noted that in fact there had never been a break with regard to oversight responsibility in this Committee. 

Ms Dreyer asked Mr Lehohla what the estimate of what South Africa’s undercount was.

Ms N Sibhidla (ANC) made reference to Stats SA’s recruitment strategy for the 2011 census. She noted that Stats SA had said that it was going to utilise the services of teachers as supervisors.

Mr Lehohla noted that South Africa’s undercount was extremely high. A part of the strategy to combat this was the deployment of teachers in a supervisory capacity. Teachers would also encourage people to participate within the mop up process, which was an integral part of the census.

Stats SA was not only looking at the strategy of deploying teachers to deal with the undercount issue. It was also looking at a recruitment drive which would commence with the new financial year and was recruiting at local level within communities.

Ms Dreyer was concerned about the reliability of data across the intergovernmental spectrum. She wanted to know what was been done to ensure better quality of data coming from the government departments. She was also concerned about the poor quality of data across the civil service.

Dr Jaire Arrow, Deputy-Director General: Methodology and Standards, Stats SA, drew analogies with CIPRO and the South African Revenue Services (SARS). He said that Close Corporations and Companies should register their businesses with CIPRO, but that some did not register due to the tax liabilities. Employers also did not register their employees at the Department of Labour.  Much depended on the goodwill of those business people and there was no requirement in legislation that said that currently, a person must be registered as a taxpayer, to operate in the South African economy.

Dr Rashad Cassim, Deputy-Director General: Economics Statistics, Stats SA, said that it was imperative for the private sector to play its part. He added that it was a great challenge to get firms to fill out forms. 

The Chairperson noted that there had been an attempt at an intergovernmental coordinating committee, regarding the issue of the porous borders. However, without a proper identification of who did what within the coordinating committee, the matter would be under perpetual consideration. 

Ms Sibhidla said that the challenge of people being willing to share information still persisted. She wanted to know if Stats SA had a plan in place for that specific challenge.

With regards to the demarcation programme, Ms Sibhidla wanted to know how Stats SA was progressing and also how Stats SA was linking the programme to the 2011 census.

Mr Ashwell Jenneker, Deputy-Director General: Statistical Support and Informatics, Stats SA, explained that the end result resulted in actual demarcation and that it was a process that comprised dwelling frames, Enumerator Areas (EAs) and enumerators. With regards to the dwelling frame, Stats SA currently had 9, 4 million points and it was an ongoing process. 54% of the demarcation had already been done. The target was to reach 80% by September and 100% by December.

Ms Sibhidla noted that October 2011 was very close and was concerned about the lack of publicity around the 2011 census. She wanted to know what Stats SA’s agenda was with regards to the mobilisation of communities.

Mr Lehohla reported that he was currently writing a regular column, which was intended to increase publicity. Stats SA had been publishing a quarterly newspaper called ‘The Fieldworker’ and it would be soon published on a monthly basis. This newspaper was distributed to households. In addition, in the aftermath of the 2010 World Cup, Stats SA would be launching a campaign aiming to allay people’s fears about giving out personal information and emphasizing confidentiality.

The publicity campaign would be an integrated campaign aimed at building relationships between Stats SA and the communities. The issue of the production of statistics was a national effort and that Committee members should also take it upon themselves and advocate with that regard in their relevant constituencies.

Mr N Koornhof (COPE) said that Mr Daniels had noted that Stats SA was at the point of departure for the gathering of statistical information. He was concerned about the problems that could arise from intergovernmental and municipality data gathering procedures. The gathering of accurate data was vital and that there was no room for any mistakes as it would take years to rectify. He expressed his concern whether there were enough skilled professionals to deal with the data gathering issues in Stats SA. He was concerned about the food security statistical theme that been tabled by the SG.

Ms Z Dlamini-Dubazana (ANC) thanked Stats SA for its hard work and effort. She was, however, concerned about the timeframes regarding the presentation. She referred to the budget analysis for 2011 and the economic statistics and was concerned about the decrease.

Mr Lehohla said that the budget would suffice for the census.

Dr Cassim added that it must be borne in mind that Stats SA was operating within a financially constrained environment. He said that South Africa was very privileged to have access to the Value Added Tax (VAT) frame, which was a critical dynamic source to measure change in the economy.   

Ms Dlamini- Dubazana asked when the formats for data collection would be available. She added that the formats needed to be user- friendly and suggested that Stats SA hire and train unemployed youth for data form collection.

Dr Cassim said that in order to get a good measure of total employment within the economy at both formal and informal sector levels, the authoritative source of information would be the labour force survey. It would assist to give an indication of the unemployment rate in SA. He also made reference to the quarterly employment survey.

Ms Dlamini-Dubazana referred to Programme 3 of the presentation and asked for a diversification regarding corporate relations. She said that money had been allocated for corporate relations and wanted to know if Stats SA had a standardised format for all nine provinces.

Mr Lehohla reported that Stats SA, as prescribed in the Statistics Act, was mandated to have its own provincial offices. The issue of the increasing of budgets within the provinces was because Stats SA was implementing the integrated field work strategy in such a way that the sequence of the field work programme was to minimise duplication. He noted that Stats SA had ensured that every province had been covered, based on a sample by a particular survey. Stats SA looked at issues like distances that needed to be covered. In addition, each province would have its requisite budget to fulfill its responsibilities in the fieldwork operations.

Ms Dlamini- Dubazana wanted to know if there had been a monitoring tool.

Mr Risenga Maluleke, Deputy Director-General: Corporate Relations, Stats SA, replied that there had been.

The Chairperson noted that Committee members had picked up that education, health, safety and security were important issues and commended Stats SA for including it. However, he wanted to know why the Department of Home Affairs had not been included. The fact that South African borders were very porous, thus allowing illegal entry into the country, was of concern, and the Committee would like to hear how those uncontrolled illegal immigrant statistics were going to be handled.

The meeting was adjourned.


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