Statistics South on its Annual Performance and Strategic Plan 2015/16

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Finance Standing Committee

29 April 2015
Chairperson: Mr Y Carrim (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Standing Committee on Finance received a briefing from Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) on its Annual Performance Plan (APP) and Strategic Plan for 2015/16. The Statistician-General highlighted figures in regard to employment, noting an increase from the previous quarter, and highlighted the particular figures in relation to the formal and informal sector jobs. He also highlighted figures on property ownership, rental, partial ownership and other forms. He noted that economic inequality had remained high between 2006 and 2011. Access to basic services from 2002 to 2013 had improved as access to piped water increased from 85% to 90%, sanitation from 62.3% to 77.9% and main electricity supply had increased from 77.1 to 85.4%. The main focus of Stats SA in the period from 2015 to 2019 would be on statistical reform and growth through coordination, and also creation of a conducive legislative framework. The mission of Stats SA was essentially to lead and partner in statistical systems and products for evidence-based decisions, and the priority was primarily to change the business model in statistical production and coordination. There would be a focus on investing in Information Technology (IT) systems, people and organisational environment. Stats SA would expand the statistical information base by publishing more than 200 statistical releases and reports on the economy and society (monthly, quarterly, annually and periodically).

The particular ways in which Stats SA would deliver and its strategic focus were described. The indicators for performance in various areas, and how improvement would be measured were set out. Stats SA aimed to improve quality through increased collaboration and integration. It would be producing a set of coherent and integrated accounts derived from all three Gross Domestic Product (GDP) approaches under one institution. It would align with overwhelming international best practice and promote active confrontation of GDP estimates. There would be dedicated training of skilled professionals by international experts, and partnership and a joint steering committee and working group were established to manage the transition.

Part of the priorities also involved innovation in the whole statistics value chain, increasing the use of statistics in schools, municipalities and decision-makers. It was important to designate statistics as official, and to assess the data sources against the South African Statistical Quality Assessment Framework. International standards and classifications would be used, there was an emphasis on the proper ICT and sustainable infrastructure to try to decentralise, as Stats SA wanted to implement statistical geography to transform the national development information landscape, whilst also strengthening coordination mechanisms and compliance in order to use informatics efficiently and effectively. Stats SA needed to embrace the data revolution, to ease methods of doing business. Statistics was a platform for the future and making full use of the statistics would prove critically important in solving the challenges facing the country. Stats SA also needed to drive for legislative reform, to ensure that the organisation would operate efficiently.

Members welcomed the comprehensive presentation and the frank statement about areas where Stats SA needed to improve, and many of the questions focused on the limitations and sometimes mismatch between the Medium Term Strategic Frameworks and National Development Plan. Members questioned whether the Annual Performance Plan was responding to the priorities of the NDP. They questioned how municipalities were performing and commented that there was a need to focus on integrated and inclusive rural economy. There was also a suggestion of the need to assess the impact of the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) in dealing with interventions, especially at provincial and municipal level, as part of the legislative framework, and whether the norms and standards needed to be changed. Members asked if there was a formal and structured relationship between Stats SA and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, and emphasised that it was important to have people at municipal level who were familiar with statistics and of the need to use them to inform the integrated development plans, and to use statistics to determine which departments were performing well or badly. Members emphasised the need to capacitate people, and said that in particular there was a need to change the mindset so that statistics were not just used to support claims for larger budgets, but also to determine achievements. Members requested breakdowns on property ownership. They suggested that specific programmes should be run in Parliament to deal with correct use of statistics. They asked for more information on possible alternative funding for infrastructure. They asked for more information also on whether the problems with lack of alignment were related to fundamental issues with the NDP, the alignment between Stats SA and Parliamentary Budget Office and the importance of government departments consistently relating back to the NDP when reporting on programmes. Members asked the rationale behind the partnership with the University of Stellenbosch, and asked about the apparent mismatch between, for instance, statistics on crime and public perceptions, and the need to deal with complaints that people were not included in the census, and asked about the reduction in targets, under-expenditure in two of the programmes, and when Stats SA would be taking over some responsibilities from the Reserve Bank. Members asked if thought had been given to putting personnel into specific offices to deal with better use of statistics. They asked for a follow up on investigations into expenditure in the 2011/12 financial year, and details about the costs of the new building, appointment of two foreigners permanently instead of on contracts and whether it could give details of those legally and illegally in the country, and their geographical location and economic contribution. The Committee noted important points to be highlighted in the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report and the Statistician-General suggested that the need for state-wide statistics, wider training and legislation should also be included.  
 

Meeting report

Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) briefing on 2015 Annual Performance Plan and Strategic Plan

Mr Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General, Stats SA, said the presentation aimed to give an orientation on what statistics was all about, to present the Annual Performance Plan (APP) and Strategic Plan for 2015/16-2019/20.It was important to indicate that what anchored modern statistics system were essentially transparency, accountability, results and transformation, and these were particularly essential in providing a predictable environment.

The reality on the ground showed that 15.3 million people aged 15-64 were employed and this was an increase of 203 000 from the previous quarter. The formal sector jobs had increased by 68 000, to 10.9 million, while informal sector jobs increased by 41 000 to 2.5 million. It was also clear from the 2013 census that 55% of property was fully owned by occupiers, with 22% renting and 12% partially owned and 12% for other. Economic inequality had remained high between 2006 and 2011. The access to basic services from 2002 to 2013 had improved, as access to piped water increased from 85% to 90%, sanitation from 62.3% to 77.9% and main electricity supply increased from 77.1 to 85.4%.

The Statistician-General highlighted that despite all the evidence of improved service delivery there had been an increase in service delivery protests, vacant Reconstruction Development Programme (RDP) houses and reinforced spatial apartheid settlement patterns. It was clear that the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) had limitations in regards to the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP). However, the MTSF was not contradicting the NDP and the goals and targets in the NDP were clear but the methods and indicators to inform progress were woefully inadequate. The absence of an evidence-based framework undermined the credibility of good intentions and actions. Credible statistics would be obtained through the existence of a national statistics system, and this system must include other state institutions and those that determine and define what had to be measured.

The Statistician-General stated that there were certain measurable development outcomes, like decent employment through inclusive economic growth and an efficient, competitive and responsive economic infrastructure network. The statistical themes to focus on included economic dynamics, price stability, employment and job creation, and decent work. The measurable development outcomes for vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities contributing towards food security for all would be on rural development and food security. The possible creation of a better South Africa, a better Africa and a better world would be determined by peace and stability. It was important for the country to focus on quality basic education so as to improve on a skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path. The immediate way forward showed that the Minister in the Presidency had already set the pace, especially on locating NDP as the driver of MTSF and all other plans. The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) and Stats SA worked on NDP indicators leading the measurement of change through engagement with line ministries. It was important to track NDP indicators together with Strategic Development Indicators (SDIs) and present indicators that would drive the NDP at the July Cabinet Lekgotla.   

The Statistician-General said the focus of Stats SA in 1994-1998 was on integration and creation of a new environment for statistics in democracy.  From1999 to 2004 the focus was on integrity and the priority was to improve products and quality and get the house in order. From  2005 to 2009 the priority was to transform and improve internal processes and methodologies. From 2010 to 2014 the focus was on growth through coordination. In 2015-2019 the main focus would be on statistical reform and growth through coordination and also the creation of a conducive legislative framework.

The mission of Stats SA was to lead and partner in statistical systems and products for evidence based decisions, and the priority was to change the business model in statistical production and coordination. There would be a focus on investing in Information Technology (IT) systems, people and organisational environment. Stats SA would expand the statistical information base by publishing more than 200 statistical releases and reports on the economy and society (monthly, quarterly, annually and periodically). It was important to develop new innovative products by integrating various data sources, including spatial analysis to increase responsiveness and data revolution by using alternative data sources, Big Data and increasing the use of administrative data.

Mr Lehohla took the Committee through how Stats SA would deliver in 2015/16 work programme and these included:

- Project rationale: improving quality through increased collaboration and integration
- Producing a set of coherent and integrated accounts derived from all three Gross Domestic Product (GDP) approaches under one institution
- Alignment with overwhelming international best practice and promote active confrontation of GDP estimates in the process of compiling them
- Dedicated training of skilled professionals by international experts  (collectively more than 100 years experience in the field)
- Partnership and a joint steering committee and working group established to manage the transition.
- Progress on publishing official estimates in March 2016

He noted that part of the way ahead would be a strategic engagement with all relevant parties to ensure confidence in the statistical system.
 

Mr Lehohla said that the other priorities included innovation in the statistics value chain for better efficiency, increasing the use of statistics in schools, municipalities and decision-makers. It was important to designate statistics as official, and to assess the data sources against the South African Statistical Quality Assessment Framework (SASQAF). Stats SA planned to adopt International Standards and Classifications (ISIC4) and System of National Accounts 2008 (SNA) and System of Environmental Economic Accounting 2012 (SEEA). There was now a concerted effort to invest in Information Communication Technology (ICT) and sustainable statistical infrastructure so as to ensure that the national footprint was decentralised. The strategic priority for 2015/16 would be about implementing statistical geography to transform the national development information landscape. There was also a need to strengthen coordination mechanisms and compliance in order to optimise informatics efficiency and effectiveness.

He emphasised that Stats SA needed to embrace data revolution in order to ease the methods of doing business, by changing capabilities of information collection, access, analysis, retrieval and storage and archiving. It was important to ensure the creation of a state-wide statistics service through professionalising, training and deployment and establishment of institutional arrangements and protocols that would deliver a professional and sustainable national statistics system.

Stats SA planned to move to its new building in June 2016; construction commenced in 2014 and at the moment the construction was 49% complete.

In conclusion, it was quite clear that statistics was a platform for the future and making full use of the statistics would prove critically important in trying to solve the challenges facing the country. Stats SA needed to drive for legislative reform to ensure that the organisation would operate efficiently. There was a need to focus on investment in growth, coordination and transformation.

Discussion

Ms P Kekana (ANC) welcomed a very comprehensive presentation that showed the importance of team-work and dedication in producing the mandated outcomes. It was worrying, however, that the presentation also highlighted how the MTSF had limitations in regards to the implementation of the NDP. The Annual Performance Plan (APP) of Stats SA did not seem to be talking to how to respond to the priorities of the NDP, although she appreciated the effort by the organisation to present indicators that would drive the NDP at the July Cabinet Lekgotla. It would be interesting to get more information and detailed analyses on how the provinces and municipalities had been performing, in terms of their compliance with the priorities of the NDP. There was a need for Stats SA to focus on Chapter 6 of the NDP, which speaks of integrated and inclusive rural economy.

Ms Kekana expressed her concern that government had been particularly slow to address the indicators of development in rural areas. The persistent underdevelopment of rural areas often led to rural-urban migration as people would move to urban areas to seek employment and better service delivery. It was commendable that KwaZulu Natal was proactive and managed to compile a survey based on customer satisfaction in October, as this was an important survey which could also speak about the issue of imbalances between rural and urban areas. It would be interesting to see how the DPME would use the available statistics to respond to the need for the realignment of the MTSF and the NDP. There was a need to do an assessment of the impact of the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) in dealing with interventions, especially at provincial and municipal level, as part of the legislative framework.  She wondered whether there was perhaps a real need to change the norms and standards regarding the Act. There were also municipalities that did not have a revenue base and were mainly dependent on government grants and DORA.   

Dr M Khoza (DA) mentioned that she always looked forward to listening to Mr Lehohla as Stats SA always presented stimulating ideas. She realised the implications of the political power although she was unsure whether this power was being transformed to directly improve the conditions of the masses. She asked whether Stats SA had a structured relationship with the DPME, as it was important to appoint people at municipal level who were familiar with statistics as it was impossible to monitor and evaluate performance without familiarity with statistics. It was also difficult to find empirical evidence that most of the municipalities had delivered, because of incompetence in the field of statistics. Statistics could also be used to determine the best performing departments and those that had been performing woefully.

Dr Khoza emphasised that it was important to ascertain whether Stats SA had looked at the profile of those that had been assigned for monitoring and evaluation the performance at every level in government. It would be necessary to capacitate those people, especially on the factual approach of monitoring. The use of statistics at government level was usually done in order to ask for more funding from the National Treasury (NT) but this approach needed to change, and there was a need to inculcate a culture where statistics was used to determine what the departments, municipality or province had actually done in terms of delivering to the priorities of the NDP.

Dr Khoza requested a breakdown of the 55% of the property that was fully owned, 22% renting and 12% partially owned in terms of racial and geographical location, and said this was to determine whether the government policies had been talking to the realities on the ground. There was a need to address the historical imbalances in property ownership, as there were cases where people had been building houses under the land that belonged to Ingonyama Trust without any form of property ownership. She highlighted that it was critically important for the Members of Parliament (MPs) to start using the statistics provided to inform the policy decisions. It would be useful for the Committee to resolve that there should be a specific programme that dealt with the correct use of statistics, and to  strengthen the relationship with the DPME on the use of statistics for monitoring and evaluation of government departments.      

Mr D Ross (DA) also welcomed the presentation by and appreciated the effort to highlight the importance of using statistics in government and society, agreeing that statistical information was about the reality. It was also commendable that there had been a lot of emphasis on the NDP and it seemed that it had taken the country very long to get to this point, as the country had been stuck in a period of low economic growth, and characterised by dwindling confidence in the economy and massive electricity constraints. The country had achieved a lot in terms of price stability, and this should be commended. However, he requested detailed information on price stability in relation to inflation and interest rates, and asked if there was any information on the possible alternative funding for infrastructure? It was important to get information on the international best practices, especially around how other countries had been funding massive infrastructure projects. It was also important not to be solely dependent on electricity prices, as this had a very negative impact on inflation.

Mr Ross pointed out that there was mention of the fundamental problem in the NDP. It was important to know whether this fundamental problem was in the endorsement of the NDP, or if the government was now fully committed to the strategic development goals of the NDP. He asked if there was any relationship between Stats SA and the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO), in terms of statistical information in the budget process. The issue of capacity at the municipal level was also important to note, especially the utilisation of statistics to determine the best and worst performing municipalities.

Ms T Tobias (ANC) firstly expressed her regret that the Committee did not have a full day of engagement on the importance of how statistics could influence government plans. It was indeed clear that other government departments were using statistics to bolster their requests for additional funding. It was possible for MPs to significantly influence the plans of government by the statistics that had been provided. The presentation also raised a point about the signage between the MTSF and the NDP, and this again highlighted the importance for government departments to consistently relate to what had been said in the NDP when reporting about programmes in place. The progress that had been reported in statistics should also clearly reflect what had been happening on the ground, as there was sometimes a contradiction between the two. It was commendable to hear that Stats SA would be bringing in a new framework by 2016, in terms of collating information.

Ms Tobias highlighted the importance of coordination within different systems of government, to ensure that this coordination improved efficiency and productivity. She also wondered if the introduction of modern forms of collating data would be able to be integrated at the municipal level so as to ensure that there was coordination in tools that were used for collecting data. This also assisted in the reduction of costs to compile data, as it had been indicated that modern forms of collating data could significantly reduce the amount of money that would be required to do surveys, questionnaires and interviews. She asked how Stats SA would be able to close the gap between the MTSF and the NDP, without having to prefer one over another. The issue of ownership was critically important, as highlighted by Dr Khoza, and the majority of people in the country did not even own the means of production, especially intellectual property and access to adequate land.

Ms Tobias mentioned that the investment patterns of Stats SA showed that the organisation had invested in University of Stellenbosch (US) and she wondered whether there was consideration of other previously disadvantaged universities like the University of the Western Cape (UWC). It was good to hear that there would be a focus on measuring expenditure to the GDP and requested that Members should be empowered and capacitated to understand the tool that would be used to measure expenditure to the GDP.    

Ms D Mahlangu (ANC) welcomed the presentation by Stats SA and reiterated that it had been doing sterling work for the country.  She also wanted to highlight the importance of coordination of systems and tools for compiling data. It was indeed important to improve the accuracy of the statistics in order to ensure that what was presented in numbers correlated to what had been experienced on the ground. There was often an outcry when the South African Police Service (SAPS) released crime statistics, especially those detailing a decline in crime rates, as people had the impression that this was contrary to what had been happening on the ground. This might be related to the fact that some people had been discouraged from even reporting crime, as those in administration at various police stations often tampered with the number of reported criminal activities in order to retain  “green status” and this greatly affected the validity of crime statistics.

Ms Mahlangu appealed to Stats SA to ensure that there was an improvement in accuracy of the census in the future, as there were reports from many people who complained that they had not been counted in the previous census. She asked what had been the reason for the low targets, as Stats SA had previously achieved beyond the targets that had been set. She also asked for the rationale behind the reduction of targets in the number of deaths notification form process that was used for mortality and the cause of death, and wondered if it was in some way linked to the decline in mortality rates and increase in life expectancy throughout the country. She also enquired the reason for the significant reduction in the number of staff trained? It was concerning that Stats SA had targeted 98% for the signing of the performance agreement contract by staff members and performance evaluation, as she would have thought that the expectation should rather be 100%. She also enquired the reasons for delays in resolving the pending disciplinary cases.

Mr D Van Rooyen (ANC) also welcomed the presentation and wanted to know the reason for the consistent under-expenditure in Programme 2: Economic Statistics and Programme 4: Methodology, Standards and Research, as these were very critical programmes for the country. It was also reported that Stats SA would be taking over the publication of the expenditure side of the GDP from the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), and he wondered whether the transitional questions had been addressed in this regard, and when the Committee could expect this transition of functions to take place? It was important to know about the possible reasons for a decreased projection in the number of reports on cooperative governance to the Executive, and also the statistical documents that were meant to improve cooperative governance. The Committee should be provided with more information on the funding model that had been used to perform a survey in KZN, based on customer satisfaction, so that similar surveys could be done in other provinces as well.

Mr Van Rooyen added that coordination was critically important, especially in the utilisation of available statistics to improve the overall performance of government. He requested more information on the usage of the central business frame and geo-spatial information frames. It was important for the Committee to know how this would be realised. He wondered if any resolution had been taken on having statistics personnel in various government departments, as this was important for oversight purposes. He also wanted to know the progress on the investigation on the expenditure of R35.7 million on goods and services that had been incurred in the 2011/12 financial year, and when last the organisation had engaged with the Auditor-General (AG) on this issue. He noted that it was important for the Committee to follow up on this investigation, as this was a substantial amount of money that could have been used to improve service delivery in the country.

Mr Van Rooyen asked about the specific role of Stats SA on the building that had been under construction since 2014. What were the details of the project of constructing building for Stats SA, such as the total cost that would be involved in this project, and whether the project plan was on course, and he also asked where in the budget the Committee would find the maintenance costs of the new building. He requested more information on the building of statues and centenary celebrations, so as to determine how the organisation had reached a conclusion on that particular matter.

Ms Bridgette Diutlwileng, Senior Parliamentary Researcher, asked whether there was any particular reason why all the pending cases had not been investigated. It was indeed of concern that there seemed to be a reduction of targets compared to the previous financial year, and this perhaps had to do with cost-cutting measures that the Minister of Finance had said would be implemented. She noted that both the strategic plan and APP reflected consistency in terms of the two targeted reports to be done, but the quarterly targets reflected 23 targeted reports and she assumed that this might have been a typing error.

The Chairperson commended Mr Lehohla for being frank and honest about the problems that still needed to be addressed especially on the discrepancy between the MTSF and the NDP. It would be important for the Committee to be able to juxtapose the Strategic Plan and APP of last year so as to be able to pick up any inconsistencies.    

Dr Khoza wanted more information on the foreigners that were supposed to be appointed on a contract basis, but ended up being remunerated on a permanent basis.

The Chairperson asked whether it was possible for Stats SA to provide a breakdown of the number of foreign nationals legally in the country, and to indicate their contribution to the economy and their geographical location. It was important to highlight that there were legitimate foreigners in the country who needed to be treated as equal to South Africans, but also to recognise that there were others who should not be in the country. He agreed that there was a need to deal with statistics not being used properly, especially at municipal level, and this was a problem that should be addressed with South African Local Government Association (SALGA). The Committee needed to monitor the recommendations that had been made to Stats SA so as to see whether there was progress in terms of implementation. It was strange that Stats SA had been reporting to the Standing Committee on Finance despite the Committee’s recommendations in the Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) that Stats SA should report to the DPME. 

Ms Diutlwileng asked for more information on the fact that there had been a decline in the number of people going into Stats SA’s website and downloading information, and how this could be linked to the under-utilisation of available statistics by the general population.      

Mr Lehohla responded that indeed Stats SA had targeted to produce two reports throughout the strategic plan, APP and quarterly report, and 23 was a serious typographical error. Stats SA believed that the focus on the availability of information helped in bringing the future that was desired closer to being realised. The availability of information also assisted in communicating to the general public on the possibility of addressing major challenges like poverty, unemployment and inequality, based on the available evidence. The systems of evidence must be able to link with all the monitoring systems of government, especially between national, provincial and local authorities. The closing of the gap between the MTSF and the NDP was crucially important and this might be because this was still in the first five years of the implementation of the NDP. It was important to constantly review the NDP, so as to pick up the weaknesses, and ways to address these weaknesses moving forward. The indicators and targets were absolutely crucial to ensure that there was coordination between the MTSF and the NDP.

He noted that Stats SA had initially intended to partner with the University of North West but the politics of that university meant that Stats SA could not proceed with the partnership, and then the decision was taken to rather partner with the University of Stellenbosch. There was a need to have a system of integrity so that the available statistics could reflect the reality on the ground - and this should also be the case in the crime statistics. Stats SA was working very closely with SAPS to ensure that there was integrity in crime statistics, as tampering with crime statistics was likely to impact on the planning, as highlighted by the Members. There was integrity on the statistics on murder, as those were almost equal to the statistics on causes of death, and this was because of the litigation process that assisted with ensuring integrity of data. However, there were also other criminal offences where integrity of statistics was very loose. The measurement of discrepancy often showed the level of integrity of the provided statistics.

Mr Lehohla said that Stats SA had discovered that there were a number of school children in both Limpopo and Eastern Cape who were registered in different schools, but were never found in classes, although they were part of the revenue stream for the schools. This was part of an assessment of both teachers and students and circumstances that which most students studied under, so that policy interventions could be made. The report also discovered that some of the students in both provinces had to alternate attending school with their siblings, because of household responsibilities like herding the cattle.

He noted that it was true that mortality had been declining and life expectancy had been increasing and the organisation had been adjusting the targets based on this projected decline.

Stats SA had started an ambitious programme of internships but there was a shortage of funds to recruit skilled workers and the plan was to recruit students from high schools so that they could be trained and deployed into different areas within the organisation.

He noted that the KZN province was providing the funding for the survey on customer satisfaction and Stats SA also assisting with funding, as would benefit greatly from this survey when piloting its own Community Survey (CS). The undertaking of the CS for the whole country could cost about R60 million, but this would be a huge benefit to the country. He admitted that the organisation had made a major breakthrough in terms of the usage of the central business frame and geospatial information frame but it was also important to be introspective as to the reasons why it had not achieved this major innovation in 1998. The organisation was now looking at the credibility and validity of this framework, in terms of drawing the sample and the results that were generated. The National Statistics System (NSS) included the review of the legislation and there were lot of conditions that made the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) successful. These included having an internal audit and audit committee. Those two instruments helped Stats SA in terms of ensuring there was compliance and transparency within the organisation.   

Stats SA had gone back to find out about the progress in the investigation of the expenditure of R35.7 million on goods and services that had been incurred in 2011/12 financial year. The report had been returned to the AG as there was a lot of supposition but failure to find liability in the organisation or individuals who were involved in the allocation of the tender.

The construction of buildings for Stats SA seemed to be running smoothly, and it was supervised by a committee and there had been major protests by the community members located within the building. It was a R3 billion project and a Private/Public Partnership. Stats SA would break all the bottlenecks and the Directors General from the Departments of Public Works and National Treasury and the Statistician-General were in constant discussion on how to make a major breakthrough, which had shortened the period. Two foreigners had been appointed when Stats SA was conducting the Census and it was indeed the fault of the organisation for not following the right labour procedures. There was now a concerted effort to regularise the appointment of foreign nationals, so as to follow the labour practices to the letter.

The statistics on the number of foreign nationals, legally or illegally in the country, was a public figure, in terms of economy and geographical location. There was enough information available for heads of state to gather information on the number of illegal immigrants, so as to apply the Constitution in dealing with illegal immigrants.

Stats SA had a team working with municipalities in order to improve capacity and the use of statistics to monitor and evaluate performance, and this process also assisted in cases where there was a shortage of staff in other municipalities. It was often difficult to organise the data in ways that would address the imbalances in rural areas, as this had been highlighted in Chapter 6 of the NDP, and it would be important for policy interventions to be taken based on where they were needed the most. It was important to ensure that RDP houses were built where they would be needed in the future, and to address the problem of vacant dwellings and sprawling towns in some parts of the country. The RDP policy was implemented as a social justice instrument rather than an economic development instrument.

Mr Lehohla told the Committee that there was a structured relationship between Stats SA and the DPME, in order to assess existing gaps in policies and look at the ways to address those gaps, to ensure that the NDP was the prime driver of development. He welcomed the suggestion to look at other legislation like DORA to solve the problems in municipalities. The census did provide information on the profile of property ownership in terms of race and geographical location, and issues of ownership of both the house and the land were critically important to address the imbalances of the past. Stats SA was now focused on ensuring that there was an increasing use of the available statistics by the general public, especially in schools and municipalities.

Stats SA had made a huge mistake by destroying the marketing bonds in 1995, which resulted in the loss of information systems, and it was now impossible to retrieve this information as it had been personalised by individuals. The levy that had been paid by the municipalities was also a source of statistics for the country and there was now an effort to ensure that every action did not impact greatly on the statistics. He also conceded that Stats SA had also made a huge mistake by destroying product statistics, as this was after the failure of people to comply with the legislation, and in the absence of product statistics it was very difficult to assess that the industrialisation strategy could work. There was now an effort, together with SARS, to revise product statistics so that each unit calculated different products. There was lack of detailed information on exported and imported products; Stats SA was interested in the details of the product while SARS was more interested in the balance of payment of the product.  

Mr Bheki Mthunjwa, Chief Financial Officer, Stats SA, responded that there had been under-expenditure on Programmes 2 and 4 because of the inability to fill the vacant posts timeously, as these posts required specialised skills. He offered to provide the Committee with a detailed written response on future expenditure patterns and the new Stats SA building that was currently under construction. The new building for Stats SA would fall under programme 1 and budget for maintenance would start appearing in the next financial year. Stats SA had reviewed and adjusted some of the targets that were not strategic in nature, which was the reason for the reduction of targets.

The Chairperson indicated that the Committee researcher would look at the recommendations contained in the Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) of the previous year, and check it for outstanding responses. He emphasised that when the Committee recommended something, it meant that matters must be taken forward. He commented that the Committee must take note of the discrepancy between the MTSF and the NDP, as this was a critical matter, and once again he welcomed the frankness of the Statistician-General for pointing to this weakness.     

Dr Khoza suggested that the issue of the under-utilisation of statistics should also be included in the Committee's Report, as it was important to create an enabling environment that would ensure that the country achieved the desired outcomes. The Committee should also support the call for concerted effort on producing product statistics, as it was impossible to drive industrialisation without that.

Mr Lehohla also suggested that the legislative process should also be included in the BRRR, in particular the need for state-wide statistics, and he noted that this would involve extensive training. There should also be authority to exert compliance, as it would be difficult for Stats SA to move smoothly without compliance. It was important to review the question of statistical geography as there was where a lot of money had been spent, and there was a need to shape statistical legislation. Spatial information was critical for driving change in relation to the NDP.

The Chairperson indicated that the Committee endorsed the recommendations that had been made by the Members and Stats SA. He requested that if there were further recommendations, these should be conveyed to the Senior Researcher, and they would be reflected in the Report. He thanked Stats SA.

The meeting was adjourned.    

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