Statistics South Africa 2007/08 Work Programme briefing

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Finance Standing Committee

31 July 2007
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Meeting report

FINANCE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 August 2007
STATISTICS SOUTH AFRICA 2007/08 WORK PROGRAMME BRIEFING

Chairperson: Mr N Nene (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Presentation by the Stats SA on their work programme for 2007/ 08

Audio recording of meeting 

SUMMARY
Statistics South Africa gave a presentation on their work programme for 2007/08, focusing on African statistical development, the National Statistics System, key performance information concepts and priorities of the national system. Diagrams were tabled showing the use and source of statistics, and it was indicated that particular priorities included the development of a business register and a dwelling frame. The National Statistics System aimed to advance the quality, consistency, comparability and optimum use of official statistics, as well as avoid duplication. There was currently an information, quality and skills gap. There was a need to improve education and management of information, particularly at local government level. Adequate address systems for dwellings and businesses would enhance the reliability of data. Stats SA would collaborate with other Departments and would be piloting six service delivery indicators in conjunction with local government. Partnerships would include partnering with local tertiary institutions to provide analytical and technical support, as well as development of statistics regulation and building of capacity in municipalities. Challenges were identified as the requirement for Stats SA to oversee all statistics, the difficulty in obtaining information out of administrative systems, management of systems and inadequate resources. There had been some improvements through setting up an assessment framework. Questions by Members addressed the number of immigrants, both legal and illegal, the fact that a census had not been done in 2006, the data produced by he Community Surveys, and the possibility of sharing of information through one portal. The training of Geographic Information Systems Officers at provincial and local government and the need to strengthen administrative processes were stressed.

MINUTES
Statistics SA (Stats SA) Work Programme Briefing
Mr Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General, Stats SA briefed the Committee on the Stats SA work programme for 2007/08. He focused in his presentation on the African statistical development, the National Statistics System, key performance information concepts and priorities of the statistics system.

Stats SA aimed to develop statistics within Southern African Development Community (SADC), which posed significant challenges. The intention to have an SADC millennium census project had regrettably proved impossible.

The National Statistics System (NSS) was a requirement of the Statistics Act. The NSS promoted co-ordination amongst producers of official statistics and aimed to advance the quality, consistency, comparability and optimum use of official statistics, as well as avoid duplication.

Mr Lehohla focused on key performance concepts within Stats SA and how it achieved results. There was currently an information, quality and skills gap. Management of information needed to be improved particularly at local government level. An adequate address system was required. Only 4 million of the 12 million dwellings in SA had physical addresses. Stats SA also focused on developing a Population Register, a Business Address Register and a Physical Address Register, based on a dwelling frame. This was a list of all dwellings in SA that provided the basis for household surveys and censuses. The quality of household statistics depended on the quality of the dwelling frame. Stats SA put numbers on dwellings in conjunction with Eskom and the Department of Water Affairs in 1996. Although Stats SA generated the census it did not develop a system. He indicated that valuable lessons were learned on how to improve the dwelling frame concept.

Mr Lehohla said that a business register was the basis for economic statistics. The Business Register was compiled based on information received from the South African Revenue Services (SARS) and the Department of Trade and Industry (dti). The quality of economic statistics depended on the quality of the business register. A business register would also improve government.

Education indicators and service delivery indicators were also an important part of improving statistical information, and there would be collaboration with the Department of Education to identify the information gap and the skills gap. Censuses would be conducted in schools. Insofar as service delivery was concerned, Stats SA was to pilot six service delivery indicators in conjunction with local government. Partnerships were crucial in developing statistics within South Africa, and this would include partnering with local tertiary institutions to provide analytical and technical support, as well as development of statistics regulation and building of capacity in municipalities.

Mr Howard Gabriels, Chairperson, Statistics Council, identified three challenges. Stats SA, unlike other countries, had to oversee all statistics within RSA. Information systems were often sitting within administrative systems in government, and there was a further challenge of how best to manage and oversee these systems. He against said that although South Africa had a good voters’ roll it did not have an equally good population register. The gathering of information often did not get enough resources. The Statistics Council had now started to address problem areas in conjunction with other government departments, including the Department of Mineral Affairs and Energy focusing on mining information. A South African Quality Assessment Framework was produced to assess the quality of data, and this had resulted in some improvements.

Discussion

The Chairperson reminded Stats SA that it needed to submit a report to the Portfolio Committee on Finance regarding specific timeframes for the implementation of the NSS.

Mr D Gibson (DA) noted that, given that the census was only done every 10 years, estimates and statistics would become progressively unreliable. He enquired if Stats SA had reliable estimates regarding the numbers of people moving from Zimbabwe and other Southern African countries. This movement would impact heavily on education and health facilities.

Mr Gabriels responded that the Statistics Council recommended that the census not be done in 2006 owing to capacity constraints within the organisation and the level of preparation work needed. He said that the Statistics Council would base their recommendations on the analysis of data produced in the community surveys.

Mr Lehohla noted that Stats SA had a report on migration and tourism, which gave an indication of how many SADC nationals were in SA. He said that there would generally be migration to places where there were prospects for better opportunities. He said that monthly surveys indicated that there were about 1.3 million foreigners in South Africa in 2005. It was difficult to assess the levels of illegal immigration.

Ms Kefiloe Masiteng, Deputy Director for Population and Social Statistics, Stats SA, said that community surveys provided almost exactly the same information that would have been gained from the census.

Ms Masiteng said that a monthly update of travellers coming into South Africa was published by Stats SA.

Mr M Johnson (ANC) referred to the SA criminal justice system that allowed police officers to identify previous offenders by using electronic devices. He suggested that the sharing of information through one portal was important and suggested that any information portal should allow both public and private organisations to share information, to achieve better management.

Mr Lehohla indicated that the technology was available for an information portal. He said that human behaviour and culture were limiting implementation. Mr Lehohla reiterated that the business registration process required attention, and wondered if incentives should be provided for registration to take place. There had been considerable uptake on the child grants.

Mr K Moloto (ANC) asked if there were capacity building measures in place to ensure that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Officers at provincial and local government were trained to properly collect and manage information.

Mr Lehohla responded that Stats SA was working with fewer departments and municipalities, to understand their environments and their information needs. Stats SA aimed to package information in such as way that would allow municipalities to look at, interact and discuss the information more easily.

Mr S Asiya (ANC) said that there needed to be more focus on education at the municipal level and cited collection of debts as particularly problematic.

Mr Lehohla said that Stats SA aimed to have somebody responsible for GIS within each municipality. GIS was a highly specialised activity that required training. A community based approached was used for the address register. Stats SA aimed to have made significant progress by 2009 in preparation for the 2011 census.
 
Ms Masiteng added that the 2011 census would be based on an adequate dwelling frame, population register, and administrative and technological systems to weigh options based on reliable information.

Dr Jairo Arrow, Deputy Director General: Quality and Integration, Stats SA, referred to the importance of strengthening administrative process for data collection. Administrative processes should record inputs as well as outputs. Administrative data was cheap and would decrease a reliance on surveys, which was expensive.

Mr Gibson asked again if there were reliable figures regarding illegal immigrants to South Africa.

Mr Lehohla said that Stats SA would count the resident population and would estimate people of foreign origin. He indicated that it was impossible to establish the numbers of illegal people within South Africa as illegal activity by its nature was not open in nature nor was information given freely.

Mr Johnson asked if it was true that there were more illegal Russians and Chinese immigrants in South Africa than illegal immigrants from the African continent.

Mr Gabriels suggested that Mr Johnson should look at the tourism and migration data that Stats SA produced. He said that it was very difficult to determine questions of legality at Stats SA and all that could be established was the country of origin.

The meeting was adjourned.

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