ATC110413:Report on Budget Vote 13: Statistics South Africa for the 2011/12 financial year

Finance Standing Committee

Report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Budget Vote 13: Statistics South Africa for the 2011/12 financial year, dated 13 April 2011


The Standing Committee on Finance, having considered Budget Vote 13, the Strategic Plan 2010/11- 2014/15 and the work programme 2011/12 of Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), reports as follows:


1. Introduction


On 23 March 2011, the Minister of National Planning, the Statistician-General and senior officials of Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) briefed the Committee on the Strategic Plan 2010/11-2014/15 and the work programme for 2011/12.


Stats SA draws its mandate from the Statistics Act, No.6 of 1999.  It is responsible for the collection, production and dissemination of official and other statistics. It aims to expand and deepen the evidential knowledge base to enable society to understand the socio-economic phenomena across time. 


Statistics South Africa does this by providing a relevant and accurate body of statistics to inform users of the dynamics of the economy and society by applying internationally acclaimed practices.


The main objective of the Strategic Plan is to define the roadmap for establishing a sound statistical system for South Africa.


In accordance with its mandate, Statistics South Africa has identified certain key priorities for 2011/12 which will be discussed in this report.


The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) shows that Stats SA’s budget is divided into 7 programmes, they are:


Programme 1 – Administration;

Programme 2 - Economic statistics;

Programme 3 - Population and social statistics;

Programme 4 - Methodology and standards;

Programme 5 - Statistical support and informatics;

Programme 6 - Corporate relations; and

Programme 7 - Survey operations.


2. Presentation by Statistics South Africa


The Statistician-General reported that official statistics were seen as a public good because it is used for evidence based decision making, to inform planning, for monitoring programme implementation, for evaluating programme performance and for research and historical value. The Statistician-General indicated that the goal of Stats SA was to increase the supply of official statistics in order to inform development outcomes.



2.1 The overall strategic objectives of Stats SA for 2010-2014 are to:


2.1.1 Expand the statistical information base by increasing its depth, breath and geographical spread


Government identified twelve development outcomes and the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF). As part of a standardised system of statistical production, Stats SA translated the measurement of these priority outcomes into statistical themes that constitute the universe of statistical production, they are:


  • Economic Growth and Transformation


As the South African economy is recovering from the recent financial and economic crisis, a multidimensional approach is required to effect economic change. Over the period ahead, policy objectives include making the economy more labour-absorptive, raising productivity, boosting exports and promoting greater levels of investment.


  • Prices


Monetary policy plays an important role in supporting sustainable growth and employment, and in protecting real incomes. A low and stable rate of inflation is targeted to reduce the long term cost of borrowing and provide confidence in the future.  This then leads to investment, employment and competitiveness, particularly among exporters and competitive import industries.


Timely and accurate information on price changes is an important requirement for determining monetary policy. It is not possible to determine interest rates in the absence of a Consumer Price Index (CPI). This is a key economic indicator informing price stability.


  • Employment, job creation and decent work


To build a more inclusive and equal society, South Africa needs a marked increase in employment. By broadening economic participation, it helps in reducing dependency, crime, poverty, illness, alienation, mental stress and it contributes to social cohesion.


Stats SA measures the dynamic of the South African labour market through conducting two surveys, the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), which is a household survey, and the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES), which is a survey of business and organisations.


  • Life circumstances, service delivery and poverty


Actions geared towards eradicating poverty imply that it must be progressively and comprehensively attended to in order to improve the material well-being and life circumstances of all South Africans.

According to the 2010 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) report, South Africa experienced a decline in poverty mainly because of an income transfer programme and a re-allocation of pro-poor expenditure.


Initiatives to improve the measurement of life circumstances, service delivery and poverty are the General Household Survey (GHS), which measures the life circumstances of South African households, and the Living Conditions Survey (LCS).


  • Population Dynamics


All spheres of government are working together to improve the quality of service delivery. The main beneficiaries of these initiatives will include orphans and vulnerable children, older people, people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups. There is an increase in enrolment for primary and secondary schooling, and greater access to health care for the poorest members of society.


Initiatives and developments to provide information on population dynamics for South Africa is the Census 2011.


  • Safety and Security


The rule of law is the foundation of a fair and just society. The work of fighting crime is becoming more challenging and complex. Crime statistics are invaluable tools of knowledge for any society that aims to reduce its crime rate and improve its administration of the justice system.


In the medium term, it is important to develop an integrated statistical information system that includes survey data and administrative records from various role players in order to provide a more comprehensive picture of crime in South Africa.


Initiatives to improve the measurement of Safety and Security are the Victims of Crime Survey (VOCS), which is a household survey that examines crime from the point of view of the victim, and will assist government and the public to understand the dynamics of crime.


During 2011/2012, a joint publication between Stats SA and the South African Police Service (SAPS) will be investigated.


  • Sustainable resource management


Previously, statistical information on sustainable resource management has been fragmented while research has been undertaken for the establishment of an economic environmental accounts programme.


Currently, discussion documents were compiled on economic environmental accounts in terms of water, minerals and energy. Global research has been undertaken to develop international standard for environmental reporting. .

Stats SA’s future strategic focus will be to publish official statistics on water, minerals and energy according to a system of economic environmental accounts.


Challenges and areas of intervention required would be the establishment of partnerships with other stakeholders in the field of sustainable resource management and the implementation of an international standard for economic environmental accounts within South Africa.


  • Health


Health statistics are produced by the Department of Health through demographic and health surveys and administrative records. Health statistics are also produced by Stats SA through processing administrative data on vital registrations e.g. births and deaths notifications.


Currently, Stats SA produce fragmented and irregular publication of health statistics. An interdepartmental collaboration has been established to improve quality of health statistics. Assessment of the health information system has been conducted and quality gaps have been identified. Stats SA is also mapping data flow from health facility levels to users to identify quality constraints.


  • Education


Education statistics are produced by the Department of Education through annual surveys. Education statistics were also produced by Stats SA through the General Household Survey and Population census.


Currently, an interdepartmental collaboration has been established to improve quality of education statistics. Education standards were developed based on the South African Statistical Quality Assessment Framework (SASQAF). Stats SA is also mapping data flow from schools level to user to identify quality constraints.


Stats SA’s strategic priority focus will be to have a functional educational statistics system based on administrative records and survey data that informs development outcomes.


Challenges and areas of intervention are resource constraints, both in the Department of Basic Education and Stats SA and the functionality of information system management.


  • Food security, land reform and rural development


The Statistician-General highlighted that in the past, Stats SA had experienced a lack of appropriate data to inform policy programmes.


Currently, there are fragmented sources and methodological developments through participation in “war on poverty”. Stats SA is improving tools to measure agriculture, food security and rural development.


Stats SA strategic priority focus will be to publish official statistics to inform policy reform and integrated products.


Challenges and areas of intervention required are to develop tools for measurement in collaboration with key stakeholders and the integration of sources and systems.


2.1.2 Enhance public confidence and trust in statistics


Trust in official statistics is essential in a healthy democracy. Statistics encourage dabate, inform decision-making and enable everyone to assess if government is delivering on its promises. For official statistics to play such a role, the public must have confidence in the figures. There are numerous factors that contribute to low confidence levels, but it mainly revolves around the lack of accuracy of statistics as well as the relevance and responsiveness of information produced.


Stats SA is putting a few measures in place that will help manage, improve and address the quality gap in statistical systems. Stats SA, the leading agency on statistical quality, has developed the South African Statistical Quality Assessment Framework (SASQAF), and it will be auditing the quality of statistical data. Statistics will be declared official if they are sustainable, meet the quality requirements and are relevant.


The key strategic initiatives that Stats SA will focus on in order to ensure that statistics produced are relevant are:


·         Rolling out a quality management system;

·         Declaring statistics official;

·         Developing and maintaining the dwelling frame;

·         Developing and maintaining the business register for the business sampling frame;

·         Implement integrated communication, marketing and stakeholder relations; and

·         Implementing policy research and analysis.


2.1.3 Improve productivity and service delivery


The global financial and economic crisis has resulted in government reducing budgets and putting stringent governance and financial controls in place. This, for Stats SA, means “doing more with less”. Stats SA adopted a number of strategies to ensure it becomes more effective and efficient in doing its business, of delivering high quality statistical information.


The following strategies are intended to improve the productivity and service delivery of Stats SA:


·         Integrated survey operations;

·         Ensuring effective management support and systems;

·         Improving governance and accountability.


2.1.4 Lead the development and coordination of statistical production within the South African National Statistics System (SANSS)


Statistical development in South Africa has mainly focused on Stats SA as the official statistics agency. A strategic shift ensured that comprehensive statistics can be delivered in meeting national, subnational, sectoral and international needs.


The National Statistics System (NSS) is the organising mechanism for implementing statistical coordination. The NSS has the role of transforming the ineffective status quo characterised by three gaps (information, quality and capacity gaps), to a system of official statistics that meet users’ needs, produces statistics of good quality and building statistical capacity.


The key strategic initiatives to lead statistical coordination are:


·         Creating an enabling regulatory environment;

·         Coordinating statistical planning across organs of state;

·         Coordinating statistical production among organs of state; and

·         Coordinating statistical reporting among organs of state.


2.1.5 Invest in the learning and growth of the organisation


People, data and knowledge are important factors to the success of Stats SA. There is a need to invest in these assets, in order to drive a new strategic direction for statistical development in South Africa.


Stats SA will invest in the following learning and growth initiatives to build a high performing organisation:


·         Develop human capacity;

·         Invest in information capital; and

·         Create a conducive organisational environment.


2.1.6 Promote international cooperation and participation in statistics


All stakeholders, including government, private sector, researchers and the public, demand comparable reliable data, not only for their own country, but of other countries for aggregates.


At a continent level, Stats SA will participate, share and learn from other countries in upholding international standards and best practice.


Stats SA will invest in the following initiatives to promote international participation in statistics:


·         Promoting statistical development in Africa;

·         Promoting a culture of evidence-based policy formulation and decision-making; and

·         Building international partnerships.


2.2 Specific priorities for 2011/12


2.2.1 Census 2011


The next population census will be in October 2011, which will be the third post-apartheid census. The results of previous censuses have been used in evaluating the impact of government policies and programmes. Census 2011 will provide insight into the progress South Africa has made in the achievement of the MDG’s.


Planning and preparation for census 2011 is well under way.


The following are key targets and end dates for the 2011/12 financial year:


•          Demarcation of the country into 104 000  enumeration areas and listing:  September 2011

•          Communication and marketing campaign: Continuous

•          Procurement and distribution of census materials: September 2011 

•          Census offices established (110 district offices): July 2011

•          Recruitment and training of 156 000 staff: October 2011

•          Visit 14 million households and count every one living in SA: November 2011

•          Reverse logistics of census questionnaires at processing centre:  December 2011

•          Payment of census field workers: November 2011

•          Conduct Post Enumeration Survey: November 2011

•          Data processing commences: January 2012


2.2.2 Re-engineering the PPI


In the past, Stats SA experienced inappropriate systems, sample products and a need for increased respondent lists per product.


Currently, 93% of the new basket can be implemented on the basis of existing price collections.


2.2.3 Frames


In the past, Stats SA experienced an inadequate sampling frame for economic statistics, an inadequate dwelling frame, and an inadequate population register.


 The following improvements were made:


  • Improved business register through interdepartmental collaboration;
  • Improved mapping of structures and dwellings; and
  • An improved population register


A challenge is deploying resources into interdepartmental projects that take longer than planned.


2.2.4 Statistical support and coordination: education, health and crime


In the past, Stats SA experienced problems with conflicting sources of information in health statistics, irregular intervals for conducting the DHS, conflicting information on education statistics and crimes were reported only from administrative records.


The following improvements were made:


  • Discussions are underway for conducting DHS and interdepartmental collaboration to streamline health statistics especially MDG country report;
  • Interdepartmental collaboration to streamline education statistics;
  • Education standards developed based on gazetted SASQAF; and
  • Piloting the victims of crime Survey


Challenges are the Structuring working relationships to implement across government and the implementation of Section 14 of the Statistics Act (Implementing the South Africa National Statistics System).


2.2.5 Capacity development (ISIbalo Institute & technical skills)


Historically, Stats SA had a low number of skills in statistics and a poor culture of use of evidence in decision making.


The following improvements have been made:


  • Foreign study training for statistical skills;
  • Internship intake both from university and high school; and
  • Methodology training with Michigan university


A challenge lies in researching the model for the ISIbalo Institute.


2.2.6 African statistical development


In the past, Stats SA was marred by weak regional and African statistics, incoherent and not comparable statistics across African countries and a lack of improving statistical systems in Africa.


The following developments have been made:


  • 53 African countries to undertake a population census;
  • A strategy for the harmonisation of statistics in Africa (SHaSA) has been adopted by heads of state;
  • Participation in international comparison programmes; and
  • Now included as part of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS)


Challenges that are being experienced are that African countries statistical systems are donor driven.


2.3 Medium Term Estimates


Table 1 below, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) shows that Stats SA’s budget was divided between an administration programme, an economic statistics programme, the population and social statistics programme, the methodology and standards programme, statistical support and informatics, corporate relations and survey operations. The medium term estimate for 2011/12 was R3 240 909 000, R1 698 304 000 for 2012/13, and R1 717 720 000 for 2013/14.


Table 1: The Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF)


Medium term estimates







Pr 1: Administration




Pr 2: Economic Statistics




Pr 3:  Population and Social Statistics




Pr 4:  Methodology and Standards




Pr 5: Statistical Support and Informatics




Pr 6: Corporate Relations




Pr 7: Survey Operations









Table 2 below illustrates the projected expenditure of Stats SA.


Table 2: Projected Expenditure

Strategic objectives (SO)

Medium term estimates







SO1: Expand the statistical information base




SO 2:  Enhance confidence and trust




SO 3:  Improve productivity and service delivery




SO 4:  Lead and coordinate statistical production




SO 5:  Invest in learning and growth




SO 6:  International cooperation and participation










3. Following the interaction with the Strategic Plan of Stats SA, the committee noted the following issues:


  • The committee noted that there was a problem of under-counting the numbers of people in South Africa in the previous census.


  • The committee noted that the issue of immigrants posed a huge challenge for Stats SA as they, especially illegal immigrants, would try to evade the census.


  • The committee wanted to know how it can assist Stats SA with the illegal immigrants matter.


  • The committee asked how Stats SA dealt with people migrating from one place to another, to avoid double counting.


  • The committee asked what assistance Stats SA would need from Members of Parliament and their constituencies to ensure that things went smoothly when the census was being conducted.


  • The committee wanted to know how Stats SA was dealing with the issue of its information being challenged.


  • The committee wanted to know how Stats SA would contribute to job creation.



4. Responses by the Stats SA delegation


Stats SA indicated that a pilot and dress rehearsal had provided lessons to limit the undercount but that vacant and non-responsive houses created a challenge.


Stats SA also indicated that there were some areas of improvement when it came to doing statistical analysis of the population, with substantial improvements shown over the past few years.  There was a campaign, by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), to register people who were in hospitals, including births. Many other initiatives were being undertaken to improve the population register.


Stats SA pointed out that Members of Parliament had a role in educating immigrants about the census. A Communications Campaign was launched by Stats SA in October 2010, after an extensive public awareness and education programme. This objective could not be done by Stats SA alone. It needed partnerships with other departments and entities, as well as influential and credible people in the various communities.


Stats SA said a challenge would be how they would ensure that immigrants, especially illegal ones, were made to feel comfortable and assured of the confidentiality of the information that Stats SA wanted to collect.


Stats SA went on to say it would be helpful if Members of Parliament could go to their constituencies and tell the communities about the Census 2011, encouraging them to participate in it. Stats SA would want to come back to Parliament to address the specific ways that MPs would be able to assist.


Stats SA further indicated its contribution to job creation by aiming to recruit and train 156 000 staff members by the end of the year, but noted that these would be temporary positions. Further to this, Stats SA was looking at taking in matriculants and university students to train for the statistics sector.


Stats SA concluded by indicating that their aim is to produce quality statistics. They appealed to the members to use their constituency offices to ensure that delivery takes place and not to simply depend on unqualified audits of annual and other reports that don’t contain sufficient detail.



5. Recommendations


Based on the deliberations with Stats SA, the committee recommends that:


5.1 Stats SA should provide the committee with an explanation on the underspending on census related programmes.

5.2 Stats SA should provide the committee with a detailed report on why there is an increase on the expenditure of consultants.


5.3 Stats SA should take appropriate steps to avoid undercounting in census 2011.


5.4 Stats SA should provide members with an “Ambassador” pack in preparation for census 2011.


5.5 Stats SA should use newer technologies to improve the turnaround time for processing data with regard to population surveys.


6. Conclusion


Members of the Standing Committee on Finance, having considered Budget Vote 13: Statistics South Africa pledges their support of Budget Vote 13.



Report to be considered.



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