ATC140711: Report of the Standing Committee On Finance on the Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan on Budget Vote 13: Statistics South Africa, dated 10 July 2014

Finance Standing Committee


The Standing Committee on Finance, having considered the Budget Vote 13: Statistics South Africa ( StatsSA ) and the Strategic and Annual Performance Plans of the Department for the 2014/15financial year, reports as follows:

1. Introduction

The Budget Vote 13: Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) was referred to the Standing Committee on Finance on 2 July 2014. The Statistician-General, Mr P Lehohla and senior officials of the department briefed the Standing Committee on Finance (the Committee) on the Budget Vote and the updated Strategic and Annual Performance Plan. This report presents a summary of the department’s programmes and the deliberations between the Committee and the leadership of Statistics South Africa.

The consideration of Stats SA’s budget and the processing of the report have been finalised in exceptional circumstances, due mainly to the dates of the general elections and convening of the 5 th term of parliament. The onerous legal and other deadlines for the adoption of the overall budget by parliament meant that the Committee has had to process Stats SA’s budget very quickly. The Committee has not been able to be as rigorous and effective as it would have liked to have been in processing the budget. The Committee will seek to be more rigorous in its consideration of Stats SA’s budget next year.

2. Mandate of Statistics South Africa

Stats SA is a national government department accountable to the Minister in the Presidency: National Planning Commission. The activities of the department are regulated by the Statistics Act (1999), which mandates the department to advance the production, dissemination, use and coordination of official and other statistics to assist organs of state, businesses, other organisations and the public in planning, monitoring, and decision-making. The Act also requires that the department coordinates statistical production among organs of state in line with the purpose of official statistics and statistical principles.

The establishment of the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation magnifies the importance of Stats SA to provide reliable statistics that measure government policy implementation and thus influence policy development. The demand for accurate, relevant and timeous data expands to regional and local levels of government to enable the effective delivery of public services.

In terms of section 4 of the Statistics Act, the status of Stats SA is referred to as an organisational component in the first column of schedule 2 of the Public Service Act and for the purpose of the application of that Act, in terms of section 7(4)(a) of that Act, regarded to be a department, and consists of the Statistician-General and staff, subject to the Minister’s duties and powers referred to, and no person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of Stats SA.

3.Policy Context and Strategic Priorities for 2014/15

The 2014/15 financial year will be the final year of implementing the Stats SA strategic plan that was approved by Parliament in 2010. The strategic plan of 2010/11–2014/15had identified three challenges that needed to be addressed - gaps in information, quality and skills. Six key focus areas were identified to address these challenges and below is a short summary on their implementation:

  • There has been stability in the organisation’s statistical production as shown through the suite of economic, social and population statistics. A key focus was the successful delivery of Census 2011. The census results forms the base of the national statistics system and provides statistical information at ward level. Stats SA publishes over 230 statistical releases and the intention is to sustain the statistical production series in 2014/15 whilst exploring new and innovative methods and systems to expand the statistical information. The Department’s plan indicates that a major challenge is the provision of statistical information at a lower geographic level.
  • The department has sought to expand the statistical information base and address the information gap through leading and coordinating the national statistics system. Various partnerships have been established with organs of state to provide statistical support and advice to improve sources of data. The Department’s Strategic Plan states that it will speed up its efforts to coordinate statistical production in the country by developing a national strategy for statistical development
  • Another key focus area of the organisation has been on identifying various strategic interventions in order to increase public confidence. Stats SA has embarked on the partial implementation of the System of National Accounts (SNA) 2008 as well as the International Standard on Industrial Classification (ISIC4). The Department has begun building frames that will form the cornerstone of the statistics system. In particular, Census 2011 provided the organisation with the opportunity to compile a complete list of dwellings in SA thus establishing the geographical spatial information frame. This frame will be maintained through a collaborative mapping approach in partnership with municipalities. Other interventions include maintaining and updating the business register based on tax information received monthly from SARS and the launch of a new website in 2013.
  • Improving productivity and service delivery focused on building a statistical infrastructure and sound governance processes that support the statistics system in producing high-quality statistics has been a key focus area of the Department. Through the integrated fieldwork strategy the organisation has expanded its fieldwork force thus ensuring an extensive data collection footprint in provinces and districts.
  • Stats SA has introduced a talent management programme to align the disparate capacity building initiatives. There are capacity building programmes at schools level, tertiary institutions level and internally. The Department has established the Maths4Stats programme that seeks to promote statistical literacy at schools level by training teachers in statistical related modules. A Masters programme was established at Stellenbosch (CRUISE) aimed at converging statistics and geography – a new approach to understand, interpret and use geospatial information in planning, reporting and monitoring. A key challenge is building statistical capability at local government level.
  • The Department has sought to promote international collaboration and participation as a key strategy addressing the information, quality and skills gap. The Department has led a number of statistical development initiatives on the continent, including the African Symposia for Statistical Development (ASSD).

In it’s 2014/15 Updated Strategic Plan, the Department states that it had undertaken a critical review of its external and internal environment and its associated impact on the strategic focus of the organisation. Underpinning this review is the emphasis highlighted in the National Development Plan (NDP) that the state will need to have the capacity to formulate and implement policies that serve to eliminate poverty and inequality.

The department has the following strategic goals over the medium term:

  • Expand the statistical information base by increasing its depth, breadth and geographical spread through the production of economic, social and population statistics;
  • Enhance public confidence and trust by developing and enhancing qualitative and methodological standards, maintaining business and geographic frames, managing relationships with stakeholders and conducting research;
  • Improve productivity and service delivery by integrating fieldwork and data operations, providing management support, and implementing effective governance and administration;
  • Lead the development and coordination of statistical production in the national statistics system by coordinating and providing statistical support of official statistics
  • Invest in the learning and growth of the organisation by investing in human, information and organisational capital; and
  • Promote international cooperation and partnerships in statistics by participating and contributing to national, continental and international statistical activities and forums.

4. Budget Overview

Stats SA’s budget allocation increases by R500.9 million or 28.8 per cent in nominal terms from R1.7 billion in 2013/14 to R2.2 billion in 2014/15. Over the medium-term the department’s budget is projected to grow at a nominal average rate of 7.3 per cent or in real terms at a rate of 1.4 per cent.

The Department’s spending emphasis over the medium term will be on streamlining statistical operations to inform evidence based decision making and strengthening the Department’s statistical production partnerships with other government departments. The Department will expand the statistical information base and increase the supply of official statistics. Expenditure on goods and services shows increased allocations due to the provision of office accommodation related costs and computer services. The Department effected repriotisation budget cuts of over R35 million in the 2014 MTEF period in non-essential items such as travel and subsistence. The significant increase in capital spending is due to contribution fees for the new building project. The new building will be able to house the entire Department’s head office employees. The Department has a staff establishment of 3 430 posts with 348 vacancies. The Department states that the vacancies are largely due to the difficulties experienced in finding candidates with the appropriate specialised skills.

There are seven main programmes of the department: -

Programme 1: Administration

Programme 2: Economic Statistics

Programme 3: Population and Social Statistics

Programme 4: Methodology, Standards and Research

Programme 5: Statistical Support and Informatics

Programme 6: Statistical Collection and Outreach

Programme 7: Survey Operations

5. Observations and Proposals

5.1 The Statistician-General presented to the Committee recent statistical findings on themes such as the Work and Labour Force, Causes of Death, Household Service Delivery and Economic Growth. A major finding was there markable deskilling of Africans from 1994 to 2014.The Committee finds the statistics provided in this regard very disturbing and believes that the effects of this major deskilling will seriously undermine the country’s NDP and other national goals and the consolidation of a non-racial, non-sexist democracy in this country. The Committee believes that these findings of Stats SA need to be discussed within the economic cluster parliamentary committees and will facilitate this. Other parliamentary committees also need to be briefed and the Committee Chairperson will raise this with the House Chairperson for Committees.

5.2 The Committee is concerned about the dissonance between statistics, policy implementation and service delivery and strongly believes that statistics should be used, among other ways, as a crucial planning and oversight tool.

5.3 The Committee recognises the independence of Stats SA and believes that it can act on the proposals set out here without undermining its independence.

5.4 The Committee noted with concern Stats SA’s findings on the provision of transport infrastructure in Gauteng not being aligned to the spatial distribution of the population. This lack of alignment probably exists in many other provinces too, and the Committee stressed the need for Stats SA to brief the relevant structures in the provinces on its findings, as well as in the other two spheres of government.

5.5 The Committee believes that the work of Stats SA needs to be used more effectively by the Department of Planning, Performance Monitoring and Evaluation. .

5.6The Committee believes that Stats SA needs to brief the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) on its statistical information for use at municipal level.

5.7 The information provided by Stats SA also needs to be used by schools, hospitals and a variety of other structures at grassroots level–and the Committee believes that Stats SA needs, within its budgetary and other constraints, to develop a strategy to, over time, reach these institutions and other structures.

5.8 The Committee welcomed Stats SA’splans to speed up efforts to coordinate statistical production in the country by working on a national strategy for statistical development and will monitor progress in this regard.

5.9 The Committee welcomes the Department’s Stellenbosch (CRUISE) programme aimed at converging statistics and geography.

5.10 The Committee is concerned about the vacancy rate and efficacy of Stats SA’s recruitment and talent retention strategy, and wants to see improvements in this regard.

5.11 Overall, the Committee believes that Stats SA is performing reasonably, and is especially concerned that the value of its work is not being sufficiently recognised by organs of the state.

6. Conclusion

The Standing Committee on Finance, having considered Budget Vote 13: Statistics South Africa, recommends that the House support the Budget Vote.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) reserves its position on the Budget Vote.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) opposes Stats SA’s Budget Vote.

Report to be considered.


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