ATC100416: Report Budget Vote 12: Statistics South Africa

NCOP Finance

Report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Budget Vote 12: Statistics South Africa, dated 16 April 2010


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


1. Introduction


On 13 April 2010, the Minister of National Planning, the Statistician-General and senior officials of Stats SA briefed the committee on the strategic plan 2010/11-2014/15 and the work programme for 2010/11.


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. In accordance with its mandate, Statistics South Africa has identified certain policy priorities for 2010/11.


The re-organisation of Cabinet and Government in 2009 resulted in Stats SA being accountable to the Presidency rather than the National Treasury, as was the case in the past 15 years. This was done in order to provide evidence-based data for more effective planning for monitoring of government programmes. The organisation is now accountable to the Minister of National Planning.


2. Presentation by Statistics South Africa


The Statistician-General reported that the strategic importance of statistics is to inform planning, for evidence-based decision-making and for the monitoring and assessment of policies and programmes. The Statistician-General indicated that Stats SA alone cannot produce all the data that is needed for these purposes. Therefore, the production of statistics is a national effort. All government departments and other producers are encouraged to come into the national statistical system where they are assisted to strengthen their administrative records and they adhere to a strict data collection regime.


The following statistical themes underpin the statistical production at a national level:


·                Economic growth and transformation.

·                Prices.

·                Employment, job creation and decent work.

·                Life circumstances, service delivery and poverty.

·                Population dynamics.

·                Health.

·                Education.

·                Safety and security.

·                Sustainable resource management.

·                Food security, land reform and rural development.


In relation to the themes above, the previous, current and future scenarios were discussed. 


2.1 Economic growth and transformation


Stats SA’s past performance was to review methods, improve series and produce economic growth shared responsibility.


Current performance


·                Produce quarterly and annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (production side) informed by regular monthly and quarterly surveys and other data sources.

·                Conduct large sample survey programme to deepen understanding of industrial segmentation.

·                Fragmented business registration systems that prevent a single consistent view of the economy.


Future performance


·                Establish an integrated business registration system underpinning the economic profile of Stats SA.

·                Conduct surveys and administrative records complementing each other to create a full picture of the economy.

·                Produce economic statistics under a single statistical authority.


Challenges and areas of intervention


·                The business sampling frame as the pillar of economic statistics is not complete.

·                Intergovernmental collaboration with the South African Revenue Services (SARS), Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro) and other government departments needs to be strengthened.


2.2 Prices


The Statistician-General informed the committee that in 2003, Stats SA attended to the big debacle on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Currently, a new collection methodology for CPI is introduced as well as for the Income and Expenditure Survey (IES) to inform the CPI basket. Stats SA will regularly update the CPI and industry specific of the Producer Price Index (PPI). The challenges and priority focus areas include the reviewing of the PPI and the need for rolling-out of survey programmes to inform regular updates for prices.



2.3 Employment, job creation and decent work


A bi-annual labour force survey and the quarterly employment statistics survey (formal sector) were conducted. The Statistician-General indicated that currently, a new vehicle (quarterly labour force survey) to collect employment data was introduced. Stast SA’s future strategic focus will be on the integrated business registration system underpinning employment information. Surveys and administrative records need to complement each other to create a full picture of employment.


Challenges and areas of intervention are that the business sampling frame as the pillar of employment statistics in the formal sector is not complete and a need exists for synchronization of the source data.


2.4 Life circumstances, service delivery and poverty


Stats SA’s point of departure was to publish annual information on life circumstances and service delivery by conducting surveys and censuses.


Currently, the General Household Survey does not provide information at lower levels while the municipal data is based on irregular surveys and not administrative records. The quality of administrative records at municipalities is questionable. Stats SA has developed a methodology for establishing a poverty line and conducted a living conditions survey to produce a poverty profile of the country.


Future strategic priority objectives are to create functional administrative systems at municipal level and integrate social statistics system to inform development outcomes.


2.5 Population dynamics and demographic profile


Population censuses were conducted in 1996 and 2001 followed by a community survey and the production of mid-year population estimates. High levels of ‘undercount’ were experienced.


Stats SA is currently planning for Census 2011. A pilot project was conducted in 2009 and a ‘dress rehearsal’ will take place in 2010. Strategies have been developed to address high ‘undercount’, publicity campaign and educating the population.


Stats SA’s future performance will focus on the increased usage of administrative records e.g. the population register and the use of census as a critical pillar for national statistical system.


Some of the challenges faced by Stats SA are the legislative provisions for the frequency of censuses, enumeration of everyone and reduction of ‘undercount’.


2.6 Census 2011


Legislative provisions require that 5-yearly census are conducted. In 2007, based on the advice from the Statistics Council and recommendation from the Statistician-General to the Minister, a Community Survey was conducted instead of a census. This has to be done in order to address the capacity constraint, proper time for planning and prospects for a 10-yearly census.


In order to address the challenges of undercount a stable supervisory workforce    (20 000) is required. The workforce needs to be resourced adequately e.g. vehicles, and interface between household and enumeration tools (length of stay) is important. The workforce needs to be known and respected in the community and the deployment of the workforce for a longer period (4 months - an hour a day) is required.


The Statistician-General requested the committee for the use of teachers as enumerators during the Census, as teachers are respected in their respective communities. Teachers, according to the Statistician-General would make good trainers and supervisors during the Census.


2.7 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.


2.8 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.


The Statistician-General indicated that Stats SA’s strategic priority focus will be to have a functional health information system based on administrative records and survey data that informs development outcomes.


Challenges and area of intervention required are: fragmented health information subsystems, resource constraints both in the Department of Health and Stats SA, and statistical standards for health statistics.


2.9 Safety and security


Crime statistics are produced by the Department of Police, Justice and the National Prosecuting Authority through using administrative records. Crime statistics were also produced by Stats SA by conducting a Victims of Crime Survey in 1998.


The Statistician-General reported that currently, there is lack of trust in crime statistics and an interdepartmental collaboration has been initiated. A proposal has been compiled to provide statistical support to the South African Police Services.


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


Challenges and areas of intervention required are: accountability reporting at Police station level, statistical standards and definitions for crime statistics, and resource constraints.


2.10 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 not finalized.


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.


2.11 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.


3. Issues noted by the committee


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


  • Undercounting still remains a serious challenge which the country has not yet overcome since 1996, but there is a progressive attempt to respond to this challenge. The committee does not believe that undercounting could still be seen as a major problem and further enquired whether the current resources will suffice to reduce undercounting.


  • The committee noted that community participation was not identified as one of the priority areas in the strategic plan.


  • The committee was concerned about the reliability of data from other departments to produce Stats SA’ own high level data.


  • The committee noted that teachers could be targeted as supervisors during Census 2011. The committee believed that enumerators could play an important role, and enquired about the recruitment strategy in place for Census 2011.


  • The committee emphasised the importance of a publicity campaign to mobilise communities to participate in the upcoming Census 2011. The committee highlighted the importance of people sharing information, and enquired whether a mobilisation plan was in place.


  • The committee noted the focus areas of Stats SA which include education, health, and safety and security, and indicated the importance of home affairs to be part of these focus areas.


  • The committee noted the relocation of Stats SA from the Minister of Finance to the Minister in the Presidency responsible for National Planning. Previously, the committee performed oversight on Stats SA, but does not want to assume that this is still the case and would like to seek further clarity on who will now perform the legislative oversight on the organisation;


4. Recommendations


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


4.1 Community participation should be considered as an objective in the strategic plan;


4.2 Stats SA should consider collecting data on a daily basis instead of a quarterly basis to ensure the consistency and quality of data collected;


4.3 Stats SA should design the format of data collecting forms to be more user friendly;


4.4 The unemployed which included the youth be considered as enumerators for Census 2011;


4.5 As part of the publicity campaign towards Census 2011, Stats SA should develop a capturing ‘slogan’ that would make people aware and appreciate the importance of the census;


4.6 It is very critical that Stats SA develop a permanent programme that will sensitise people on all census matters;


4.7 Stats SA is cautioned that October could be a very difficult period for teachers who will do preparations for examinations. The committee would like to point out that teaching should not be disrupted since education is one of government’s key priority areas.


4.8 Stats SA should consider developing a mechanism of collecting unknown data, for example, the size of the informal sector; the demographic shifts in South Africa between censuses; the number of documented people vs. the undocumented people in the country;


4.9 Stats SA to develop a comprehensive programme that will assist in data collection capacity of government departments and other data producers; and


4.10 The committee will undertake further engagements with Stats SA on the state of readiness for Census 2011.


5. Conclusion


Members of the Standing Committee on Finance, having considered Budget Vote 12: Statistics South Africa pledges their support of Budget Vote 12.


Report to be considered.



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