14.4 International Developments In Reorganisation Of National Statistical Systems
14.4 International Developments in Reorganisation of National Statistical Systems
UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics
14.4.1 Official statistics are produced by Government for informed debate, decision-making and research both within Government and by the wider community. Objective, reliable, timely, trustworthy and accessible official statistics give people confidence in the integrity of Government and public decision-making. Hence, in producing official statistics it is important that the relevance, reliability and integrity of official statistics is maintained, and is perceived as such. For this purpose, the cooperation from respondents and providers of information has to be maintained, and information given on a confidential basis must remain so. When the Economist, a UK magazine, came out with a ranking of the National Statistical Offices (NSOs), there has been intense debate over the role and responsibility of the NSOs in improving the quality and relevance of the statistical information generated by them and in making the system more responsive to the needs of its varied users.
14.4.2 The debate led to the adoption of the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) in its 47th Session at Geneva on 15 April 1992. This was later endorsed in 1994 by the United Nations Statistical Commission with some minor amendments. These principles are now a widely agreed framework for the mission of NSOs and thus also for official statistics.
14.4.3 These Principles are as follows:
Official statistics provide an indispensable element in the information system of a democratic society, serving the Government, the economy and the public with data about the economic, demographic, social and environmental situation. To this end, official statistics that meet the test of practical utility are to be compiled and made available on an impartial basis by official statistical agencies to honour citizens’ entitlement to public information.
To retain trust in official statistics, the statistical agencies need to decide according to strictly professional considerations including scientific principles and professional ethics on the methods and procedures for the collection, processing, storage and presentation of statistical data.
To facilitate a correct interpretation of the data, the statistical agencies are to present information according to scientific standards on the sources, methods and procedures of the statistics.
The statistical agencies are entitled to comment on erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics.
Data for statistical purposes may be drawn from all types of sources, be they statistical surveys or administrative records. Statistical agencies are to choose the source with regard to quality, timeliness, costs and the burden on respondents.
Individual data collected by statistical agencies for statistical compilation, whether they refer to natural or legal persons, are to be strictly confidential and used exclusively for statistical purposes.
The laws, regulations and measures under which the statistical systems operate are to be made public.
Coordination among statistical agencies within countries is essential to achieve consistency and efficiency in the statistical system.
The use by statistical agencies in each country of international concepts, classifications and methods promotes the consistency and efficiency of statistical systems at all levels.
Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statistics contributes to the improvement of system of official statistics in all countries.
Experiences of Other Countries
14.4.4 The Commission examined in detail the present status of the statistical systems of several countries. The statistical system of the United Kingdom has recently been entirely restructured: this is described below. The experience of other countries is given in Annexe 14.6.
Reforms in the Statistical System in UK.
14.4.5 The following extract from the White Paper: “Open Government” published by Her Majesty’s Government, UK, in July 1993 gives the rationale for reforms in its statistical system:
Official statistics are collected by government to inform debate, decision-making and research both within government and by the wider community. They provide an objective perspective of the changes taking place in national life and allow comparisons between periods of time and geographical areas.
Vital as this is, open access to official statistics provides the citizen with more than a picture of society. If offers a window on the work and performance of government itself, showing the scale of government activity in every area of public policy and allowing the impact of government policies and actions to be assessed.
Reliable social and economic statistics are fundamental to the Citizen's Charter and to open government. It is the responsibility of government to provide them and to maintain public confidence in them.
14.4.6 In April 1996, a new Office for National Statistics (ONS) came into existence seeking to1:
Establish and gain commitment to Office of National Statistics (ONS) vision and values;
Link ONS vision to business needs;
Align individual, managerial and work team behaviours to those required by the vision;
Identify business needs of the organisation and business units;
State the process and people skills changes, required to meet those business needs;
Promote the development and implementation of action plans to address identified individual and work team skills and competence needs;
Initiate business and work team based activities to develop and progress business and learning outcomes; and
Maintain flexibility in the delivery of skills development and learning activities.
14.4.7 In June 2000, the United Kingdom has appointed a new Statistics Commission 2, an independent, non-executive body, which will provide a check on the integrity and independence of National Statistics. It has a Chairman and seven Members, all of whom are part-time and a full-time Chief Executive. This Commission 3 is independent of both ministers and the producers of National Statistics. It has its own budget and is able to commission its own activity. The Chairman and Members are appointed by the Chancellor, as Minister for National Statistics, in accordance with the Code of practice published by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The Commission produces an annual report, which is to be laid before Parliament. It publicly advises ministers on issues of statistical integrity related to National Statistics. The role of the Statistics Commission is fundamental to the new arrangements for Government statistics. The Commission is required to:
Consider and comment to Ministers on the programme for National Statistics, drawing on the views of users and suppliers, and will have a role in advising on the scope of National Statistics;
Comment on the quality assurance processes of National Statistics, as well as being able to carry out spot checks on departmental or other audits of National Statistics and to carry out or commission its own audits in areas of concern;
Comment on the application of the code of practice for National Statistics and other procedures designed to promote statistical integrity;
Prepare and lay before Parliament an annual report on National Statistics, incorporating its comments on the report by the National Statistician, and on how the Commission has discharged its functions.