NATIONAL STATISTICS BOARD
Venue: Department of the Taoiseach, Room 301
Date: Thursday February 25, 2016 at 10.00am
Item 7: Any other business
National Statistics Board
Venue: Department of the Taoiseach
Date: Thursday 25 February, 2016
The following Board members attended:
Dr. Patricia O’Hara (Chairperson), Mr. Gerard O’Neill, Mr. Tom Geraghty, Mr. John Callinan, Mr. John McCarthy, Ms. Rowena Dwyer, Dr. Helen Johnston and Mr. Pádraig Dalton.
Ms. Jennifer Banim and Mr. Richard McMahon (CSO Senior Management) were also in attendance.
Ms. Claire Hanley acted as Secretary.
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.
The NSB Strategy stressed the importance of leadership, by both the public sector and the CSO, in achieving its vision for official statistics. The Board discussed a number of events which have taken place recently to begin the process of engagement with the broader system and the development of a National Data Infrastructure (NDI). The CSO held a workshop for members of the Civil Service Management Board (CSMB) on January 15, 2016 which was addressed by Padraig Dalton and Patricia O’Hara. Dr O’Hara made a presentation to the DPER Management Board Policy Forum on February 5, 2016. Both these events generated considerable engagement with, and discussion about, the objectives of the NSB Strategy. An operational plan is now being drawn up by CSO setting out the actions needed to progress the development of a NDI, with particular focus on data protection.
The Board discussed the significance of these recent events and further actions that might be taken to progress the idea of a NDI across the public service, by engagement with senior officials and those in a position to advance the NSB strategic objectives.
The Director General briefed the Board on a number of recent developments within CSO and at European level.
Government Finance Statistics
Eurostat will shortly be launching the process to identify topics for discussion as part of the next update of the Manual on Government Deficit and Debt and the CSO will submit a number of issues needing clarification as a result of the Eurostat Irish Water sector classification decision for discussion, as part of this consultation.
Also, a series of EU-wide technical meetings on the sector classification of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Government Finance Statistics has been launched by Eurostat and it is hoped that this transparent, inclusive approach to discussing technical issues will be the new Eurostat model for engagement by Eurostat on the technicalities of Government Finance Statistics.
The Board welcomed the transparency of the new approach to be adopted by Eurostat in relation to the sector classification of PPPs and felt it would give greater clarity on the implementation of ESA rules for Government Finance Statistics in countries.
The Material Flow Accounts 2013, describing the interaction of the domestic economy with the natural environment and the rest of the world in terms of flows of materials, were published on 9th February, adding to the list of outputs from the Environment and Energy Division.
The Board discussed the expansion of the Environment statistics division in the CSO and the impact of the UN Sustainable Development Goals on future resources.
A series of workshops on the promotion of Eircode usage, to be organised by DCENR with input from the CSO, will take place later in 2016 starting with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.
The Board welcomed the moves to promote Eircode usage and highlighted their importance for official statistics.
The 2016 Census of Population will take place on April 24, 2016. All recruitment and other development milestones are on target.
Household Survey Development Project
Significant progress was made on the project during 2015, with the construction of two new IT systems. Throughout 2016 a comparison of the data coming from both the LFS and the QNHS will help establish the validity of the new survey and the impact of the mixed-mode data collection model on the key labour market indicators. CSO plan to hold a number of user workshops during the year to explain the project in more detail and in particular to outline the potential impact of the new data collection mode on the labour market time series.
The Board recognised the scale of this project and discussed the possibilities of moving to web collection in the future.
CSO-Department of Social Protection (DSP) Institutional level Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)
The CSO and DSP are in the final stages of agreeing a high level MoU which will enable the CSO to use administrative data for statistical purposes, leading to enhanced statistical outputs by the CSO and a reduction in the response burdens arising from CSO surveys.
Administrative Data Seminar
The fifth Administrative Data Seminar is scheduled to take place on April 12, 2016 at Dublin Castle. This seminar will present on-going work in a number of areas including environmental statistics, policy simulation using CSO data and the use of administrative data as part of the Census for compiling population estimates.
The Board welcomed the seminar and discussed the target audience for this event.
Structure of Earnings 2011 - 2014
This project, which is being developed by CSO Methodology Division, aims to compile Structure of Earnings statistics for the years 2011 to 2014 using primarily administrative data sources rather than survey collection. This will replace the National Employment Survey (NES) conducted between 2007 and 2009, at considerably lower cost and response burden. The project was discussed at the NSB meeting on 10 December 2015.
Since then, the CSO has commissioned an external peer review, to examine the methodology and provide quality assurance. The review was conducted by the Deputy Director of Labour Market Statistics in the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), who visited the CSO in February. The discussions highlighted the need for a communications plan to inform users about the introduction of this new data source on earnings and it identified a number of technical points to be addressed in constructing and analysing the data.
The final peer review report from the ONS will be published on the CSO website and will feed into the remaining work on this project. Following the review, the CSO now plans to initially publish an explanatory paper on the new methodology and to follow this, before June, with a results publication for the years 2011 to 2014.
The Board noted that the output from this project will be a new product and will not be directly comparable to the National Employment Survey. They stressed the importance of the explanatory paper on the new methodology to help users understand the new series.
Draft FRIBS Regulation
Eurostat aims to present the FRIBS regulation ("Framework Regulation integrating European Business Statistics") to the ESSC in May 2016. Most parts of the draft regulation, i.e. those relating to business surveys, have been broadly accepted at statistical working party level. However, the SIMSTAT proposal in relation to trade statistics between EU countries, which is part of FRIBS, remains very contentious.
The May ESSC meeting will discuss a number of points relating to SIMSTAT, including the outcome of a pilot project on exchange of micro-data and impact analyses of the proposal. It seems likely that the May meeting will take a STOP / GO decision on SIMSTAT. A bi-lateral meeting between Eurostat and the CSO on SIMSTAT is scheduled for February, 2016.
The Board, while recognising the efficiencies to be gained by this approach, discussed the difficulties these proposals pose for official statistics in Ireland. They noted that Ireland appears to be part of a minority of countries at the discussions at statistical level who have serious reservations about the proposals.
Residential Property Price Index
Work on introducing a new Residential Property Price Index is well advanced and the CSO aims to introduce the series in mid-April using new methodology based primarily on Stamp Duty data supplied by Revenue and will cover all residential property transactions, as distinct from the present index based on mortgage data.
Business Statistics Publications
A joint report prepared by CSO and NISRA, titled Visitors to Ireland and Northern Ireland 2014: A Statistical Profile of Tourism was published on February 11. The report on the 2014 Access to Finance survey is scheduled for publication on March 3, 2016.
CSO Policy on Pre-Release Access
From March 1, the CSO is implementing an updated policy on pre-release access to CSO releases and publications. The policy will strengthen existing procedures, in line with the recommendations of the 2015 ESCoP Peer Review.
The CSO standard is the release of results at 11:00 with no pre-release access. However, the policy recognises that pre-release access may be justified in some cases and sets out procedures for three types of pre-release access: Advance Notification to Named Officials (at 10:00); Officials Briefings (which can take place at 08:30); and Press Conference (at 10:30).
An application procedure is being introduced for Advance Notification and Officials Briefings and applications for such access must be sponsored at Assistant Secretary level. The names of all persons receiving pre-release access, including attendance at press conferences, will be published on the CSO website.
The Board welcomed the formalisation of pre-release access by the CSO.
The Transformation Division are now overseeing the progression and implementation of the key projects for 2016 as prioritised by the SMC in November.
A workshop to review staff engagement and partnership in the CSO was held in January 2016 and was attended by staff from across all three offices as well as field staff and staff on secondment to Government Departments. Proposals from the workshop will be considered by the SMC in due course.
Information and Engagement sessions with the Field staff, similar to those held in November for CSO staff, are being planned for the end of March in Carrick-on-Shannon, Cashel and Dublin.
Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey
Results of the Civil Service Employee Engagement Survey, which was conducted by the CSO, were published on the 28th of January. The CSO is currently finalising the survey findings for each of the Departments and agencies in the Civil Service who completed the survey. There are 46 individual reports to be completed.
The Board welcomed the results of the CSES and discussed the future periodicity planned for this survey and the impact on CSO resources.
1916 project update
This launch of the CSO 1916 Commemorative Project will take place in the Mansion House on March 2, 2016.
Filling senior posts
A competition for the Head of Division in Communication and Dissemination is currently underway. A process to recruit a Chief Information Officer has commenced through open TLAC competition.
Irish Government Statistical System – CSO Engagement with the broader system
As noted above, a workshop took place for CSMB members and other nominated Department representatives on January 15, 2016 to establish a positive landscape to facilitate the establishment of the National Data Infrastructure and to highlight the key coordination role the CSO has to play.
The Board discussed the current process underway at CSO to fill senior posts outlined above, including the location of these posts.
Ms Aeidin Sheppard (CSO) made a presentation to the Board on the development of a user survey and the progress to date. The Board discussed in detail the target audience, possible questions and approach for this survey. CSO will update the Board prior to finalising the survey at the next meeting in April 2016.
The Director General presented the prioritised activities for CSO for 2016 and early 2017 and outlined how these initiatives were agreed.
The Board discussed the priorities for 2016 with particular attention on the development of remote access for researchers.
Dr Helen Johnston informed the Board of the Eurostat consultation on European Social Statistics.
The Board discussed the proposal to produce an annual report for 2016.
The next meeting of the Board will take place on April 28, 2016 at the Department of the Taoiseach.