Venue: Department of the Taoiseach
Date: June 30 2009, 11:00-14:00
Dr. Pat O’Hara chaired the meeting. The following members attended: Ms. Mary Doyle, Professor Philip Lane, Mr. Con Lucey, Mr. Danny McCoy, Mr. Michael McGrath, Mr. Paul Sweeney, Mr. Gerry O’Hanlon
CSO Assistant Director Ms. Siobhan Carey also attended. Mr. Gerry Brady acted as Secretary.
The chairperson noted the appointment of Board member Danny McCoy as Director General of the business and employers organisation IBEC. The Chairperson expressed the Board’s condolences to the family of Dave Jennings, a senior statistician in the CSO, in connection with his recent bereavement.
These were approved with one amendment concerning more formal notification of Board members regarding changes in the membership of the Board.
Mr. Peter Finnegan and Mr. Gerry Cribbin of the Department of the Taoiseach gave a short presentation on the Organisation Review Programme. The aim of the review is to assess an organisation’s capacity to achieve its strategic goals and to assist management to identify issues that need to be addressed. The staff survey was very successful with a response rate of 72%. Members of the Board will also be contacted.
If the timing suits, a further Board briefing may be given at our next meeting.
The first quarterly QNHS publication using the new calendar quarter basis was published on June 26th (Quarter 1 2009). This release is the first to be based on the new sample from Census 2006 and included NACE rev 2 classification. A technical note on the impact of the move to calendar quarters accompanied the release and showed the impact on the estimates to be minimal. Earnings data continues to be of topical interest. Because of reduced resources the sample size on the Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey (EHECS) has been reduced. The new sample size is c7500 employers. A new indicator report on Children and Young People in Ireland was published on 18th June. The Board requested that a short note on what quarterly data have already been published from the EHECS survey and what earnings results are published in other surveys.
Tenders are being evaluated at present in response to a public procurement notice relating to the provision of services for processing the Census 2011 forms. The services relate to the printing of the census forms and enumerator record books, the provision of scanners and other IT equipment which cannot be drawn down from existing civil service wide contracts, writing the code to scan and recognise the information from the census forms and to implement the relevant coding and editing rules and providing on-site support during the processing phase of the census between June and December 2011.
A technical sub-group of the CSO Revenue Liaison Group has been established to assess the potential of existing business identifiers for use as a common identifier in CSO and Revenue. The group will focus its attentions on those identifiers most likely to be suitable for adoption (probably an existing Revenue identifier). One of the significant challenges will be to examine the distinction between a tax entity and statistical unit and how this may impact on data matching.
Statistical Methods and Development (SMD) are currently undertaking a comparison of Census of Industrial Production (CIP) 2007 returns vis-a-vis Corporation Tax (CT) returns for the same period to assess the extent to which:
we can match the two sources (statistical entity versus tax entity etc); andto assess the extent to which we can replace/supplement surveying, particularly of small enterprises, with administrative data for the compilation of Structural Business Statistics (SBS) data.
CSO has also been making significant efforts to reduce burden to enterprises, despite a range of new European legal acts coming into force. Both sample sizes and questionnaires have been reduced where possible and as noted before, a number of surveys have been discontinued. This is beginning to yield some burden reduction and should yield more for reference year 2008.
Annual estimates for 2008 and prior year revisions from 1997-2007 were published this morning covering GNP, GDP and Balance of Payments statistics. In addition, the first estimates for GDP and GNP for the first quarter of 2009 were published together with Balance of Payments results covering the same period. The Institutional Sector Accounts - Financial first results for 2008 were published in mid-June and received a lot of publicity due to the evidence of the decline in household assets. Net financial assets of households fell by 31% or €36.1 billion in 2008.
The Civil Service schemes to reduce payroll numbers (Incentivised Career Break and Early Retirement schemes) will have an effect on our overall staffing numbers. The closing dates for these two schemes are 1 July and 1 September respectively so the final number of CSO applicants is not yet known. Under the moratorium on recruitment, staff leaving on either of these schemes will generally not be replaceable. Some work content and staff changes at Division level were recently announced. The changes involve some further reorganisation towards a process approach for business statistics and some moves to anticipate imminent retirements at senior statistician level.
The Chairperson inquired as to what impact reduced resources are likely to have on the work of the office generally and in particular on the data integration areas. Around 90% of the workload of the office are EU requirements. Among the discretionary work, some of the new thematic reports may have to be dropped as well as, in an extreme situation, some of the QNHS modules.
A short note on the INSPIRE Directive was presented to the meeting. Two spatial data themes - statistical units / geographical boundaries, and population distribution - require CSO compliance in areas such as metadata and sharing of spatial data. CSO anticipate being able to meet the compliance targets without difficulty.
Substantial background text has been added to the draft strategy since the last Board meeting. The review of the 2003-2008 Strategy has been reoriented to be more forward looking in comparison with the previous draft. More work is needed before the document will be ready for publication.
A stronger recommendation from the Board needs to be made on the need for the introduction of unique business, personal and spatial identifiers. These are all considered to be investments for improved use of all levels of statistical and business data. The absence of a full set of data/statistics strategies needs to be signaled more clearly. The potential for identifiers and more clarity around priority data gaps to result in net savings to the exchequer needs to be brought out more. The Board requested that a presentation on the new health identifier either be made at the next meeting or in advance of our next meeting.
Chapter 2 could be improved by mapping the recommendations in the 2003-2008 Strategy that have been completed. The list of emerging domains in chapter 3 need to be reviewed and possibly added to and combined.
The new strategy period up to 2013 is likely to coincide with resource shortages but the final year of the strategy may present opportunities for new work to be undertaken and completed.
Chapters 3 and 4 need further work and any overlap between both removed. The data management and security section requires restructuring. A new heading focused on the needs of Users may be required. The sections on Housing and Construction and Health need to be broadened to include issues such as negative equity, housing density data and hospital care statistics.
The next meeting will be on September 3rd in the Department of the Taoiseach at 11:00 (deferred until October 12th).