NATIONAL STATISTICS BOARD
Venue: Department of An Taoiseach
Date: 13 September 2012
The following members attended: Dr. Pat O’Hara, (Chairperson), Mr. John Callinan, Mr. Paul Sweeney and Mr. Pádraig Dalton.
Apologies were received from the following members: Prof. Philip Lane, Mr. Ciaran Dolan, Mr. Michael McGrath and Mr. Fergal O’Brien. Mr. Aidan Punch and Mr. Joe Treacy were also in attendance. Mr. Donal Kelly acted as Secretary.
The Chairperson introduced Donal Kelly as the new secretary to the Board and welcomed him to his first meeting.
Item 1: Minutes of June NSB meeting (NSB 2012-4-2)
The minutes from the previous meeting were adopted with an amendment to the section on the discrepancy in Ireland’s debt and deficit figures.
Item 2: Director General’s progress report (NSB 2012/4/3)
The Director General briefed the Board on recent developments within CSO in line with his report which was circulated beforehand. The main points covered were:
The Director General informed the Board of the potential impact of recent and forthcoming CSO senior management retirements and the ongoing resource situation on the CSO’s programme of work. The Board was informed that it will be challenging for CSO to meet increasing national and international user needs, while maintaining the scope and quality of the existing work programme. However, CSO continues to seek efficiencies through its Business Process Improvement programme, organisational restructuring, the greater use of administrative data to reduce the requirement for ad-hoc surveys and by transforming its household survey methodology.
The Board asked to be informed if the staffing or resource situation begins to impinge significantly on the programme of statistical outputs or its quality.
The Director General briefed the Board on discussions he held with the Secretary Generals of D/Taoiseach and D/Public Expenditure and Reform. The meetings centred on a number of key priorities for the CSO but in particular competing priorities between the National Accounts area and Census of Population. The CSO management have been discussing issues relating to these matters for some time and have, on the basis of relative risk levels, decided to prioritise IT development work in National Accounts over the development of an online internet response option for Census 2016.
Item 3: Inadvertent release of Quarterly National Accounts (NSB 2012/4/4)
The first quarter 2012 national accounts and balance of payments figures along with the revised annual 2011 data were published on 12th July 2012. This represented a three week delay over the usual publication timeline. The delay was a one-off due to a major Nace Rev2 re-classification which involved reclassifying the income side of the accounts back to 1995.
Unfortunately, it coincided with the inadvertent release of the first quarter national accounts data on the CSO website for a short time on the day before the publication date. A detailed report on this topic was previously circulated to the Board and its recommendations have been accepted and implemented by CSO.
In light of the inadvertent release, there was a discussion around the CSO’s contingency planning and risk management. The Board was informed that the CSO maintains a risk register and that regular meetings are held between the Senior Management Committee and Heads of Division to discuss and update it.
The Board emphasised the importance of avoiding errors of this nature in order to maintain trust in official statistics and to protect the reputation of the CSO.
Item 4: Mid-term review of Progress on NSB Strategy 2009-2014 (NSB 2012/4/5)
The Board considered the first draft of the Review of the NSB Strategy 2009-2014 which contains a detailed examination of progress on the 19 recommendations. A number of themes related to the further development of the ISS, system-wide data protection issues and the challenges facing official statistics are also explored in the document.
The Board discussed the draft in detail, offering a number of specific comments. The critical role of D\Public Expenditure and Reform in driving the development of a data infrastructure strategy across the public sector, particularly the importance of the use of unique identifiers was stressed.
The review document will be considered again at the next meeting of the Board, and it is likely to be published before the end of the year.
The next meeting of the Board will held on October 23rd 2012.