Venue: Department Taoiseach
Date: November 28th, 2011 at 10:30
The following members attended:
Dr Patricia O’Hara (Chairperson), Mr. Ciaran Dolan, Professor Philip Lane, Mr Fergal O’Brien, Mr Gerry O’Hanlon
Mr Gerry Brady acted as Secretary. Apologies were received from Mr Paul Sweeney and Mr Michael McGrath. CSO Assistant Director General Mr Aidan Punch and Directors Joe Treacy and Steve MacFeely also attended. Mr John Shaw attended on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach pending the appointment of a representative from the Department.
The minutes were accepted with a minor change. The matters arising were taken in conjunction with relevant topics in the meeting papers.
An error was discovered in the end-2010 Irish Government debt figures which were submitted to Eurostat by the Department of Finance and CSO in October 2011. Once the error was properly validated CSO issued a press statement on 1st November and informed Eurostat. The error resulted in Ireland’s gross general Government debt being recorded as €148.0bn (94.9% of GDP) instead of €144.4bn (92.6% of GDP). Neither the net debt nor the general Government deficit were affected in any way.
CSO national accounts staff appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts on 3rd November along with colleagues from the Department of Finance and the NTMA. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance has decided that an internal management report would be carried out by the end of November and a more extensive externally conducted review by the end of December. Both reports will be published by the Department of Finance. CSO will participate fully in both inquiries.
During the discussions, it was clarified that the error in the calculation of the gross general Government debt was a statistical classification error, the seriousness of which should be judged by reference to its impact on the accuracy or fitness for purpose of the aggregate statistical estimate/indicator produced. While accepting that the error was a serious oversight that required a review of the statistical processes in place, the Director General pointed out that neither the level or trend in the key Debt to GDP indicator was distorted to any significant extent. The Board noted the two reviews being conducted by the Department of Finance and asked for the topic to be put on the agenda of the next meeting to consider any relevant implications from the reports.
The Chairperson and the Director General of the CSO met the Chief Whip shortly after the last NSB meeting to review progress on the development of the Irish Statistical System (ISS). It was agreed that a Memorandum for Government should be prepared for presentation in mid-December. Following interactions with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the key actions envisaged in the NSB position paper are now largely incorporated as Action 2.10 in the recently published Public Service Reform Plan. These developments are very welcome and, together with an explicit Government endorsement of the NSB position papers (see Agenda item 4), should provide an excellent opportunity to progress the ISS in a concrete manner.
A draft Commission (Eurostat) proposal to amend Regulation 223/2009 on European Statistics was broadly agreed at a recent meeting of the European Statistical System Committee. The objective is to strengthen the independence and role of the national statistical systems, in particular the national statistical institute and its head, in producing high quality and trustworthy statistics. Most of the proposals are already longstanding features of our own statistical legislation and practice but are nevertheless welcome as confirmation of what is required for the proper production of official statistics. The draft also envisages that Governments will be invited by the Commission at political level to sign formal “Commitments on Confidence” in which they will acknowledge their role and responsibility in ensuring the credibility of national statistical systems in meeting EU information requirements.
As part of an internal re-organisation in the CSO, Ciarán Dooly, Assistant Principal, has been appointed to a new post as Head of International Relations and Secretary of the NSB. The Chairperson paid tribute to the outgoing NSB Secretary, Gerry Brady, Senior Statistician, who has served the board for ten years. She thanked him for his commitment and dedication to the work of the board and his unfailing courtesy and diligence in all NSB matters, as well as his valued expertise and support to her in statistical matters. Members of the Board endorsed the Chairperson’s comments. Both Gerry and Ciarán will attend the next NSB meeting.
The Irish Social Science Data Archive was established under funding from the fourth round of the Programme for Research in Third Level Education PRTLI 4. This funding will run out in December 31, 2011. In anticipation of this, UCD has been trying to find a business model to continue the archive. Various options have been explored, as the costs involved are relatively modest, but none have been successful to date. UCD is committed to keeping the ISSDA running. In the absence of other viable alternatives, it is intended to locate it in UCD library. It was agreed that both the Geary institute and the CSO will gather information on how similar databases are managed in other countries as an input to further discussions.
The following action points relevant to the development of the ISS were included in the recently published Public Sector Reform Plan:
2.3.i Develop a central system to provide a single view of the identity of residents (the Single customer View) based on the PPSN and the associated Public Service identity data set.
2.6.i Introduce a common vocabulary for identifying business using the Revenue Commissioner’s Business Register. This should be done by all public bodies.
2.6.ii Introduce legislation to allow public bodies to collect one of the business identifiers included in the Revenue Business Register and match these identifiers against that Register.
2.10 Develop a code of practice for data gathering and its use for statistical purposes across the Public Service, to facilitate improved usefulness of the data gathered for decision-making, planning and service delivery and the reduction of the potential for fraud.
2.10.ii Develop an integrated approach to the collection of administrative data across the Public Service, including a strategy to promote consistent approaches to, and systematic uses of, data (including identifiers, classifications, and geo-spatial/postcode data) in service planning and delivery.
2.10.iii Assess the legislative environment with a view to identifying the scope for additional and greater uses of statistical data, including any potential legislative changes where necessary.
A Government Memorandum will be circulated to Government Departments containing the proposals from the Board in relation to the development of the Irish Statistical System. The intention is for the Board to subsequently publish its two papers: The Irish Statistical System: The Way Forward and the supporting paper Joined Up Government Needs Joined Up Data.
A section on statistical information may also be incorporated in the draft eGovernment Strategy 2012-2015, which is being prepared by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
CSO Directors have recently briefed a number of Oireachtas committees on statistical topics.
The Board welcomed the paper. There were various suggestions:
There should be consultation with a wide range of external stakeholders including the Central Bank. The indicator set should not be limited to data produced or currently disseminated by CSO.The intentions are to launch the new set of short-term indicators in mid-2012.
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs published their National Strategy for Research and Data on Children’s Lives 2011-2016 in November. They should be invited to make a presentation at the next NSB meeting. The Board noted the progress being made on the various recommendations and those where progress has stalled. The CSO will conduct a National Transport Survey in quarter 4, 2012 as a module attached to the Quarterly National Household Survey data collection. The main processing phase of the census is well ahead of schedule. The CSO will meet with users in mid-December to discuss the indicators selected for a new CSO environment indicators report.
The next meeting will be on February 10th in the Department of the Taoiseach at 10:30.