NAO: The Statistical Office should pay a lot more attention to the needs of the domestic users of statistics and reduce the arising administrative burden

Toomas Mattson | 1/15/2008 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 15 January 2008 - The NAO finds that the Statistical Office should obtain a complete overview of the role of national statistics in the overall information need of the government, because the Statistical Office's current activities Furthermore, the recently completed audit revealed that the Statistical Office has not arranged the collection of data necessary for compiling national statistics in the most effective manner, thus creating an excessive administrative burden for the citizens, authorities and businesses.

As regards the planning of statistical surveys, the Statistical Office has failed to reconcile the wishes of domestic users systematically and comprehensively with EUROSTAT's requirements (according to the Statistical Office, about 66 % of the national statistical surveys in 2007 were conducted to meet EUROSTAT’s needs). The Statistical Office does not have clear idea of the domestic users and their information needs. And as a rule, the co-operation between the users of statistics and the Statistical Office constitutes formal compliance with the involvement requirement, and not substantive collaboration. Currently, involvement can be characterised by the situation where a letter inviting to make recommendations to supplement or modify the program of national statistical surveys is sent to the institutions and organisations which the Statistical Office considers relevant.

During the audit, the NAO conducted a survey among the statistics users in the public sector. The results of the survey showed that about 40 % of the respondents use regular departmental information to acquire data on Estonia. But only 24 % of them use national statistics on a regular basis. According to the survey, the respondents tend to prefer departmental statistics, because the national statistics does not meet their needs to the extent necessary: data is not up to date, reliable or detailed, the necessary metadata are missing, etc.

Juhani Lemmik, the Director of Audit of Audit Department I stated that the compilers of national statistics are facing the tough challenge of providing the public with independent and impartial information. ”To this end, a balance needs to be struck between the somewhat controversial interests: on the one hand, the international standards and the general principles of preparing statistics need to be taken into account, and on the other, the ever-changing requests of the user of statistics have to be met. Currently, Estonia is characterized by a situation where the domestic users and their needs and wishes have not received enough attention. This led us to the conclusion that in making decisions concerning governance the users of statistics prefer departmental data with unverified quality and processing methodology to the national statistical data.

The NAO finds that the collection of data necessary for compiling national statistics is not effective, because the Statistical Office does not have a complete overview as to which databases contain data suitable for compiling national statistics. The Statistical Office has analysed (incl. documented) the composition and quality of data for only 9 of the 160 databases entered in the Register of Databases.

No-one in Estonia is assessing or managing the administrative burden which the state causes to the citizens, businesses and organisations by data collection (incl. for national statistics). To avoid the unlimited growth of the administrative burden, the data collection for national statistics must be effective, using, among other things, the data stored in the existing Estonian databases as far as possible. For example, the focus group interview conducted by the NAO among the users of agricultural statistics revealed that many agricultural producers must file reports to the Statistical Office, the Commercial Register, the Tax and Customs Board, the Agricultural Registers and Information Board, to the FADN analysis database of the Rural Economy Research Centre, etc. Participants of the focus group asserted that until no possibilities to reduce the burden on reporting agents have been found their awareness of the importance of statistics in shaping national policies should be increased.

Juhani Lemmik, the Director of Audit explained that there are a number of options to make data collection more effective and reduce the administrative burden of citizens. “An important one is collaboration between the database operators and the Statistical Office to ensure that the data gathered to the databases is suitable for national statistics. And the development of the eSTAT information system used by the Statistical Office for the collection of data should be more user-focused.”

Effective co-operation between the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications and the Statistical Office is required to assess and manage the administrative burden created by the state.

The Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications, the Minister of Agriculture and the Director General of the Statistical Office agreed to the majority of audit conclusions and undertook to implement most of the recommendations.

In the 1st quarter of this year, the Ministry of Finance intends to set up a working group to review the laws related to national statistics and its production, analyse the problems arising in the implementation of laws, and propose legislative amendments.

For further information, please contact:

Urmet Lee
Audit Manager
telephone: +3726400751
[email protected]

Toomas Mattson
Communication Manager of National Audit Office
Telephone: 6400 777
Mob: 51 34900
E-mail: [email protected]

  • Posted: 1/15/2008 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 9/15/2015 10:43 AM
  • Last Review: 9/15/2015 10:43 AM

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