Wednesday 22 November 2017

National Statistics Board is failing to meet the needs of users, says report

Brendan Keenan

Brendan Keenan


THE Irish statistical system is failing to meet the needs of users -- and government departments are partly to blame, the body appointed by government to improve the system has said.

The National Statistics Board (NSB) was established in 2003 to develop a coherent overall approach to official statistics.

And in a new assessment, the board says there has been significant progress, but that it has been uneven.

"There has been little of the institutional or structural change which the NSB regards as essential to facilitate the future development of the Irish system," chairwoman Patricia O'Hara says.

The report criticises the wide variation among government departments and agencies in the preparation of strategies to improve published statistics, "with some bodies lacking the capacity and/or motivation to respond to this requirement.

"The absence of formal arrangements governing statistical work in many departments and agencies hampers the adoption of statistical standards," the report says.

There have also been problems with the interpretation of data protection law, which limits the ability of bodies to use information for statistical purposes.

The board complains of restrictions imposed on the use of the personal tax and social welfare numbers (PPSNs) as a way of collating statistics.

It wants agreements which would treat statistical use as a priority, while safeguarding personal information, and possible changes to the law.

"Current experience suggests that curtailment of the use of the PPSN means opportunities to provide insight and analysis are being lost due to an approach which emphasises risk avoidance rather than risk management," the report says.

A better statistical system is "crucial to Ireland's ability to understand and respond to current national and international challenges," the board says.

Unless problems are tackled urgently, "the Irish statistical system will continue to operate significantly below its potential".

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