CLIENT LIAISON, PRIORITY REVIEW AND PROGRAM SETTING
The ABS regularly reviews all its statistical programs to ensure that they remain relevant to user needs and to ensure that capacity is available to provide information on new and emerging issues facing policy advisors and other data users. Each year relative priorities and competing resource requirements of all programs are formally and extensively considered by senior management, generally following consultation with users. The ABS maintains a three year forward work program which is rolled forward on an annual basis. Detailed work programs are developed, resources allocated and performance indicators are established for each statistical program including the national accounts.
Ensuring ABS national accounts outputs support decision making is achieved by extensive consultation with users. This happens in a variety of formal and informal fora:
- the Australian Statistics Advisory Council
- the Economic Statistics User Group (ESUG)
- the State Accounts User Group (SAUG)
- the Productivity Measurement Reference Group
- key client manager discussions
- the Input-Output User Group
- regular contact with the Commonwealth Treasury and the Reserve Bank of Australia, particularly through quarterly seminars and discussions
- regular contact with state treasuries through quarterly seminars and discussions
- regular informal contact with other key users such as Productivity Commission and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, particularly through their use of productivity data and the tourism satellite account
- the National Accounts Post SNA93 Implementation User Review
- ad-hoc meetings with academics and other experts.
A formal Information Development Plan was developed for the national accounts program in 2004. This was part of a wider ABS initiative to provide a National Statistical Service (NSS) that delivers the statistics required by key users by:
'... agreeing on national information development plans which set out specific activities which will lead to the increased availability of data and the roles and responsibilities of key players and building effective partnerships with these players'.
The major focus of the Information Development Plan for the national accounts program is on identifying important information gaps and deficiencies that cannot be immediately met from available data repositories or delivery systems and presenting directions for improving all aspects of the current statistical service.
While unmet demand for data is taken seriously, it does not mean that the ABS is currently in a position to move forward in all cases. The major area of unmet demand identified by users relates to the availability of state data, particularly quarterly GSP estimates, capital stock, multifactor productivity and input-output tables. Generally, state governments would like much the same data by state that are available for Australia. At this stage the ABS has not been able to pursue their development on the grounds of cost and expected insufficient data quality.
The Economic Statistics User Group is the key forum for seeking user views on statistical issues, emerging data needs and priorities for the national accounts and other economic statistics. It meets regularly and the membership is drawn to provide a wide-ranging representation of the economic statistics user community.