The ABS mission is 'to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion within governments and the community, by leading a high quality, objective and responsive national statistical service'. 'Quality' in relation to statistics is a multidimensional concept which embodies the notion of 'fitness for purpose'. In order to assist and encourage informed decision making, statistics need to be not only as accurate as possible, but also timely and relevant. There are often trade-offs between the various aspects of quality, and in order to make economic statistics timely enough to be relevant indicators for the analysis of current or recent economic conditions this is likely to be at the expense of some degree of accuracy. The ABS, in consultation with data users, aims to optimise the various aspects of quality.
This paper is part of the ABS initiative for 'making quality visible'. The national accounts program is discussed against the six quality dimensions of the ABS Data Quality Framework. These dimensions are a view of data quality aspects that determine fitness for purpose, and relate to relevance, accuracy and reliability, timeliness, accessibility, interpretability and coherence. As well as informing users about quality, the framework also provides feedback to ongoing quality improvement programs within the ABS.
Underlying these dimensions of quality is the notion of integrity - that statistical policies and practices are guided by ethical standards and professional principles which are transparent. The integrity of the ABS is underpinned by legislation within which the organisation operates, and its willingness to subject its operations and performance to both internal and external scrutiny. The principle legislation determining the functions and responsibilities of the ABS are the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905. These Acts provide that the ABS is headed by the Australian Statistician - a statutory office with an independent status and the authority to conduct statistical collections.