1001.0 - Annual Report - ABS Annual Report, 2001-02  
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Contents >> Section 3 - Performance Information >> Chapter 5 - Performance Information - Output Measures

5: Increase the quantity of output

Performance Measure 5.1: Increase the range of statistics disseminated

The ABS continues to increase the range of statistics disseminated by releasing a range of new publications, expanding the data released in existing publications, and increasing the range of electronic releases.

During 2001-02 a range of new statistics were released in a number of new publications or products, of which the notable ones are:

  • State and Regional Indicators, Victoria (cat. no. 1367.2), which is a major monthly and quarterly statistical series covering a large range of key state indicators including State final demand, population and vital statistics, employment and unemployment, wages and prices;
  • Population Projections, Tasmania (cat. no. 3222.6), contains alternative projections (based on different assumptions as to future fertility, mortality and migration) of the resident population of Tasmania, the Statistical Local Areas and Local Government Areas at five-yearly intervals from 1999 to 2021;
  • Population Projections, Northern Territory (cat. no. 3222.7), contains alternative projections (based on different assumptions as to future fertility, mortality and migration) of the resident population of the Northern Territory at yearly and five-yearly intervals from 1999 to 2021. It also includes alternative projections of the resident populations for Darwin/Balance of Northern Territory, Statistical Subdivisions, Statistical Local Areas and Local Government Areas;
  • Population Mobility, Queensland (cat. no. 3237.3), provides data on characteristics of people moving to and within Queensland in the last three years and the factors influencing their movements. It also presents information on moves planned within the next three years;
  • Disability, New South Wales (cat. no. 4443.1), presents information about people with disabilities in New South Wales. The major themes covered in this report include: disability prevalence and restriction; carer information and assistance provided by family and friends; population patterns; housing and living arrangements; education, employment and income; community participation; and transport;
  • Venture Capital, Australia (cat. no. 5678.0), provides details of venture capital activity from venture capital fund managers. The information includes, in broad terms, fund commitments and drawdowns by source of funds, assets and liabilities of the venture capital fund and financing flows between the fund and its investors and investee companies;
  • Work-Related Injuries, Australia (cat. no. 6324.0), provides information on persons who worked at some time in the previous 12 months and who suffered a work-related injury or illness. Estimates are cross-classified with labour force characteristics and demographics such as state, sex, relationship in household, marital status, birthplace, occupation, industry;
  • Superannuation: Coverage and Financial Characteristics, Australia (cat. no. 6360.0), presents superannuation coverage and financial information from the Survey of Employment Arrangements and Superannuation. It also contains socio-demographic and employment characteristics of people with and without superannuation and reasons for not contributing to, or not having superannuation;
  • Generosity of Australian Businesses (cat. no. 8157.0), contains a snapshot of the extent of giving by the business sector to the community sector in Australia during 2000–01. Data include the value of donations made, sponsorships provided and community projects undertaken by business;
  • Television Services, Australia (cat. no. 8559.0), contains information about the television services industry. Data include: industry size; employment; income; expenses; and net operating surplus and information on in-house television productions;
  • Museums, Australia (cat. no. 8560.0), contains information about the number and type of museums; employment; income; expenses and selected performance ratios, with breakdowns of key characteristics by size and by state. It also includes information on admissions; artefacts; art works; special exhibitions; hours open; use of information technology; and other museum/gallery activity;
  • Veterinary Services, Australia (cat. no. 8564.0), contains information about the veterinary services industry and includes industry size; employment; income; expenses and industry value added;
  • Business Events Venues Industry, Australia (cat. no. 8566.0), summarises information about the business events venues industry and includes industry size; employment; income; expenses and selected performance ratios, with breakdowns of key characteristics by business size and by state;
  • Hire Industries, Australia (cat. no. 8567.0), details information about the plant and equipment and household goods hire industry and includes industry size; employment; income; expenses; and net operating surplus;
  • Freight Movements, Australia, Summary (cat. no. 9220.0), provides statistics on tonnes and tonne-kilometres of freight moved in Australia between selected statistical divisions by mode (rail, sea, air and selected road). Information on tonnes moved by broad commodity grouping (based on the Australian Transport Freight Commodity Classification) and dissections of freight classified by liquid bulk, solid bulk, containerised, dangerous or refrigerated are also included;
  • Sales of New Motor Vehicles, Australia (Electronic Publication) (cat. no. 9314.0), contains monthly information on sales of new motor vehicles in each state/territory sourced from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries. This publication is released electronically only; and
  • Australian Business Expectations; State by Industry Data (cat. no. 5255.0.55.001), in Excel spreadsheet form, is a companion to Australian Business Expectations (cat. no. 5250.0). The spreadsheet contains detailed state breakdowns on the expectations of businesses in both the short term (the next three months) and the medium term (the current quarter of the following year) for a range of business performance indicators. This product is released electronically only.


Performance Measure 5.2: Innovative outputs

In addition to the new statistics released in the publications listed in Performance Measure 5.1, the ABS has conducted research which has led to the release of innovative new estimates, classifications and publications. Also released were a number of information papers informing users about conceptual issues, new methodologies and pending changes to current ABS collections.

Some of the innovative outputs released by the ABS in 2001-02 were:
  • Information Paper: Outcomes of ABS Views on Remoteness Consultation, Australia (cat. no. 1244.0.00.001), which summarises the feedback received from the first paper and responds to some commonly asked questions and suggestions. The paper also describes the changes which ABS will make in response to that feedback and further clarifies the purposes for which the new remoteness classification should, and should not, be used;
  • Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) (cat. no. 1272.0), which is a new Australian standard classification, replacing the ABS Classification of Qualifications. It provides a basis for comparable administrative and statistical data on educational activities and attainment classified by level and field;
  • Measuring Australia’s Progress (cat. no. 1370.0), which considers some of the key aspects of progress. It provides a national summary of many of the most important areas of progress, presenting them in a way which can be quickly understood by all Australians. It informs and stimulates public debate and encourages all Australians to assess the bigger picture when contemplating progress;
  • Information Paper: Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System] (cat. no. 1372.0), which considers implications for economic statistics of the new units model and changes to the scope of business frames, implemented in June 2002, resulting from tax reform related developments;
  • Teleworking, New South Wales (cat. no. 1373.1), which contains data on the frequency and characteristics of teleworking in New South Wales;
  • Australia’s Environment: Issues and Trends (cat. no. 4613.0), presents a broad selection of environmental statistics and information which illustrate topical environmental issues. Examples of specific issues covered in the second edition include: environmental accounts, eco-efficiency and indicators; land degradation; genetically modified organisms; uses and values of forests and woodlands; the environmental impacts of mining; and waste generation and minimisation;
  • Illicit Drug Use, Sources of Australian Data (cat. no. 4808.0), provides a comprehensive overview of sources of national data measuring the impact of illicit drug use in Australia. The publication examines data available on economic, social, crime and health impacts of illicit drug use on the community. Gaps in current data collections are also identified;
  • Australian Culture and Leisure Classifications (cat. no. 4902.0), presents three separate classifications for culture and leisure data, covering industries, occupations and products. The development of these three classifications is the first stage in the preparation of a wider framework for managing culture and leisure data;
  • Information Paper: A Methodology for Estimating Regional Merchandise Exports - Including Experimental Estimates for Three Queensland Regions (cat. no. 5492.0), proposing a methodology for estimating merchandise exports for regions of Australia. The methodology is applied for three regions of Queensland and experimental estimates of merchandise exports provided for 1994-95, 1995-96 and 1996-97;
  • Information Paper: The Use of Individual Income Taxpayer Data for ABS Regional Statistics - Wage and Salary Indicators for Small Areas (cat. no. 5673.0), which contains experimental estimates of the total number of wage and salary earners and their average wage and salary income for Local Government Areas, Statistical Local Areas, Statistical Subdivisions and Statistical Divisions in each state and territory of Australia for the years 1995-96 to 1998-99;
  • Information Paper: Use of Business Income Tax Data for Regional Small Business Statistics - Experimental Estimates, Selected Regions, Australia (cat. no. 5675.0), contains experimental estimates of regional business economic activity using the Australian Taxation Office business income tax data. This paper presents experimental estimates for statistical divisions for 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99 and 1999-2000;
  • Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0), which summarises quarterly estimates of profits, income from the sale of goods and services, wages and salaries, and the book value of inventories. Volume measures are published for sales and inventories;
  • Information Paper: Improvements to Australian Bureau of Statistics Quarterly Business Indicators (cat. no. 5677.0), describes improvements to ABS quarterly business indicators implemented in 2001. These improvements resulted from the integration of the surveys of Company Profits; Inventories, Sales and Services; and the private sector component of Employment and Earnings into a single survey called the Quarterly Economic Activity Survey. The information paper also details future developments, along with implications for time series and the publication and release strategy.
  • Information Paper: Measures of Labour Underutilisation (cat. no. 6296.0), describes the extent of underutilisation of labour resources in the economy, such as information on discouraged jobseekers and underemployed workers. While the ABS continues its commitment to producing employment statistics based on internationally accepted definitions, it also recognises that the headline unemployment rate cannot satisfy all the purposes for which such data are required;
  • Producer Price Indexes, Australia (cat. no. 6427.0), summarises a range of producer price indexes within a stage of production framework, and a set of partial, stand-alone measures relating to specific industry sectors of the economy;
  • Information Paper: Price Index of Domestic Final Purchases, Australia (cat. no. 6428.0), introduces experimental index numbers for a new economy-wide price index of Domestic Final Purchases. It represents the last major element of the system of price indexes articulated in the earlier Information Paper: An Analytical Framework for Price Indexes in Australia (cat. no. 6421.0). The focus of this system of indexes is on the analysis of inflation;
  • International Trade Price Indexes, Australia (cat. no. 6457.0), which contains indexes measuring changes in the prices of imports of merchandise that are landed in Australia each quarter (the Import Price Index), and exports of merchandise that are shipped from Australia each quarter (the Export Price Index);
  • Information Paper: Experimental Estimates, Australian Industry, a State Perspective (cat. no. 8156.0), presents some experimental estimates produced at state level from data derived using a combination of data from the ABS Annual Economic Activity Survey and business income tax data provided to the Australian Taxation Office;
  • Information Paper: Developments in New Motor Vehicle Statistics (cat. no. 9313.0), sets out the future role of the ABS in the release of new motor vehicle statistics;
  • Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) Digital Boundaries, Australia on CD-ROM (cat. no. 1259.0.30.002), provides digital boundaries for the Australian Standard Geographical Classification edition for the 2001 Census of Population and Housing;
  • Census of Population and Housing: Basic Community Profile (cat. no. 2001.0), provides a set of standard tables which contain key social, demographic and economic characteristics of people, families and dwellings;
  • Census of Population and Housing: Indigenous Profile (cat. no. 2002.0), presents a set of standard tables which contain key social, demographic and economic characteristics of Indigenous people, families and dwellings;
  • Census of Population and Housing: Census Basics, Australia (cat. no. 2045.0.30.001), is a data-only CD-ROM containing first release basic community profile data and digital boundaries in MapInfo;
  • Voluntary Work, Australia - Confidentialised Unit Record File on CD-ROM (cat. no. 4441.0.30.001), provides confidentialised unit record data on rates of participation in unpaid voluntary work through an organisation or group. It includes data about the types of organisation with which the voluntary work is associated, the types of activities carried out, time spent volunteering, the characteristics of the volunteer, and the reason for volunteering;
  • Australian Business Register - Counts of Australian Business Numbers (ABNs), Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 1369.0.55.001), presenting information provided by the Australian Taxation Office, based on data from the Australian Business Register (ABR). The ABR has been developed as part of the introduction of The New Tax System. Data relates to business entities in Australia at 30 June 2001;
  • Census of Population and Housing: 2001 Census Snapshots (cat. no. 2046.0.55.001), which generally comprises text, tables and maps comparing data from the 2001, 1996, 1991 and some from the 1901 Census years. This is a free web based service aimed at the general community and media;
  • Regional Population Growth, Australia, Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 3218.0.55.001), which contains the estimated resident population for each statistical local area, statistical subdivision and statistical division in Australia at 30 June of the reference year. Estimates for local government and other areas using statistical local areas as a base can be derived from these estimates. Estimates for postal areas and for population census collection districts are available on request;
  • Industry Concentration Statistics, Data Report - Electronic Delivery (cat. no. 8140.0.55.001), which provides tables showing the proportion of sales, persons employed, and industry gross product that are concentrated among the 20 largest enterprise groups operating in each industry.


6: Improve the quality of outputs

Performance Measure 6.1: Achieve or exceed timeliness, statistical reliability, response rate and accuracy objectives

Performance Indicator 6.1.1: Timeliness
Performance Indicator 6.1.2: Statistical reliability
Performance Indicator 6.1.3: Response rates
Performance Indicator 6.1.4: Accuracy


Performance Indicator 6.1.1: Timeliness

The timeliness of ongoing series is measured by the gap between the reference period and the date of publication of results. The ABS continues to adhere to preannounced release dates and make improvements, where possible, to the timeliness achieved. Table 6 presents information on timeliness for ABS monthly and quarterly publications for Main Economic Indicator (MEI) statistics, and other general releases.

All the MEI publications in 2001-02 were released with similar timing to that achieved in 2000-01. The apparent decline in the timeliness of the quarterly MEI publications is almost completely due to a change in the make-up of the publications forming the MEI group.

In 2000-01 there were 18 quarterly MEI publications. However, this decreased to 15 in 2001-02 due to the consolidation of some publications so as to provide a more comprehensive and coherent picture of business economic activity. In particular, four separate price index publications were consolidated into two publications. The publications discontinued had a very short lead time and their exclusion in 2001-02 has led to an apparent increase in the average time between the end of the reference period and the release of data.

Table 6: TIME BETWEEN END OF REFERENCE PERIOD AND RELEASE OF DATA
(average number of elapsed days)

Long term
Short term

Commonwealth
9
-
State
7
22



Performance Indicator 6.1.2: Statistical reliability

One measurable component of reliability is revisions to data. Revisions are generally measured by their size and frequency over time. The ABS aims to minimise revisions as much as possible through effective sample and methodological design. It is also ABS policy to inform users of any significant revisions and where appropriate to revise past time series and advise users accordingly.

Improvements to ABS quarterly business indicators were implemented in 2001-02. A number of surveys, Company Profits; Inventories; Sales and Services; and the private sector component of Employment and Earnings, were integrated into a single survey called the Quarterly Economic Activity Survey. These improvements and the effects on the historical time series were outlined in the Information Paper: Improvements to Australian Bureau of Statistics Quarterly Business Indicators (cat. no. 5677.0) released in July 2001.

The Information Paper: Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System] (cat. no. 1372.0) released in May 2002, provides information about changes to ABS statistical series as a result of The New Tax System. The changes arise from the removal of the wholesale sales tax and the introduction of the goods and services tax, as well as changes to the infrastructure used by the ABS to support compilation of statistical series. Whilst these changes may cause some short-term disruption to statistical series, they will result in a much more effective statistical system.

The table below describes the revisions to quarterly GDP over the past several years. In particular it shows the difference between the first estimate of GDP, and that estimate one year later in terms of the mean revision, and the mean absolute revision, expressed as percentage points. The figures show that revisions to quarterly GDP are relatively small (mean absolute revision) and largely offsetting (mean revision).

TABLE 7: REVISIONS TO GDP, PERCENTAGE CHANGE(a)

Difference between first estimate
and estimate one year later
Mean absolute revision
Mean revision
% points
% points

1993-94
0.4
-0.1
1994-95
0.4
-
1995-96
0.1
-
1996-97
0.4
-
1997-98
0.6
-0.2
1998-99
0.2
0.1
1999-2000
0.1
-
2000-01(b)
0.2
-0.1

(a) Seasonally adjusted chain volume measure.
(b) Figures based on three quarters of GDP data.


Performance Indicator 6.1.3: Response rates

The ABS has consistently had very high response rates, and as past international benchmarking studies have shown these response rates compare favourably with other international statistical organisations.

Since response rates vary little over time, it is more appropriate to report against target response rates rather than changes in the rates from year to year. Table 8 shows that response rates for key economic and social collections generally exceed the target response rates set by the ABS. Response rates for the Business Operations and Industry Performance survey for 2001-02 are not currently finalised. However, past experience has shown this figure rises when the survey is finalised. Target response rates for selected social surveys listed in table 9 were all comfortably exceeded.

Table 8: ABS RESPONSE RATES FOR MAJOR ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Target
2000-01
2001-02
response
actual
actual
rate
response
response
Survey
(%)
rate (%)(a)
rate (%)(a)

Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6203.0)
97
97
97
Wage Cost Index, Australia (cat. no. 6345.0)
98
99
99
Retail Trade, Australia (cat. no. 8501.0)
95
97
96
Business Operations and Industry Performance, Australia (cat. no. 8140.0)
85
85
(b)84
Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia (cat. no. 5625.0)
80
87
87
Business Indicators, Australia (cat. no. 5676.0)
80
(c)
83

(a) Average response rates over the year.
(b) Response rates were not finalised as at the end of June 2002.
(c) The survey commenced full collection from the June quarter 2001.

Table 9: ABS RESPONSE RATES FOR SELECTED SOCIAL SURVEYS

Target
Previous
2001-02
response
survey actual
actual
rate
response
response
Survey
(%)
rate (%)(b)
rate (%)

National Health Survey
85
92
92
National Health Survey - Indigenous component(a)
85
-
91
Education and Training Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6278.0)
85
91
92

(a) National Health Survey - Indigenous component only enumerated households in non-sparse areas.
(b) The National Health Survey was previously conducted in 1995-96, while the Education and Training Survey was previously conducted in 1996-97.
Note the Indigenous component of the National Health Survey was not conducted previously.


Performance Indicator 6.1.4: Accuracy

While all ABS outputs maintain high levels of accuracy in all tables, graphs and text, two types of error are possible in estimate based sample surveys: sampling error and non-sampling error. Sampling error occurs because a sample rather than the entire population is surveyed. One measure of the likely difference resulting from not including all units in the population in the survey is given by the standard error. It is ABS policy that standard errors are included in survey publications, along with descriptions of other types of errors to which outputs may be subject. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data and can occur in any statistical collection. The ABS ensures non-sampling error is minimised by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and efficient data processing and editing procedures.

Included below are indicators of accuracy for key aggregates from a number of major ABS publications. The relative standard error, obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers, is a useful measure in that it provides an immediate indication of the percentage errors likely to have occurred due to sampling, and thus avoids the need to refer also to the size of the estimate. The tables below present a summary view only. More details are available from the publications, or the concepts, sources, and methods publications associated with the collections themselves.

Table 10: RANGE OF RELATIVE STANDARD ERRORS(a) FOR MAJOR ECONOMIC INDICATORS

2000-01
2001-02
relative
relative
standard
standard
SurveyKey aggregate
error (%)
error (%)

Labour Force, Australia, June 2002 (cat. no. 6203.0)Unemployed persons in Australia
1.4
1.5
Retail Trade, Australia, May 2002 (cat. no. 8501.0)Total retail turnover in Australia
1.0
1.0
Business Operations and Industry Performance, Australia, 1999-2000 (cat. no. 8140.0)Total income (all industries).
1.0
1.0
Private New Capital Expenditure and Expected Expenditure, Australia, March 2002 (cat. no. 5625.0)Actual new capital expenditure, Australia.
1.7
1.7
Business Indicators, Australia, March 2002 (cat. no. 5676.0)Company gross operating profit
(b)
1.0

(a) The relative standard error is obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers.
(b) The survey commenced full collection from June quarter 2001.

Table 11: RANGE OF RELATIVE STANDARD ERRORS(a) FOR SELECTED SOCIAL SURVEYS

Previous
2001-02
survey relative
relative
standard error
standard
SurveyKey aggregate
(%)(b)
error (%)

National Health SurveyPersons recently consulting a doctor
0.6
n.a.
National Health Survey - Indigenous componentn.a.
-
n.a.
Education and Training Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6278.0)Number of persons aged 15-64 who have completed a non-school qualification
0.5
0.8

(a) The relative standard error is obtained by expressing the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers.
(b) The National Health Survey was previously conducted in 1995-96, while the Survey of Education and Training was previously conducted in 1996-97. Note the Indigenous component of the National Health Survey was not conducted previously.
n.a. not available - at time of publishing the relative standard errors for the National Health Survey and the Indigenous component were not available.


Performance Measure 6.2: Conduct ongoing research and reviews of quality, and implement their recommendations

Performance Indicator 6.2.1: Outline of ABS statistical reviews Performance Indicator 6.2.2: Innovative practices - improvements to existing collections as a result of research and development

Performance Indicator 6.2.1: Outline of ABS statistical reviews

The ABS reviews its statistical collections regularly to ensure that its statistics are of good quality. Some reviews cover all aspects of a particular collection, from user requirements, through to data collection, processing, analysis and dissemination. Other reviews focus on particular elements of collections, such as the methodology.

In reviews of statistical collections, external users are widely consulted and, in some instances, external users assist the review team. Internal reviews cover both the effectiveness and efficiency of various ABS activities.

A number of reviews of statistical collections and programs commenced, or were completed, in 2001-02, including:
  • the prices program, including the consumer price index;
  • the household surveys program, in particular the program’s finances;
  • the public finance program;
  • the public sector Survey of Employment and Earnings;
  • the agriculture collection; and
  • the ABS strategy for the collection of business statistics - the Business Statistics Innovation Program.

The main outcome of the public finance review was the progressive centralisation of the program over a number of years.

The public sector Survey of Employment and Earnings will continue to be collected but in a reduced form to meet national accounts requirements only.

The Business Statistics Innovation Program is a major development which will be implemented over the next three years and will deliver significant operating efficiencies and improvements to operational processes as a result of technological, methodological and organisational changes to data collection, processing and dissemination.


Performance Indicator 6.2.2: Innovative practices - improvements to existing collections as a result of research and development

Apart from the ongoing reviews of ABS statistical collections, research and development in subject matter areas continues to result in innovative practices for the collection and compilation of data. The results of innovative practices is twofold. Firstly it will lead to more reliable and accurate statistics. And secondly, it may lead to reduced provider load.

A number of statistical collection areas are continuing to investigate ways of using taxation data to supplement or replace existing data. The most significant development in 2001-02 is the use of information arising from the introduction of The New Tax System to benchmark statistical series. Information Paper: Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System] (cat. no. 1372.0) outlines the improvements to ABS economic statistics as a result of using tax data. During 2001-02 a review was undertaken to identify a range of statistical collections which could benefit from the incorporation of tax data.

The ABS introduced Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI) for the General Social Survey which went into the field in 2001–02. It is expected that CAI will lead to improvements in the efficiency and data quality of surveys. Currently development work is underway to facilitate the use of CAI for other social surveys and the monthly population survey in the near future.

Improvements were made to several business surveys by integrating them into a single survey called the Quarterly Economic Activity Survey. The improvements were outlined in Information Paper: Improvements to Australian Bureau of Statistics Quarterly Business Indicators (cat. no. 5677.0).

Research and development in the national accounts has led to improved methods adopted by the ABS in respect of productivity statistics, and the introduction of new national and state income measures in real terms.


7: Achievement of cost effective outputs

Performance Measure 7.1: Conduct efficiency reviews and audits, and implement their recommendations

Efficiency reviews and audits may be initiated by senior management and by the ABS Audit Committee so as to assess whether resources are being used effectively and efficiently to achieve the ABS’s objectives.

Major reviews addressing efficiency issues, were completed during 2001-02 in the following areas:
  • the prices program, including the consumer price index;
  • the public finance program;
  • large business unit and business register;
  • significance editing practices in business surveys;
  • statistical consultancy; and
  • the National Information Referral Service.

These reviews resulted in:
  • improvements to the efficiency of collections and processes due to methodological improvements;
  • improvements to collections through more efficient use of staffing resources;
  • improvements to operations as a result of centralising functions in a single office; and
  • assessments of performance against the original business case for particular functions.

A number of other efficiency reviews are in progress for a range of statistical collections and corporate service functions. These reviews aim to achieve efficiency gains via improvements to collection strategies, methodologies, use of information technology, use of contractors, and/or substituting/complementing existing data with administrative data sources.


Performance Measure 7.2: Test operating efficiencies of statistical activities by benchmarking internally and externally

Benchmarking is a key part of the ABS strategy to assess the value for money of its statistical and non-statistical outputs, to understand and learn from best practice, and to improve performance. The ABS views the process of benchmarking as an ongoing exercise, which enables the organisation to achieve continuous improvement across a variety of its outputs.

Benchmarking currently being undertaken at the ABS includes comparisons between ABS statistical collections; comparisons between the operations of other international statistical agencies and the ABS; and comparisons of corporate service functions between other Australian Government agencies and the ABS. These are outlined below.

Comparisons between ABS statistical collections

Internal benchmarking studies during 2001-02 involved the following collections:
  • Service Industries Surveys;
  • Economic Activity Survey;
  • Mining and Utilities;
  • Survey of Motor Vehicle Use;
  • Business Expectations Survey;
  • Mineral and Petroleum Exploration;
  • Survey of International Investment;
  • Job Vacancies Survey;
  • Wage Cost Index; and
  • Retail Sales Survey.

These studies broadened the base of benchmarked economic collections, and allowed for continued development of the financial framework and performance measures. They also allowed for collection areas to share elements of better practice, including more cost effective ways of undertaking collection activities. Future internal benchmarking of collections in the Economic Statistics Group will be assisted by the requirement for all collections to report basic financial and performance information on an annual basis.

Comparisons between the operations of a number of international statistical agencies and the ABS

International benchmarking studies during 2001-02 involved the following ABS activities:
  • Monthly Retail Survey;
  • Labour Force Survey;
  • Population Health Surveys; and
  • Corporate Governance.

Aside from the population health surveys, these studies are currently nearing completion; as such the outcomes will be reported in next year’s Annual Report.

Comparisons of corporate services functions between other Australian Government departments

The ABS continues to conduct benchmarking studies with other Australian Government departments. In 2001-02 the ABS began benchmarking studies with the Australian Taxation Office which looked into the accounts payable and personnel corporate services functions. These studies are not complete and the outcomes will therefore be reported in next year’s Annual Report.

In addition to the corporate services benchmarking activities being coordinated by the ABS, the ABS has been involved in three benchmarking activities conducted by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). These include:
  • "Managing People for Business Outcomes - Benchmarking Study" (ANAO Audit Report No. 61);
  • "An Analysis of the Chief Financial Officer Function in Commonwealth Organisations: (ANAO Audit Report No. 28); and
  • "Benchmarking the Finance Function - Follow up Report" (ANAO Audit Report No. 62).

The ABS has provided input into these studies in the form of survey participation and by providing comments on drafts. The studies have been finalised and reports have been issued by the ANAO.


Performance Measure 7.3: Market test a number of non-statistical activities to identify possible outsourcing opportunities

The ABS is currently benchmarking several corporate service functions with a view to market testing and outsourcing as appropriate. The organisation has outsourced a number of key functions in recent years including printing and distribution services, a range of training courses related to information technology, leadership and management training, internal audit, and the supply and distribution of stationery supplies. The ABS will continue to investigate additional outsourcing opportunities as they arise.


Performance Measure 7.4: Minimise respondent load

The following table shows the provider load (measured in thousands of hours taken to complete statistical forms) imposed on businesses for 1995-96 and from 1998-99 to 2001-02.

TABLE 12: PROVIDER LOAD IMPOSED ON BUSINESSES BY THE ABS
(HOURS ’000)

1995-96
1998-99
1999-2000
2000-01
2001-02

Small businesses(a)
343
202
202
201
167
Other businesses
336
236
228
235
251
Total all businesses
679
438
430
436
418

(a) Defined as businesses with less than 20 employees.

While the Commonwealth Government’s 1996 Small Business Deregulation Task Force found that the ABS accounts for only about 1% of total business compliance costs, the ABS agreed to a 20% reduction in provider load on small businesses. Instead, since then total provider load on small businesses has decreased by around 44%.

Two of the major initiatives which led to a continued reduction in provider load during 2001-02 were:
  • the replacement of several individual business surveys with a single survey, Quarterly Economic Activity Survey; and
  • the increasing use of administrative data, in particular tax data, to provide more efficient sample sizes, resulting in smaller sample sizes.

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