1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2006-07  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2007   
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Section V - Performance Information

Chapter 9 - Summary


INTRODUCTION

The ABS:

    • is the central statistical authority for the Australian Government
    • provides statistical services for state and territory governments
    • collects, compiles, analyses and disseminates statistics and related information
    • ensures the coordination of the statistical activities of, and provides advice and assistance to, other government agencies, and
    • provides a liaison between Australia and other countries and international organisations on statistical matters.
The ABS is required to report against the outcomes and outputs as specified in the 2006–07 Portfolio Budget Statements, presented to the Parliament in May 2006. As noted in Chapter 2 Overview of the ABS, the ABS has one outcome and one output group: Australian Bureau of Statistics - national statistical service. There are two subgroups in the output group: Economic Statistics and Population and Social Statistics.

The Portfolio Budget Statement for the ABS sets out performance indicators, used to evaluate the outcomes for the ABS. Four of these are against the overall outcome, and three are against the output group, as shown in Table 9.1 below.


Table 9.1: Performance indicators for the ABS
Performance information for Outcome 1Performance information for Output 1.1

1. Integrity in statistical operations

2. Relevance of ABS output

3. Appropriate use of statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies

4. Improving coordination of the collection, compilation and dissemination of statistics produced by other official bodies

1. Improve the quality of outputs

2. Increase the quantity of outputs

3. Achievement of cost-effective outputs


A summary assessment against each of the performance indicators is outlined below. Some topics are explained in more depth in the subsequent chapters. These include:
    • Engagement with users and assistance to producers of statistics
    • Provider/respondent relationships
    • Quality and timeliness
    • Dissemination of statistics
    • Extended analysis of statistics
    • Statistical standards and infrastructure
    • International engagement, and
    • Effectiveness of activities.


SUMMARY OF PERFORMANCE INFORMATION FOR OUTCOME 1

1. INTEGRITY IN STATISTICAL OPERATIONS

1.1 An objective statistical service, as demonstrated by:

    • Release of reliable/accurate statistics
During 2006–07, the ABS reviewed its approach to quality assuring the processing of statistical information, and has commenced implementing a range of measures aimed at reducing the incidence of statistical errors. The ABS releases information on any significant mistakes found in the statistics it produces.

The ABS continues to refine its products to ensure they remain relevant. For example, during 2006–07, the ABS commenced implementing a revised classification of industry, Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification, 2006 (cat. no. 1292.0), which will enable ABS statistics to better reflect the economy in the real world.

For further information see Chapter 12 Quality and timeliness; Chapter 13 Dissemination of statistics; and Chapter 15 Statistical standards and infrastructure.

    • Open statistical process
In 2006–07, the ABS undertook extensive user consultation on a range of statistical developments. For example, users were consulted on the proposed content of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.

Methodological developments were open to scrutiny through information papers and the Methodological Advisory Committee. The committee meets twice every year and consists of professional statisticians external to the ABS, who provide peer review of methodological developments in the ABS.

For further information see Chapter 10 Engagement with users and producers of statistics; Chapter 12 Quality and timeliness; and Chapter 13 Dissemination of statistics.

    • Trust and cooperation of providers
The ABS recognises its obligation to respondents in statistical collections and has produced service charters relating to both business surveys and household surveys. Continuing high- response rates demonstrate a good level of cooperation by providers. The ABS works hard to secure the trust and confidence of data providers and endeavours to reduce the burden placed on data providers by expanding the use of administrative data.

The Census and Statistics Act 1905 requires the ABS to publish and disseminate compilations and analysis of statistical information, and to maintain the confidentiality of information collected under the Act. The ABS meets the confidentiality requirements of the Act by ensuring that information provided is securely maintained; only used for statistical purposes; not inadvertently revealed in any published statistics; and used only in unidentifiable microdata files when supporting research and analysis.

For further information see Chapter 11 Provider/respondent relationships.



2. RELEVANCE OF ABS OUTPUT

2.1 Statistical output which meets the needs of key economic and social data in terms of:

    • Support to decision making
The ABS continued to assist and encourage informed decision making, research and discussion by increasing accessibility to the outputs of statistical activities. In 2006–07, ABS statistics were used to support decision making and research. For example, statistics on the health status of the population were used to support policy development, program delivery, and evaluation of key government and non-government agencies involved in health, community and family services.

Results of collections are usually released through publications, spreadsheets and datacubes. Outputs can be accessed via the ABS website (http://www.abs.gov.au), and hard copy publications are still available for some releases.

For further information see Chapter 13 Dissemination of statistics.

    • Demonstrated by a high level of use
The ABS website remains the primary access point for the majority of users of ABS information, with site users accessing ABS web pages 101 million times in 2006–07. This was an increase of 30.2 per cent from 2005–06, and it is substantially due to the change in the ABS’ pricing policy, which now provides free access to all statistics on the website.

The National Information and Referral Service (NIRS) is the main entry point to the ABS for basic information and statistical inquiries from external customers. The number of telephone calls and emails to NIRS increased in 2006–07. This is partly due to increased inquiries following the 2006 Census enumeration and output activities.

For further information see Chapter 13 Dissemination of statistics.

2.2 Openness of planning process

The ABS mission statement and corporate plan provide the context and high-level framework for making decisions on the ABS’ forward work program. While much of the ABS work program remains constant from year to year, the planning process requires the ABS to examine the environment in which it is working and identify future statistical needs.

The ABS undertakes user consultation regularly to gather the views of users about aspects of the ABS’ work. In 2006–07 the ABS undertook a major consultation exercise in relation to the future household survey program. This involved senior level discussions held with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the Department of Health and Ageing, Treasury and other Australian Government and state and territory government agencies. These meetings assisted the ABS to better understand the agencies’ highest priority areas for unmet need, and the meetings have helped the ABS to prepare the program of surveys for the future.

For further information see Chapter 10 Engagement with users and producers of statistics; Chapter 18 ABS corporate governance; and Appendix 2 User groups advising the ABS.



3. INTEGRITY IN STATISTICAL OPERATIONS

3.1 Lead the development of national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies, and their implementation within the broader Australian statistical system

The ABS develops national statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies, which are applied, as appropriate, to all ABS statistical collections, including business and household surveys. The ABS takes a leading role by encouraging other Australian Government and state and territory government agencies to adopt these standards, frameworks and methodologies in their statistical activities.

The ABS also works closely with other agencies involved in the development of standards and frameworks. The ABS is leading the development of the National Data Network, which provides infrastructure, protocols, standards and services to support the sharing and integrating of data across Australia. In 2006–07, the ABS made a significant contribution to the work of the Australian Accounting Standards Board in harmonising GAAP/GFS (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles/Government Finance Statistics) reporting.

For further information see Chapter 15 Statistical standards and infrastructure.

3.2 Contribute to the development of key international standards, frameworks and methodologies, and implement them as appropriate.

The ABS supports sound methodological approaches to the development of standards, aids international comparability where meaningful, and helps ensure that such standards and statistical developments reflect Australian user interests. User interest in these types of studies continues to develop.

For environmental statistics, the ABS is engaged in international collaboration on the implementation of a framework to support environment and energy statistics known as the System of Environmental-Economic Accounts (SEEA). The SEEA is aligned with the System of National Accounts (SNA) and will meet the needs of users for a coherent and consistent data system that allows for integrated environmental-economic analyses (for example, links of resource use and emissions to economic growth and distribution of income and wealth).

For further information see Chapter 16 International engagement.



4. IMPROVING THE COLLECTION, COMPILATION AND DISSEMINATION OF STATISTICS PRODUCED BY OTHER OFFICIAL BODIES

4.1 Statistical Clearing House activity

The Statistical Clearing House (SCH) pays particular attention to eliminating duplication in business surveys, and ensures that surveys conducted follow good statistical methodologies and practices.

In 2006–07, the SCH completed 107 reviews, with all being given approval to proceed. The SCH has continued to make considerable improvements in surveys, with improvements made in 28 per cent of reviews and provider load being decreased in 15 per cent of surveys.

For further information see Chapter 10 Engagement with users and producers of statistics.

4.2 Assisting other official bodies with integration of administrative and statistical data, including outposting ABS officers, and providing training on statistical standards, frameworks and methodologies

The ABS provides assistance through outposted officers, training courses, the development of the National Data Network (NDN), and by supporting projects on statistical developments. In 2006–07, ABS officers were outposted to six Australian Government departments, and fourteen state and territory government departments.

The National Statistical Training Institute (NSTI) in the ABS, along with the state and territory Statistical Services units in each regional office, coordinated the development and presentation of a wide range of training courses on statistical issues in 2006–07. In 2006–07 the NSTI conducted a number of training courses for users of ABS statistics, with 705 participants from other agencies.

The ABS supports projects on statistical developments. For example, in 2006–07, the ABS worked closely with the National Water Commission and other government and non-government agencies as part of the Australian Water Resources 2005 project. The purpose of this project was to prepare a baseline assessment of Australia’s water resources.

The ABS is an active member of steering committees and working groups for a range of major statistical projects. For example, in 2006–07, the ABS joined a subgroup of the Council of Australian Governments’ Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Group, which is developing the legislative framework and governance arrangements for streamlining greenhouse and energy reporting.

For further information see Chapter 10 Engagement with users and producers of statistics.

4.3 Identifying, storing and disseminating statistics from other official bodies

The ABS works closely with a range of partners to extend the use of statistics by exploring their needs for information, by examining potential data sources (from ABS and elsewhere) that may assist in meeting these needs, and by advising on issues around the collection of statistics. For example, in 2006–07, the ABS worked closely with the National Water Commission and other government and non-government agencies as part of the Australian Water Resources 2005 project. The purpose of this project was to prepare a baseline assessment of Australia’s water resources. The ABS provided water use data for inclusion in several Australian Water Resources 2005 outputs. This entailed releasing existing ABS products earlier than previously planned, undertaking new collections, and adding value to existing data.

During 2006–07, the ABS has continued to develop information development plans, including: the development by the ABS of an information development plan on innovation; the release on 8 December 2006 of Information Paper: Improving Statistics on Children and Youth— An Information Development Plan (cat. no. 4907.0); and the publication on 31 October 2006 of Information Paper: Emergency Management Information Development Plan (cat. no. 1385.0).

For further information see Chapter 10 Engagement with users and producers of statistics.


SUMMARY OF PERFORMANCE INFORMATION FOR OUTCOME 1, OUTCOME GROUP 1.1

1. IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUTPUTS

1.1 Achieve or exceed timeliness, statistical reliability, response rates and accuracy objectives:

    • Timeliness
The timeliness of statistical information can be measured by the gap between the reference period (the period to which the data relate) and the date of release of results. The ABS continues to adhere to pre-announced release dates and make improvements, where possible, to the timeliness achieved.

The high standard of timely release of statistical tables was maintained in 2006–07. The greatest change since last year has been the improvement in timeliness for general tabular statistics.

For further information see Chapter 12 Quality and timeliness.

    • Statistical reliability
The ABS aims to produce high-quality statistics that can be used with confidence. In 2006–07, the ABS continued to take steps to maintain and improve the reliability of statistics. The ABS regularly reviews the methodologies used to produce statistics, providing the opportunity to make improvements and incorporate new approaches, where appropriate. For example, the methodology used for the Census Post-Enumeration Survey was reviewed to ensure that the population estimates produced following the 2006 Census of Population and Housing are as accurate as possible.

For further information see Chapter 12 Quality and timeliness.

    • Response rates
In 2006–07, the ABS maintained high-response rates. For example, the Economic Activity Survey has a target response rate of 86 per cent. In 2006–07 the response rate for the survey was 93 per cent. Maintaining high-response rates is a major focus for the household survey program, particularly given the increasing number of interviews that are conducted during the limited evening hours (up to 8 pm).

For further information see Chapter 11 Provider/respondent relationships.

    • Accuracy
The accuracy of statistical information is the degree to which the information correctly describes the phenomena it was designed to measure. Descriptions of accuracy, as well as extensive information on the statistical methods used in collections, are routinely provided in concepts, sources and methods publications, the explanatory notes in publications, and through the Statistical Clearing House.

In 2006–07, the ABS continued to work towards ensuring that statistics released were accurate. For example, a new methodology for compiling the established house price index was implemented, with details released in Information Paper: House Price Indexes: Eight Capital Cities, March 2007 (cat. no. 6146.0).

For further information see Chapter 12 Quality and timeliness.



2. INCREASE THE QUANTITY OF OUTPUTS

2.1 Increase the range of statistics disseminated

The ABS released an extensive range of statistics in 2006–07. The number of publications released in 2006–07 was 711, which is a decrease from 781 (8.9 per cent) in 2005–06. However, the decrease in publication numbers is due to the increase in the amount of data that is released as datacubes and spreadsheets. The number of datacubes and spreadsheets increased from 5373 in 2005–06 to 7546 (40 per cent) in 2006–07.

During 2006–07, the ABS released twelve new Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs), including eight Expanded CURFs. For the first time in 2006–07, a further eight historical CURFs were released on the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL)™.

In addition, over 4000 historical publications were released to the website.

For further information see Chapter 13 Dissemination of statistics.

2.2 Innovative outputs

In 2006–07, the ABS continued to make outputs more accessible. The ABS has established an electronic publication and metadata vision (evision), with an aim of increasing the use of statistics and improving understanding of the content. For the first results of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, the ABS offered a new and improved online product range, including QuickStats, MapStats and Census Tables.

In addition, CURFs are available for thirty-four ABS surveys and, as of 1 July 2006, they are a standard ABS statistical product. The price of CURFs was reduced on 1 July 2006, from $8000 to $1320 per CURF. The price reduction was welcomed by the research community and has led to a greater number of users accessing CURF microdata during 2006–07.

The ABS regularly reviews the methodology used to produce statistics, to enhance the usefulness of data to encourage and inform decision making amongst governments and the community. Analytical work undertaken by the ABS provides opportunities to incorporate improvements and new approaches, where appropriate. In 2006–07, the ABS undertook a range of analytical work. For example, research was undertaken, and a new method for deriving more accurate measures of grade progression or retention in secondary schools was proposed, to ensure continued relevance for policy analysis.

For further information see Chapter 13 Dissemination of statistics; and Chapter 14 Extended analysis of statistics.



3. ACHIEVEMENT OF COST-EFFECTIVE OUTPUTS

3.1 Conduct efficiency reviews and audits, and implement their recommendations

The ABS endeavours to find ways to improve its efficiency and effectiveness. A number of processes, systems and controls have been implemented, for both statistical and non-statistical activities, to assist the ABS to meet these goals of greater efficiency and effectiveness. These include the strategic audit and review program, operational and statistical reviews, as well as special initiatives such as the operations research initiative.

In 2006–07, the Operations Research Unit was established to identify improvements in efficiency and effectiveness of ABS survey processes by applying scientific methods to the analysis of Para data (data about ABS operations) collected daily as part of the ABS survey processes. A number of strategies for improving cost-effectiveness of ABS data collections and/or reducing burden on data providers have been identified.

For further information see Chapter 17 Effectiveness of activities.

3.2 Test operating efficiencies of statistical activities by benchmarking internally and externally

Many of the reviews and audits conducted seek to ensure that the ABS achieves cost-effective outputs, either as a primary or secondary objective. A key approach in achieving this is benchmarking ABS activities against similar activities elsewhere in the ABS, in other agencies in Australia, or overseas agencies. This provides the opportunity for the ABS to understand and learn from best practice, and to improve its performance.

In 2006–07, an internal review was commissioned by the ABS to investigate any measurement errors in the national accounts estimates of gross domestic product (GDP). The review was completed in November 2006 and concluded that there were no significant or systematic sources of measurement error in the national accounts estimates of GDP. However, the review made fourteen recommendations in relation to aspects of the national accounts, all of which were accepted by the ABS.

For further information see Chapter 17 Effectiveness of activities.

3.3 Market test a number of non-statistical activities to identify possible outsourcing opportunities

During 2006–07, twelve new consultants were engaged to carry out projects, or provide professional and technical advice that could not be provided by staff of the ABS. The total expenditure of the twelve new consultancies during 2006–07 was $481 670. Eleven consultancies had been let in previous years, and these continued into 2006–07, with a total expenditure of $312 948 for 2006–07.

In 2006–07, the ABS looked for efficiency gains by conducting a joint tender process with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, to secure a new panel of training providers. The panel is now in place and has enabled the ABS to secure the services of a range of companies to deliver on its diverse requirements, including leadership, management and supervision, project management, writing skills, and to facilitate forward work planning days.

For further information see Chapter 17 Effectiveness of activities; and Appendix 3 Consultancy services.

3.4 Minimise respondent load

The burden placed on data providers is closely monitored and minimised as much as possible, through ensuring data is of a high priority, and via good sample and questionnaire design. The ABS continues its endeavours to reduce the burden placed on data providers by expanding the use of administrative data.

For example, in 2006–07, significant changes were introduced to the methodology of the Agricultural Census, associated with the scoping of units, sample and frame management procedures and estimation. These changes have improved the accuracy of the statistics and reduced the resources required to maintain the population frame.

Further development of Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing instruments was also completed in 2006–07, and will allow ABS staff to record and retrieve interactions with data providers more effectively.

The 2006 Census saw the introduction of the eCensus, an online facility, which respondents could use to return their census information. To minimise provider load, the eCensus only displayed questions relevant to an individual, whilst indicating the questions that were being missed.

For further information see Chapter 11 Provider/respondent relationships; and Chapter 17 Effectiveness of activities.


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