5498.0.55.001 - Information Paper: International Trade - Ensuring Data Quality, 2008
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International trade statistics are compiled from information supplied to the Australian Customs Service by exporters and importers or their agents. There are approximately 3 million export transactions and 13 million import transactions recorded each year, many of which are of small value. Due to the sheer volume of transactions involved, and the limited resources available to undertake checks, the bulk of transactions included in international trade statistics are 'as reported to Customs'.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) quality assurance resources are predominantly focussed on editing large value records. These edits are designed to ensure the quality and integrity of international trade data to at least the six digit level of the Harmonized System (HS).
The ABS recognises the importance of international trade statistics to a wide variety of statistical users. Except where data are protected by confidentiality restrictions, aggregate data are made available at a very detailed level. For example, the value of trade for each HS commodity code (eight digit for exports and ten digit for imports) is available by Australian port, by country, by overseas port. However, the ABS is unable to guarantee that the quality of this fine level data is sufficient for all purposes for which it is used.
While the ABS receives many queries on detailed data from clients, it is neither practicable nor cost effective for the ABS to investigate all queries. This booklet sets out the approach adopted by the ABS to handle client data queries on international trade data. A form is included to enable clients to request investigations into particular data. Clients should familiarise themselves with the conditions under which these investigations are undertaken and the general quality checks performed on the data prior to its publication.
DATA QUALITY CHECKS
The ABS uses a multi-stage computerised editing system to ensure the quality of international trade data for release. A set of system checks identify records with possible errors for further scrutiny and correction where appropriate.
The types of data quality checks that are applied include:
In addition, the international trade computing system stores unit value (value divided by quantity) ranges for every commodity for which a quantity is required to be reported. The unit value ranges are calculated from previous transactions. Transactions with values above a threshold and with unit values outside of expected unit value ranges are checked. Unit value edits are designed to identify errors in the reported value, quantity or classification of large value records.
Once all transactions are edited, aggregate tables are produced and the output compared with previous results. Aggregate data are investigated to explain and if necessary, correct any unusual movements. For example, duplicate records may be detected and deleted or significant commodity movements may be explained by aggregate price or volume changes.
The ABS may also examine the quality of data reported for particular commodities or chapters of the HS classification (i.e. two-digit level). After contact with the relevant exporters or importers, a variety of solutions, including tailored edit checks, may be implemented. These investigations are time consuming and resource intensive and will only be undertaken for significant commodities or chapters, where there are known to be frequent and significant reporting problems.
CLIENT DATA QUERIES
After the release of monthly trade statistics, the ABS may receive a number of client requests to investigate cases of possible misreporting. Most requests relate to potential errors at the most detailed level of the commodity classification. The most frequently amended fields resulting from investigations are quantity, followed by commodity classification and country details.
Client requests for data investigations are only considered if the value of the data queried exceeds $250,000 in each month queried and the cost of the investigation is met by the client.
Clients seeking an investigation should be aware that the following factors will limit the ability of the ABS to confirm/amend trade data:
CHARGES FOR INVESTIGATIONS
Requests for investigations which satisfy the $250,000 per month threshold are costed and investigated in two stages. Charges are payable prior to the commencement of each stage. Clients should understand that the payment of fees at each stage does not guarantee that amendments will be made to the data.
Stage 1 - Initial Investigation
A fee, available on request, will be charged for the initial investigation. The fee covers the computing costs incurred in interrogating the transactions file, and the staff costs incurred in assessing the query in terms of the following criteria:
Data queries which do not satisfy these criteria, or which are likely to place an unacceptable burden upon data providers, will not be further investigated. Within ten days of receipt of payment for Stage 1 of the investigation, the client will be provided with either:
The charges will vary depending on the number of commodity items involved and the complexity of the investigation.
Stage 2 - Detailed Investigation
Stage 2 involves a detailed investigation of the transactions covered by the data query. This will include direct contact with the exporters and importers or their agents to verify the information reported to the Australian Customs Service. Once the investigations are complete, the client will receive written advice of the outcome.
HOW TO REQUEST A DATA INVESTIGATION
Requests for investigations should be made by completing and submitting the form contained in the PDF. The completed form should be sent to:
Balance of Payments and International Trade Section
Australian Bureau of Statistics
GPO Box 66
Hobart TAS 7001
If you wish to discuss these matters, please contact NIRS on 1300 135 070. The form may be emailed to the Trade Classification Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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