Mthembu to address Stats SA funding concerns in meeting on Sunday

DURBAN – Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu would be meeting with national statistics organisation StatsSA on Sunday regarding funding concerns at the organisation, he said on Wednesday. 

The council for the nation’s data collector and disseminator said on Tuesday that if a long pleaded for cash injection into the entity was not forthcoming, council would withdraw its endorsement of official statistics and resign. 

The council is independent of Stats SA and advises the statistician-general and minister on matters of official statistics.

"The lack of funding for Stats SA is a matter the minister is fully aware of," said Mthembu via an emailed statement. 

He said the ministry and statistician-general had been in negotiations with the minister of finance regarding the funding, and the meetings had "borne fruit". 

"National Treasury has provided partial additional funding to Stats SA. The statistician-general is currently looking at reprioritisations as a result of the allocation that will come into effect on April 1, 2020," said Mthembu. 

"The minister appreciates council’s intention of keeping the integrity of the statistical system intact and is committed to working with Stats SA to protect the respected quality of our official statistics," he added. 

Mthembu said he would meet with the council and statistician-general on Sunday "to further engage on ways to guarantee the integrity of the entire system of the nation’s statistics, for the short and the long term, within the constraints the national fiscus is faced with".

In its statement on Tuesday, Stats SA council chairperson David Everatt said Stats SA was at a "tipping point", and that if the country wanted to retain the "robust and innovative" organisation, government would have to act swiftly. 

"If Stats SA is not able to fill posts with skilled people, keep sample sizes up, and innovate, the council will be forced to withdraw support for official statistics. This is the very worst option for everyone in South Africa – but council either endorses the release of data everyone can trust, or council stops because we cannot endorse data we mistrust."

African News Agency

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