The operating environment for national statistical agencies is becoming more complex. Users demand more statistics on more complex concepts at greater levels of detail. Governments collect and store vast quantities of data that could provide much richer information if integrated with other sources. A rapidly changing world means tension between long-term comparable statistics, and the ability of statistics to reflect the world of today.
Meanwhile collecting data becomes more challenging, as our respondents have ever-busier lives and general concerns about security and privacy increase. Technological and communication advances change the expectations that users and respondents have of us to provide more efficient methods of collection and dissemination. Financial constraints mean we must drive production costs down while minimising the cost to respondents and continuing to respond to demands for fit-for-purpose statistics. These factors affect not only us, but other agencies involved in the Official Statistics System.
In Statistics New Zealand, we have processes in place to identify and assess risk at a corporate and project level. Project managers identify, manage and escalate risk as necessary. The corporate risk register contains all significant corporate risks identified by senior management through the strategic planning process, or other means. It is updated three times a year to reflect any changes in risks, their rankings and mitigation actions, and reviewed by the Internal Audit and Risk Management Committee. The internal auditor undertakes a risk-driven work programme, and makes recommendations to address any identified areas of risk or control weaknesses. Specific risks such as maintaining security of information held in our custody are addressed on an ongoing basis by dedicated teams. Other risk factors will be addressed by the managers and business units responsible for specific objectives.
For each objective in the section Operating intentions, specific risk factors were identified.
The risk factors to achieving trust and confidence were identified as:
- Ineffective coordination and processes being inadequately addressed, leading to gaps in official statistics.
- Response rates are not adequate to produce quality official statistics, and there is loss of public trust in the integrity of the Official Statistics System.
- Quality of statistics is insufficient and we do not understand the needs of users and users do not understand the decisions we make.
Risk factors to achieving access to official statistics were identified as:
- Official statistics are not accessed or used because statistical dissemination and access systems are inadequate, or there are barriers to access, such as high user charges, or some users lacking the capacity to use official statistics to best effect.
- Information collected to produce official statistics might be lost or become inaccessible over the long term through inadequate data management and data not being archived.
Many of the risk factors were common across several objectives, and require consolidation and a departmental response. Therefore, we have identified four organisational strategic risks.
The four strategic risks are:
- We are limited in our ability to lead a coherent Official Statistics System and deliver fit-for-purpose statistics by our current level of organisation capability, which includes people, systems and processes.
- We are not efficient and effective in our production and dissemination of official statistics.
- We lose public trust and confidence in official statistics produced by the department.
- We lose public trust and confidence in the Official Statistics System and its integrity and cohesiveness.
These risks are complex and interrelated, and the steps taken to address them require multiple responses. For example, a wide range of approaches have been developed to address the capability risk, and, in turn, by developing our capability, the magnitude of the other strategic risks should reduce.
Some major investments in recent years are directly tackling these risks over the medium to
- A transformation programme in regard to departmental management and staff has been tackling capability and delivery risks.
- An Official Statistics System programme is setting up and using a new infrastructure for the wider Official Statistics System to improve the quality of all official statistics and access to them, especially Tier 1 statistics.
- Standardisation of systems and processes will improve efficiency and cost effectiveness.
- Initiatives such as Go Stats! and Making More Information Freely Available are improving public understanding of the value of official statistics and are delivering more statistical outputs at no additional cost to the user.
Collectively, these investments enable us to work towards maintaining and enhancing public trust and confidence in official statistics. Also, the independence of the Government Statistician remains the cornerstone that enables the public to have trust and confidence in all official statistics published under the Statistics Act 1975.
More specific risk mitigation activities include.
- Board level management and governance structures have been reviewed and adjusted in 2007 with the change of Government Statistician, and will be confirmed during calendar year 2008.
- In 2008, we will continue our cycle of external reviews of the adequacy of our security arrangements.
- Benchmarking studies and performance monitoring have been used as a basis for improving efficiency and cost effectiveness.
- In 2008, we will further our long-term initiative to standardise statistical systems and processes.
- International relationships are drawn upon to help the development and improvement of official statistics.
- The infrastructure for the Official Statistics System has been put in place and is now being used to improve efficiency and access to official statistics, and the future strategy for the Official Statistics System is being updated.
- The Making More Information Freely Available initiative is delivering more statistical outputs at no additional cost to the user.
- A data laboratory provides access to confidentialised microdata for qualified researchers under controlled conditions.
- A respondent load strategy has been developed and will be implemented.