African countries, including Swaziland, have addressed the problem of under-achieving and under-funded statistical systems through National Strategies for the Development of Statistics (NSDS). These strategies aim to improve the evidence base to “manage for results” by providing a strategic framework for developing relevant statistics and the associated infrastructure. Such strategies are supported financially and logistically by various development partners, including, the World Bank, which has financed the Swaziland project.
The key statistical needs in Swaziland are expressed in the National Development Plan and in the Poverty Reduction Action Plan, which encompass Swaziland’s international commitments for example in monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). However there are many other key policy needs for statistics in terms of specific ministerial policies.
Statistics are a “public good” and in a democratic society need to be available and meet the key needs of all stakeholders in society, including the private sector and civil society. The NSDS has been developed to meet all these stakeholder requirements.
The NSDS project commenced in November 2009 and a team of statisticians led by the Director of the CSO was set up at the CSO. Two international consultants and a local administrator were hired on a part time basis. Several consultation missions were conducted by the consultancy team, and several workshops and seminars were held to obtain feedback on the proposals. The project covered the whole of the National Statistical system (NSS) and not just the CSO.
The assessment of the statistical system took several forms. Initially the IMF quality format known as DQAF was used. Interviews with stakeholders formed the core of the assessment, together with interviews of senior and middle level staff in the NSS. Collective open meetings were also held with junior (non-professional) staff and with professional statistical staff.
The most important issue to emerge from discussions with users was the failure over recent years to publish data on time or even to publish at all. With the exception of the CPI, CSO have failed in recent years to publish and there has been no annual yearbook for instance since 2000. The lack of regular statistical publications on hard or soft copy is also apparent in most of the MDAs, with the exception of the Central Bank and the Tourism Authority.
Other key issues for users of statistical information were:
• Lack of metadata (methodology, definitions etc).
• Lack of an up-to-date website.
• Data gaps, for example lack of annual data on employment and population.
• Duplication in data collected from business and lack of knowledge of why.
• Need to improve the image, status and independence of the CSO.
• Regular meetings needed between users and producers of statistics.
The consultants own assessment coincides with these points, but in addition the inadequate number of professional statistical posts was noted as a major barrier to an improved statistical system.
The assessment by the international consultants was supplemented by a SWOT assessment conducted by NSS staff themselves. The strengths of the NSS were identified as
• NSS has a recognised legal mandate on Statistics.
• CSO works with sectoral Ministries to produce national statistics.
• Unmatched competencies and organisational structure for statistical collection and production.
• Team of competent young professionals who are change eager; and senior staff who are well trained and qualified.
• Some regular statistics continue to be produced on time.
Weaknesses identified by the staff were those already mentioned above and also
• Outdated Statistics Act
• Limited coordination with sectoral Ministries.
• Lack of IT strategy plus inadequate IT and other equipment.
• Lack of a Human Resource Development Strategy and poor human resource allocation.
• Low staff motivation and inadequate management skills and internal communication.
• Lack of a Strategic Plan or even an annual work programme.
Vision and Strategic Objectives for the NSS
Arising from the above analysis the following vision (where we want to be), and mission (what we will do) were agreed.
To become, and be recognised as, one of the leading statistical systems, by providing high quality statistical data and information for the national development processes, and based on international standards.
To provide, and publish, high quality and timely statistical data and information required for evidence-based policy, planning and decision-making for national socio-economic development, administration, accountability, and to promote a culture of using statistics among all stakeholders.
A set of strategic objectives to be achieved in the five (5) year time frame were also agreed:
1: Making statistics relevant.
2: Improving dissemination.
3: Improving quality.
4: Advocacy and raising the profile of statistics.
5: Developing capacity in the NSS.
6: Improving coordination and common standards.
7: Improving the institutional infrastructure.