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New bill seeks to modernize and replace Dept. of Statistics

The government is seeking to revamp the collection and analysis of statistical data and establish a National Statistical Institute as an autonomous body corporate to replace the existing Department of Statistics.

The draft Statistics Bill, 2020 went out for public consultation yesterday for a period ending September 30. It would replace the Statistics Act, 1973 which does not provide for a lead agency or a well-defined strategy to coordinate information production; and allows for the production of statistics in a fragmented manner with no coordination mechanism, no common strategy and program and no institutional leadership that does not consider important requirements, such as independence, transparency and accountability of the statistical system, according to the Ministry of Finance.

“The [National Statistical] Institute will also establish a national statistical system and would facilitate the establishment of standards for collecting, compiling, analyzing and publishing official statistics,” the Ministry of Finance stated.

“Lastly, the bill will foster the development of a national statistical strategy by the national statistical committee, which is to be comprised of heads of other agencies in the national statistical ecosystem, as well as representatives from the private sector.”

The reform of the legislation coincides with the government’s performance reform project, which includes the passing of the Public Financial Management Bill, 2020 which seeks in part to bolster the ability of the government to collect data and produce quality statistics, as well as guide the modernization of the Department of Statistics.

Other key aspects of the Statistics Bill, 2020 include the establishment of a government-appointed board which will appoint the managing director of the National Statistical Institute, in consultation with the Minister of Finance.

It also calls for the introduction of mandatory annual reporting by the institute to Parliament as an accountability measure and the appointment, by the board, of an advisory body, the National Statistical Committee (NSC), to be comprised of heads of other agencies in the national statistical ecosystem, as well as representatives of the private sector. The intent is to ensure a participatory, consultative, all-inclusive and transparent approach to the development and dissemination of national statistics.

Additionally, the bill allows for the development of the national statistical strategy by the NSC, which is to be published on the official website of the institute and reviewed every three years; the inclusion of criminal offense provisions that seek to reinforce compliance with the bill; and the power of the managing director to compound offenses and fine persons for failure to comply with the institute’s request for information.

As for staff currently engaged with the Department of Statistics, the Ministry of Finance stated that public officers already employed or contract officers with at least three years of continuous service would be given employment options – to either retire from the public service, seek a transfer to the institute or remain in the public service under specific conditions.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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