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Stats SA Council to meet with minister, 'partial' additional funding in the works

Feb 19 2020 19:01
Marelise van der Merwe

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu is set to meet with the South African Statistics Council over funding concerns for Stats SA, following a threat to resign by the advisory body.

Mthembu and Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke have also been negotiating with Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, and National Treasury has provided "partial additional funding" to the national statistical agency which will become available in April, according to a statement issued by Mthembu's spokesperson, Nonceba Mhlauli, on Wednesday. 

"The Statistician-General is currently looking at reprioritisations as a result of the allocation that will come into effect on 1 April 2020," it said.

The South African Statistics Council – which endorses data released by Statistics South Africa and advises the statistician-general – had threatened to step down if Stats SA did not receive more funding and fill frozen posts

The council is appointed by the minister in the presidency. It is independent of Stats SA.

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

Mthembu, the council and Maluleke will meet on February 23 to discuss ways to maintain the country's statistical system in the short and long term "within the constraints the national fiscus is faced with," the statement said.

In an initial statement issued by the council, its chairperson, Professor David Everatt, said that in 2015 Stats SA had R160 million stripped from its budget.  

He said the agency's vacancy rate had reached 20%, some staff were working six- or seven-day weeks, and the situation had "reached crisis point".

Noting that Stats SA received clean audits, Everatt said the organisation was "respected, reliable and important", but "in effect punished by government, while those deeply implicated in state capture receive bail-outs of massive proportions".

"The South African Statistics Council unanimously call on government to heed our call and inject funds into Stats SA. If not, Council will withdraw our support for official statistics, and resign," the statement added.

* Additional reporting by Jan Cronje

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