The government has organised an urgent meeting between Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, statistician-general Risenga Maluleke and the Statistics Council to avert en-masse resignations. Photo: Supplied
The government has organised an urgent meeting between Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, statistician-general Risenga Maluleke and the Statistics Council to avert en-masse resignations. Photo: Supplied

Government and Statistics Council to meet over funding crisis

By Banele Ginindza Time of article published Feb 20, 2020

Share this article:

JOHANNESBURG – The government has organised an urgent meeting between Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, statistician-general Risenga Maluleke and the Statistics Council to avert en-masse resignations over funding and long-standing austerity measures that threaten to bring the state’s number-crunchers to a grinding halt.

Mthembu’s spokesperson, Nonceba Mhlauli, yesterday told Business Report the meeting would be held on Sunday.

Mhlauli said Mthembu had been involved in negotiations with the whole of Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) to discuss the issues.

“The minister and the statistician-general (Maluleke) have been in negotiations with the Minister of Finance in this regard,” Mhlauli said.

“These negotiations bore fruit in the sense that the 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.”

The meeting comes after the council’s chairperson, Professor David Everatt, issued an ultimatum for funding, or the state would face en-masse resignations after crucial programmes have had to be shelved due to funding constraints.

Everatt said the organisation was losing critical technical, analytic and other skills just as it was transitioning to a computerised environment and preparing for Census 2021.

He said Stats SA was unable to perform its duties, such as analysis, reporting and additional data gathering exercises, as the budget remained static.

Everatt said Stats SA staff were over-burdened and saw little prospect for movement or promotion in a frozen-post environment.

“Some key indicators are not being covered, because surveys - such as the key poverty survey - have had to be cancelled, as the budget simply does not permit them to take place,” he said.

“We really do hope that the government hears very strongly the plea for additional funding, even amongst a plethora of such pleas: Stats SA has a critical role to play in providing accurate data across every realm of society, and simply cannot be allowed to further cut corners because of the budget.”

Mhlauli would not divulge details of the meetings save that Mthembu respected the council’s role in preserving the integrity of the statistical system.

She said he was committed to working with Stats SA to protect the quality of the country’s official statistics.

“The minister, council and the statistician-general will meet on Sunday, February 23, 2020, 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,” she said.

Mhlauli said the SA Stats Council was a statutory body that was independent of Stats SA and advised the statistician-general and the minister on official statistics.

“The Minister in the Presidency, Mr Jackson Mthembu, notes the media statement issued by the South African Statistics Council regarding the funding challenges at Statistics South Africa,” Mhlauli said.

BUSINESS REPORT

Share this article:

Related Articles