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The strategies implemented to improve quality of European statistics represent one of the keystones included in the program launched in the last few years by the European Commission.

Community institutions have constantly committed themselves in strengthening the governance of the European Statistical System with the aim of increasing credibility in European statistics.

Indeed, The ECOFIN Council of 2 June 2004 invited the European Commission to put forward a proposal to “develop minimum European standards for the institutional set-up of statistical authorities”. On one side, these standards aim at improving public trust in statistical authorities by means of institutional and organizational solutions; on the other side, their goal is to reinforce trust and quality of the statistics produced and disseminated by statistical authorities by ensuring a coherent implementation of best international statistics principles, methods and practices on behalf of European official producers.

Within this framework, in May 2005 the Commission in its Recommendation to the European Parliament and the Council endorsed the European Statistics Code of Practice (COM(2005) 217 of 25 May 2005), which constitutes a tangible solution to address the problem of independency, integrity and accountability of statistical authorities in charge of producing and disseminating European statistics.

The Code of Practice has the dual purpose of: improving trust and confidence in official statistics by setting up minimum quality standards and identifying checking procedures for monitoring statistical processes; serving as a self-regulatory instrument to enhance the quality of the statistics produced and disseminated through the adoption of best principles by all producers. The Code is based on 15 principles which largely transpose the existing international rules, including the fundamental principles of official statistics adopted by the United Nations (Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics).

At European level some important results have already been achieved thanks to the strategies and measures taken to comply with the Code principles. In order to provide an independent supervision of the European Statistical System as regards the implementation of the Code the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board (ESGAB) has been established (Decision No 235/2008/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2008). Among its tasks, the ESGAB will submit an annual report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the Code of Practice insofar as it relates to the Commission (Eurostat), including an assessment of the Code’s compliance within the European Statistical System as a whole.

At the beginning the Code was addressed to National Statistical Authorities and Eurostat, but over time it has been extended to all the statistical authorities in charge of developing, producing and disseminating European statistics in the EU countries. The Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council “Towards robust quality management for European Statistics” (COM 211) proposes to further reinforce the Code’s implementation by reviewing it and agreeing with the EU members on a new policy for its application by national statistical authorities and governance authorities.

Italy already adopted in 2010 the Italian Code of Official Statistics that is based on the principle of the European Code and is statutory for the National Statistical System.

The principles of the European Code cover three core areas: institutional environment, statistical processes and statistical output, as summed up below.

Areas
Principles
Institutional Environment
Institutional and organisational factors have a significant influence on the effectiveness and creditability of a statistical authority developing, producing and disseminating European Statistics.
The relevant issues are professional independence, mandate for data collection, adequacy of resources, quality commitment, statistical confidentiality, impartiality, and objectivity.

Principle 1: Professional Independence
Professional independence of statistical authorities from other policy, regulatory or administrative departments and bodies, as well as from private sector operators, ensures the credibility of European Statistics.

Principle 2: Mandate for Data Collection
Statistical authorities must have a clear legal mandate to collect information for European statistical purposes. Administrations, enterprises and households, and the public at large may be compelled by law to allow access to or deliver data for European statistical purposes at the request of statistical authorities.

Principle 3: Adequacy of Resources
The resources available to statistical authorities are sufficient to meet European Statistics requirements.

Principle 4: Quality Commitment
Statistical authorities are committed to quality. They systematically and regularly identify strengths and weaknesses to continuously improve process and product quality.

Principle 5: Statistical Confidentiality
The privacy of data providers (households, enterprises, administrations and other respondents), the confidentiality of the information they provide and its use only for statistical purposes are absolutely guaranteed.

Principle 6: Impartiality and Objectivity
Statistical authorities develop, produce and disseminate European statistics respecting scientific independence and in an objective, professional and transparent manner in which all users are treated equitably.

Statistical Processes
European and other international standards, guidelines and good practices are fully observed in the processes used by the statistical authorities to organise, collect, process and disseminate European Statistics. The credibility of the statistics is enhanced by a reputation for good management and efficiency. The relevant aspects are sound methodology, appropriate statistical procedures, non-excessive burden on respondents and cost effectiveness.
Principle 7: Sound Methodology
Sound methodology underpins quality statistics. This requires adequate tools, procedures and expertise.

Principle 8: Appropriate Statistical Procedures
Appropriate statistical procedures, implemented from data collection to data validation, underpin quality statistics.

Principle 9: Non-Excessive Burden on Respondents
The reporting burden is proportionate to the needs of the users and is not excessive for respondents. The statistical authority monitors the response burden and sets targets for its reduction over time.

Principle 10: Cost Effectiveness
Resources are effectively used.

Statistical Output
Available statistics meet users’ needs. Statistics comply with the European quality standards and serve the needs of European institutions, governments, research institutions, business concerns and the public generally. The important issues concern the extent to which the statistics are relevant, accurate and reliable, timely, coherent, comparable across regions and countries, and readily accessible by users.
Principle 11: Relevancea
European Statistics meet the needs of users.

Principle 12: Accuracy and Reliability
European Statistics accurately and reliably portray reality.

Principle 13: Timeliness and Punctuality
European Statistics are released in a timely and punctual manner.

Principle 14: Coherence and Comparability
European Statistics are consistent internally, over time and comparable between regions and countries; it is possible to combine and make joint use of related data from different sources.

Principle 15: Accessibility and Clarity
European Statistics are presented in a clear and understandable form, released in a suitable and convenient manner, available and accessible on an impartial basis with supporting metadata and guidance.

Last edit: 31 January 2018