According to the letter of allocation, Statistics Norway shall oversee the monitoring of compliance with the requirements for quality in official statistics and establish a system for following this up. The statistics programme identifies 12 producers of statistics, all of which are involved in the quality assurance work. In consultation with the Committee for Official Statistics, Statistics Norway shall establish a quality system in the first half of 2021 to ensure that work on quality assurance can start in the second half of the year. An initial report on the quality of official statistics shall be submitted to the Ministry in the first half of 2022.

This memo describes a proposal for a quality system for official statistics. The system consists of four general elements:

  1. A framework for the quality of official statistics consisting of the Statistics Act and the European Statistics Code of Practice. This is described in Section 3.
  2. Methods and tools for measuring the quality of official statistics. Section 4 gives an assessment of established methods and tools, how these can be incorporated into a quality system, and what new methods need to be developed and applied.
  3. Systems and processes for following up quality. Section 5 describes how the different elements of the system will interact and how quality can be assessed and followed up consistently.
  4. Actors and their roles. Section 6 examines the responsibilities and roles of the different actors in the quality system for official statistics.

Statistics Norway has developed methods and tools to measure the quality of its own statistics. However, these are not sufficient for assessing and following up the requirements for quality in all official statistics as stipulated by the new Statistics Act. New methods and tools are needed to supplement the existing ones in order for Statistics Norway to comply with the requirements in the letter of allocation and be able to oversee the monitoring of compliance with the quality requirements in the framework throughout the statistical system. This will also include active involvement of the other producers and the Committee for Official Statistics.

Quality reviews are systematic assessments of statistics or statistical domains, where emphasis is placed on the production process, output and the user perspective. These provide good and specific information on the quality of the statistics being reviewed, but they fail, however, to include all dimensions of quality. Quality reviews are undertaken for a sample of statistics over time, and the results will not be representative of all official statistics. Eurostat’s peer reviews are well known in the Norwegian statistical system. The peer review of Norway in 2014 spurred important improvements in the entire Norwegian statistical system. The upcoming peer review (2021) will provide a basis for a new assessment, not least in light of the changes since 2014. The limitation of peer reviews is that, in principle, they are restricted to European statistics and that they are only conducted every seven years. A third established method involves reporting on quality in administrative data systems that produce source data for many statistics in Statistics Norway. Quality-enhancing measures in these data systems can benefit other official statistics, provided that the same registers are being used.

Statistics Norway believes that the current knowledge base on official statistics is not extensive enough to provide a satisfactory account of the quality in the first quality report, which Statistics Norway is due to submit to the Ministry in 2022. More knowledge is needed about the current situation in order to be able to propose a final quality system, prioritise quality improvement measures and follow up initiatives over time. It is therefore proposed that two new elements are added to the quality system: quality evaluations among all producers and expanding the quality reviews to include producers other than Statistics Norway.

Quality evaluations of official statistics are to be carried out at regular intervals at all statistical authorities, including Statistics Norway. Quality evaluations will provide knowledge about the internal quality systems that have already been established by the producers of official statistics and that can be developed further. These will be able to measure quality dimensions that are not sufficiently elucidated by established methods and tools. The first evaluation should be included in the knowledge base for the quality report to be submitted in 2022, and Statistics Norway proposes to give priority to a quality evaluation of official statistics in 2021. Eurostat plans to carry out a peer review in Statistics Norway and four other producers of European statistics in November 2021. Seen as a whole, a quality evaluation and Eurostat’s peer review in 2021 will provide a good basis for describing the present situation, identifying needs for development and proposing measures for quality improvement in the first report to be submitted in 2022. Similar evaluations will also need to be carried out on a regular basis to follow up measures and produce annual reports on quality after 2022.

Moreover, Statistics Norway proposes that future quality reviews encompass the entire statistics programme, and not only Statistics Norway’s statistics as is currently the case. Quality reviews are resource-intensive, and it will not be feasible to review a large sample of statistics each year. It is proposed that the number of quality reviews be increased from three to six per year, and that coverage is shared between the producers of official statistics over time. At the start of 2021, the statistics programme includes 351 statistics. In Statistics Norway’s opinion, including somewhat less than one per cent of the annual statistics output in quality reviews is an absolute minimum.

The letter of allocation points out that Statistics Norway as part of this quality system shall provide assistance, advice and guidance, and that various types of tools, manuals or guidelines that can help enhance the quality will be developed. This means that a system for following up quality should include more than evaluating and reporting quality. Statistics Norway has initiated efforts to establish a network for quality and methodology, as well as to develop and provide access to a number of training courses, manuals and other resources. This will facilitate competence enhancement and the sharing of experiences within and between members of the Committee for Official Statistics.

Statistics Norway is the main producer of official statistics and a large user of administrative data for statistical purposes. In addition, Statistics Norway has been tasked with coordinating all official statistics and producing an annual public report on the quality of official statistics. To avoid conflicts between these roles and with other actors in the Norwegian statistical system, it is crucial that the quality assurance work is transparent and well documented. It is essential that other members of the Committee for Official Statistics participate in this work. In this memo, it is proposed that a group of resource persons is established who can participate in the quality assurance work. It will be beneficial to include participants from more producers/committee members in the quality reviews and quality evaluations. The Committee for Official Statistics will also play a key role in the work on the annual report on quality.

Statistics Norway estimates that the permanent increase in the need for resources for the quality assurance of official statistics amounts to six man-years. The resource input that we assume will be provided by authorities other than Statistics Norway is not included in the estimate.