The Hon. Mr Mondli Gungubele, Minister in The Presidency Budget Vote Speech (2022/2023) on the occasion of the Statistics South Africa (Stats Sa) 2022/2023 Budget Vote (Vote 14)

10 May 2022

Honourable Chair of the session,
Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Honourable Thembi Siweya
Honourable Members of the House
Distinguished Guests joining us virtually and physically
Fellow South Africans;

I greet you all

It is my honour to join you today to present the Statistics South Africa 2022/2023 Budget Vote (Vote 14), mindful that national statistics systems all over the world play a critical role in the development of any country and South Africa is no exception.
When President Ramaphosa gave me the responsibility to be Minister in the Presidency — for which I thank him — as I always do when I am charged with any responsibility in serving our people, I did not take this task lightly. It is even more so because the numbers that any national statistics agency produce, are not just mere numbers, they reflect the circumstances of our people and the pulse of the nation. The numbers that Stats SA always present to us, are about lives of our people, as we aspire to achieve a better life for all.

Let me appropriately borrow from President Ramaphosa, on the occasion of the State of the Nation, on 13 February 2020: “It is you, the people of South Africa, who carry this burden, confronted by rising living costs, unemployment, unable to escape poverty, unable to realise your potential… These are not just statistics.”

Notwithstanding the devastation wrought upon all of us by the COVID-19 pandemic, Stats SA continued to deliver on its core statistical programme during 2021/22, ensuring that our country has quality official statistics for decision-making. We are all patently aware that at this moment in the life of this nation reliable and trustworthy data, statistics and information are critical so that as policy-makers we can take decisions that will not just shape our tomorrow but also impact positively on the lives of generations to come.

Honourable members

Statistics must inform our decisions and is used to inform better planning, better implementation and better outcomes in our country.

The population census offers us the most comprehensive set of statistical information to the lowest geographical level. This data set is the new statistical information baseline for the country and must therefore inform our planning, policy formulation, evaluation, budget allocation amongst others to enable better decision-making.

The population census, that is conducted every ten years, is the biggest survey undertaken by any statistical organisation. The census is a massive and complex endeavour where all the people in South Africa are enumerated and their characteristics and living conditions separately recorded. It is the stock taking of our people, where and how they live. It provides information on the demographic, economic and social dynamics for all persons in the country.

Census 2022 is the fourth census since the dawn of democracy. 2021 should have been the Census year for South Africa. However, Stats SA, like countless other national statistics offices, have been forced to postpone census activities in light of the ongoing pandemic. This census has seen the organisation rise to yet another level of deploying technology amidst the most trying times of COVID-19.

Census 2022 is the first ever digital census conducted in South Africa. All preparatory work for the census continued to be disrupted at every corner. This necessitated the organisation to deploy a three-pronged approach to reach out to members of the public, namely, face-to-face using tablets, telephone assisted and self-enumeration on the web.

Data collection kicked-off in February 2022. We are now at the tail-end of data collection for Census 2022. To date, we have completed the census count for eight of the nine provinces. We are currently wrapping-up our census collection activities in the Western Cape. In the 2022/23 financial year, we will focus our efforts on the processing and analysis of the census data. A post enumeration survey will be conducted in June 2022 to assess the over and/or undercount of the census. This has been a difficult census and all things being equal, the organisation will report the results to the nation next year this time.

I would like to call upon all those who have not yet been reached by Stats SA’s fieldworkers to complete the questionnaire online on the Stats SA website.

Honourable members

As policy-makers we seek to change today’s realities and to make the world a better place for all its peoples. And we need all the help we can get. In this process, official statistics remains a critical role-player in that it helps us to have better clarity in shaping our decisions and alternative options.

Stats SA has over the past 28 years worked tirelessly to build a world-class organisation which is part of the national system of statistics. This is an organisation that has taken its rightful place in the production of our official statistics which are the bedrock of any strong democratic society. The production of statistics helps us see to what extent we are attending to the triple scourge of poverty, inequality and unemployment as we navigate to a better life for all.

As a matter of fact, civil society, captains of industry and everybody else depend on statistics on issues of societal engagement. We know that businesses depend on statistics to better understand the investment climate and ever-changing consumer behaviour, while trade unions use statistics for wage bargaining, to name just a few.

Stats SA continues to track the developments and changes within South Africa’s economy and society, and regularly report on various aspects thereof.

In 2022/23, the economic statistics programme will continue to deliver key national economic indicators by publishing 228 statistical releases and reports in line with international statistical standards. We are however investing in key initiatives to improve how we measure the economy, which includes-

  • Improving the measurement of price indices: The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is going digital. The CPI is an exceeding important measure of both wellbeing and change. It is also the most widely used of the statistics series. It is used by the Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank in their setting of the repurchase ‘repo’ rate, a key determinant of interest rates. We are optimising the use of technology in various areas of the organisation. Stats SA will also be researching the introduction of a Residential Property Price Index as part of the suite of measuring price changes;
  • Researching the expansion of the economic statistical information base: We will be publishing a discussion document on quarterly capital expenditure; Conducting research on the use of administrative data for Quarterly Financial Statistics of Selected Municipalities (QFSSM); Conducting research to expand the coverage of the Natural Capital Accounts series; and Compiling a research report on the inclusion of the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in the Higher Education Institution release

Honourable members

The population and social statistics programme will continue to deliver key national socio-economic indicators by publishing 48 statistical releases and reports in 2022/23 in line with international statistical standards and practices. The organisation has evolved over the past two years with the introduction of new and innovative methodologies in our household surveys programme, not without its challenges.

The census has also shown us how to institutionalise a multi-modal approach to data collection. We will build on these innovations and investments in the coming years. Other key initiatives to improve how we measure the socio-economic environment, includes the research and harnessing of alternative data sources in the data ecosystem to enhance and augment the production of official statistics.

President Nelson Mandela, during the occasion of Make Poverty History Campaign, of 03rd February 2005, at the Trafalgar Square in London, United Kingdom, once said: “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

As a responsible government, we have to work tirelessly everyday of our lives, to end poverty among our people. Total emancipation comes with the end to poverty. Our people will know a better life when poverty is gone.

It is for this reason that Stats SA has to continue to measure the effect of poverty in society. Our national statistics office, like all of us in government, are trying to do more with less, given the prevailing financial constraints.

We are glad to report that Statistics South Africa has received additional funding to conduct an Income and Expenditure Survey (IES) from October 2022 to November 2023 to provide comprehensive information on the poverty situation in South Africa.

Honourable members

We have a responsibility to ensure that both the institution, its devoted staff and its important mandate are protected to perform their tasks within the framework of independence. Such independence ensures that our official numbers have integrity. It is this creative interaction between statisticians and policy-makers, always fraught with potential tension, that is worthy to protect. And it was for this critical reason that statistics laws of nations, enjoins governments and society to ensure that statistics are planned, collected and disseminated without fear or favour. Our standing as a nation — and as a country — is intertwined with the successful and democratic uptake of statistics.

Honourable Chairperson,

The organisation is now in its third year of implmenting its 5-year Strategic Planning. This strategy expresses the almost single-minded approach to further embrace and improve the evolving data ecosystem, so essential to deepening of the South African democracy, with the explicit objective to transform the way we work and the way we lead the statistical system in the country to be responsive to the growing user demands for sustainable development.

It is therefore no surprise that the organisation is guided by its inspiring vision of, ‘Improving lives through data ecosystems’

Combined with this vision the organisation’s strategic focus for 2022/23 will remain:

  • The sustaining of the quality of national indicators to inform evidence-based decisions and bringing new insights to users;
  • Driving legislative reform to strengthen statistical coordination in the country; and
  • Driving a transformation and change agenda to optimise, innovate and diversify the operations and capability of the organisation in the data ecosystem.

Honourable members

We have often spoken about the constraints imposed by the pandemic on the production of statistics. We have seen this impediment affecting national statistics agencies across the globe. Yet Stats SA continues to rise above the waters to ensure that our nation does not fail to be provided with this essential public good. As an agile organisation, Stats SA has had to adapt quickly in its uptake of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Honourable members

The Public Finance Management Act, Section 27, directs the Minister to annually table this budget and it is my honour to deliver Vote 14, which over the MTEF is R2,8 billion in 2022/23; R2,6 billion and R2,8 billion in the 2023/24 and 2024/25 financial years respectively.

Stats SA has received an additional allocation of -

  • R132 million over the MTEF period to fill critical vacancies that has been vacant since October 2016.
  • R206 million over the MTEF period to conduct the Income and Expenditure Survey.
  • R105 million for 2022/23 for the post enumeration survey and other census activities.

We recognise the importance of fully funding the statistical function in the country and engagements with National Treasury are continuous to ensure that challenges are addressed.

I hereby request Parliament to support the budget vote of Statistics South Africa.

Let me take this opportunity to appreciate the role that the Deputy Minister in the President, Ms Tembi Siweya, who assists me with taking care of the responsibility of Stats SA in its daily functioning.

I would be remiss in my responsibility as Minster if I did not take note of the work of the South African Statistics Council, which is charged with the independent act of safeguarding the integrity of our official statistics. I therefore want to acknowledge the work of the of Chair of the Statistics Council, Prof David Everatt, supported by the entire Council for their dedication and continued support in the statistical development of our nation.

I would further like to express my appreciation to the Statistician-General, Mr. Risenga Maluleke, and the entire Stats SA staff, for steering this ship through some of the roughest seas and other obstacles to ensure that this nation and its policy-makers have the necessary data and information in order to face the future with greater confidence and certainty.

Thank you.