Submission of production, costing and trade statistics to Statistics South Africa (STATSSA)

Reference documents:

Act No. 25 of 1986 Statistics Amendment Act, 1986

This article focuses on the submission of statistics and the use thereof by STATSSA. Businesses and persons may not be aware of our legal obligation to provide STATSSA with truthful and meaningful population, production, costing and sales statistics amongst others. Keep in mind that such statistical reports are published locally and internationally; therefore “garbage in, garbage out”. It is best that we supply truthful numbers or else the reports are meaningless to government and business.

Who is STATSSA?

Statistics South Africa is the national statistical service of South Africa with the goal of producing timely, accurate and official statistics, in order to advance economic growth, development and democracy. Statistics South Africa (STATSSA) monitors the quality of the information available on their website and updates the information regularly.

All STATSSA products are protected by copyright. Users may apply the information as they wish, provided that they acknowledge STATSSA as the source of the basic data wherever they process, apply, utilise, publish or distribute the data, and also that they specify that the relevant application and analysis (where applicable) result from their own processing of the data.

What is the purpose of Statistics Act?

The purpose of this Act is to advance the planning, production, analysis, documentation, storage, dissemination and use of official and other statistics by providing for:

  • a Statistician-General as head of Statistics South Africa and for a Council;
  • the respective functions of the Statistician-General, the Council and the Minister and their interrelations;
  • co-ordination between Statistics South Africa and other organs of state that produce official or other statistics;
  • co-operation between the producers of official statistics and—
  1. the users of such and other statistics in the government, other sectors of society and the public at large;
  2. the respondents supplying the information that results in official and other statistics;
  3. liaison with international and regional organisations that—
  4. request official statistics;
  5. make recommendations about the standardisation, classification, collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of statistics.

Purpose of official statistics, and statistical principles

The purpose of official statistics is to assist organs of state, businesses, other organisations or the public in:

  1. planning;
  2. decision-making or other actions;
  3. monitoring or assessment of policies, decision-making or other actions.
  4. Official statistics must protect the confidentiality of the identity of, and the information provided by, respondents and be—
  5. relevant, accurate, reliable and timeous;
  6. objective and comprehensive;
  7. compiled, reported and documented in a scientific and transparent manner;
  8. disseminated impartially;
  9. accessible;
  10. in accordance with appropriate national and international standards and classifications; and
  11. sensitive to distribution by gender, disability, region and similar socio-economic features.

Are you obliged to provide information to STATSSA SA and their fieldworkers when so requested? Yes.

Rather than debate and cloud the issue with feelings and opinions, the official and most accurate response is taken from Section 16 of the Act quoted below.

“Duty to answer questions 16.

(1) The Statistician-General, or an officer of Statistics South Africa authorised by him or her, may, in performing his or her functions in terms of this Act, put, to any person any questions which the Statistician-General or that authorised officer considers reasonably necessary for the collection of statistics.
(2) Every person, including every employee of any organ of state, must—
(a) to the best of his or her or its knowledge and belief and subject to the right to dignity and privacy, answer, when so required, all questions put orally or in writing in terms of subsection (1); and
(b) in accordance with the instructions pertaining to any document referred to in section 7(1)(e)(ii) and not later than the date specified in that document—
(i) furnish all such information; or
(ii) sign such declaration, as is required by that document.
(3) A document referred to in section 7(1)(e)(ii) is sufficiently authenticated if the name and designation of the competent person by whom it is given or issued, as the case may be, has been printed or stamped thereon.”

Submission of information

Other than the population census done by fieldworkers (the last official census was done in 2011), the vast majority of source information gathered from industry sectors is done in writing and returned to STATSSA promptly.

Depending on the industry sector submissions could be required on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis.

A complete list of sectors and the relevant questionnaires from STATSSA may be found on http://www.statssa.gov.za/?page_id=379

Two examples (of many) are:

Food and beverage industry: monthly submission comprising company details, employment numbers and trade statistics. Mining industry: monthly and annual submissions comprising company details, employment numbers, production volumes, production costing and trade statistics.

Are there any penalties for submitting false or misleading information or not submitting the required documentary returns? Yes, there are.

This is particularly relevant to businesses (individuals however are also liable) and the answer can be found in Section 18 of the Act; quoted below.

“Offences and penalties 18…

(3) Any individual other than an employee of an organ of state, business or other organisation that—
(a) fails to answer a question put in terms of section 16(2)(a) or furnishes an answer to such a question which is false or misleading in any material respect, knowing the answer to be false or misleading;
(b) fails to furnish information or sign a declaration in terms of section 16(2)(b) or furnishes such information which is false or misleading in any material respect, knowing the information to be false or misleading;
(c) incites any other person to act as contemplated in paragraph (a) or (b);
(d) refuses—
(i) the Statistician-General or any authorised officer of Statistics South Africa, acting in terms of section 15, entry on any land or premises; or
(ii) to permit the Statistician-General or that authorised officer to inspect anything on or in that land or premises;
(e) wilfully obstructs the Statistician-General or any officer of Statistics South Africa in the exercise of a power, or the performance of a duty, in terms of this Act, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction—
(i) in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding R10 000, or such higher amount as is determined from time to time by the Minister of Justice as contemplated in section 1(1)(a) of the Adjustment of Fines Act, 1991, or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or to both such fine and such imprisonment; and
(ii) in the case of a business or other organisation, to a fine not exceeding R20 000 or an amount determined by the Minister from time to time by notice in the Gazette.
(4) (a) A conviction of an offence referred to in subsection (3)(a) or (b) does not relieve any individual, business or other organisation of the obligation to supply the correct information.
(b) If after 14 days from the date of sentencing for that offence, the information has still not been furnished, that individual, business or other organisation is guilty of a further offence and liable on conviction for each day after the expiry of that 14 day period—
(i) in the case of an individual, to a fine not exceeding R500 or an amount determined by the Minister from time to time by notice in the Gazette; or
(ii) in the case of a business or other organisation, to a fine not exceeding R2 000 or an amount determined by the Minister by notice in the Gazette.”

Whilst businesses and individuals may feel that such information is not particularly important they would be gravely mistaken. Statistics, in essence, govern the manner in which government make decisions and this has a direct and indirect impact on business and individuals alike; one typical example is the use of CPI and PPI indices by government and industry on a monthly basis. Erroneous numbers may well result in incorrect interest rate decisions made by the SA Reserve Bank or even your employer when determining your annual salary increase. No doubt we all want lower interest rates and higher annual increases; in only it were that simple.

Statistics in the form of numbers may be easy to understand but not so much the philosophy: “The philosophy of statistics involves the meaning, justification, utility, use and abuse of statistics and its methodology, and ethical and epistemological issues involved in the consideration of choice and interpretation of data and methods of statistics.”

Quite a mouthful! Rather submit truthful numbers and one never has to worry about deep philosophies of the mind’s numbers.

Author Craig Tonkin

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