Stats SA, which is responsible for collecting and interpreting all the data that South Africa’s economy requires to thrive, is headed for “destruction”, warns Pali Lehohla, who was the country’s Statistician-General from 2000 to 2017.
As a result of massive cash shortages, 19.5% (685) of Stats SA’s 3 511 posts have been vacant since October 2016, City Press’ sister publication Rapport has revealed.
Among the posts that have not been filled are more than 170 key management positions.
Altogether, 26 posts have been filled by officials who were appointed to act in those positions.
Among these are five of the eight deputy directors-general, as well as the institution’s chief operating officer.
The cash shortage is so perilous that a critical survey on poverty – the Income and Expenditure Survey – was not released last year.
In the 2018/19 financial year, Stats SA exceeded its budget of R2.27 billion by about R39 million.
If the country loses its ability to collect and publish reliable data, Lesetja Kganyago, the governor of the SA Reserve Bank, will be unable to set the repo rate because the Statistician-General will not be in a position to provide him with the granular consumer price index figure.
The adjustment to salaries and social grants will also become arbitrary, as will banks’ lending rates.
Professor David Everatt, the chairperson of the SA Statistics Council at Stats SA, wrote in the latest annual report that the organisation had lost technical and analytical skills shortly before it was required to move over to a new computerised environment, which could be disastrous considering that the country’s next census is due to take place in 2021.
However, it is understood that the money required for the census has been guaranteed.
“The need for more analysis and reporting, as well as data collection, is continuously being put to Stats SA, but, unfortunately, it’s impossible to comply while the budget remains static,” he said.
Everatt added that, despite the shortcomings, Stats SA had managed to achieve 93% of its targets despite the personnel shortage. It also obtained a clean audit this year.