/ 8 January 2008

DA calls for statistician general to be sacked

The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) on Tuesday called on Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel to sack the statistician general, Pali Lehohla.

Revelations in morning newspapers that a crucial survey by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) contains serious errors has resulted in a serious crisis of confidence in this institution, according to the party.

Kobus Marais, who speaks on financial matters for the DA, said the revelations are a serious embarrassment to the government, ”especially since President Thabo Mbeki has hailed the report in question as an important document about the progress made ‘to meet the basic needs of our people’.”

Pointing out that this is not the first time Stats SA has bungled, Marais said: ”When serious lapses in Stats SA’s reporting came to light in 2005, Lehohla exhibited a tendency to underplay the situation, making it out as issues of ‘calibration’ rather than admitting to their apparent seriousness. In light of this situation, it is doubted whether there is sufficient confidence in Lehohla’s critical faculties to ensure a rapid return to credibility for Stats SA.”

He said he should be replaced.

Marais also called for the Statistics Council, which revealed the shortcomings of the survey in question, to be accorded full responsibility for quality control of Stats SA’s output.

”This would require amendments to the Statistics Act to empower the council to meet more regularly to review surveys both in their planning stages and prior to the publication of their results. The extra costs that this may entail will be more than offset by their improvements in long-term credibility that Stats SA will enjoy,” Marais said.

Independent Newspapers reported on Tuesday morning that the council expressed doubts about whether the R600-million Community Survey 2007 could provide a scientific basis for government policy.

President Mbeki urged people to read the report of the survey, suggesting it ”would give us the scientific basis to determine whether we should change any of our policies”. — I-Net Bridge