State survey said to be 'unreliable'

Concerns have been raised about the reliability of an R600-million state-funded Statistics South Africa survey previously endorsed by President Thabo Mbeki, the Star newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Statistics Council of South Africa said various irregularities in the survey made it questionable as to whether the survey could provide a “scientific basis” for future government policy.

Two months ago, Finance minister Trevor Manuel handed President Thabo Mbeki the report.

Mbeki later described the Community Survey 2007 as an “important document about the progress we are making to meet the basic needs of the masses of our people”.

Quoting from the report, Mbeki said the survey showed South Africans believed service delivery was improving. 

However, the chairperson of the Statistics Council of South Africa, Howard Gabriels, had raised various concerns over the quality of the survey, the paper reported.

Gabriels said the distribution of households by province in the survey showed little similarity with data from the General Household Survey or the 2001 census.

There was a “maldistribution of the population by province”, the newspaper reported Gabriels as saying.

He also questioned the accuracy of the number of grants the survey recorded; as well as the “unreasonably high levels of income for children” recorded.

The survey also apparently presented “unreliable” and “higher” unemployment figures because of a problematic method of questioning the survey subjects.

The institutional population of South Africa—such as people living in army barracks, prisons and other institutions -‒ was estimated, instead of calculated.

“The revised survey report recorded half-a-dozen corrections made from the earlier survey.”

Stats SA spokesperson Trevor Oosterwyk said on Monday that the survey’s overall findings of an improvement in social conditions was not compromised by the concerns raised about its reliability. - Sapa

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