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Good practices of the CSO Ireland

Good practices of the CSO Ireland

CSO Strategic Planning Process

Extracts from the CSO Statement of Strategy 2001-2003
(available on the CSO website


The CSO Statement of Strategy 2001-2003 is the third corporate plan of the Central Statistics Office (CSO) prepared under the Strategic Management Initiative (SMI) for the Civil Service introduced in 1994. The first Corporate Plan covered the period 1995 to 1997 with a subsequent Strategy Statement covering the period 1998-2000. The purpose of the Statement is to set out the strategic direction of the CSO for the next three years and to provide both management and staff with a clear guide to our corporate goals and business objectives.

The Civil Service continues to undergo significant change as set out in the Delivering Better Government programme (DBG), which was announced in 1996 as part of the SMI. The implementation of this modernisation programme in partnership with staff is an integral feature of the strategy statement. The direct linking of the statement of strategy to the implementation of the recently introduced Performance Management and Development System (PMDS), and to the pay elements of the Programme For Prosperity and Fairness (PPF), provide further concrete evidence of the widening and integrated scope of the SMI.

A strategic management/participative approach has been adopted in the CSO from the outset in preparing our corporate plans. This approach is an ongoing inclusive process geared towards translating the strategy into action by linking planning to implementation at local operational level. It also incorporates continuous monitoring and review to assess the progress being made and to allow for changing circumstances.

Experience with the 1998-2000 Statement of Strategy

The 1998-2000 Statement of Strategy continued the structured approach to corporate planning introduced by the first Corporate Plan. It was prepared in collaboration with staff at all levels in the Office within the framework of the Government’s SMI and the DBG initiatives. Annual Divisional Action Programmes (DAP) and Local Business Programmes (LBP) were prepared with staff at local level to implement the Statement of Strategy business and support programmes. Progress on the implementation of these programmes was monitored and reviewed at local, Divisional and Directorate level.

The outputs of the strategy included considerable improvements in statistical products and services, a general improvement in timeliness and a better public image. The planning experience to date and the ongoing inclusive approach provides a good basis for the preparation and implementation of the new Statement of Strategy.

Preparation of Current Strategy Statement

A highly participative approach was again adopted in the preparation of this Statement of Strategy. This approach proved invaluable and many of the strategic points raised are reflected in the Strategy. In addition, a significant number of operational proposals and recommendations were made which will feed into the Local Business Programmes over the lifetime of the Strategy. Steps in the process included:

- An open invitation to all staff to put forward comments and suggestions

- The convening of workshops at local level, involving all staff, with a brief to review the 1998-2000 Strategy and to provide ideas on what issues might be included in this Strategy Statement

- The Senior Management Group (SMG), consisting of all Heads of Divisions and the Directorate developed a framework for the Statement of Strategy at a two day workshop and considered all staff inputs. A drafting committee compiled a first draft of the document.

-The draft was made available to all staff for comment and subsequently presented to and approved by the Partnership Committee.

Planning Framework

The framework within which the Statement of Strategy was prepared consisted of the:

- Strategic Management Initiative (SMI) and Delivering Better Government (DBG) Programmes

- National Statistics Board’s Strategy for Statistics 1998-2002

- 1998-2002 Statistical Programme of the EU.

Implementation and Monitoring

Critical Success Factors

The following factors are critical if we are to fulfil our Mission and implement the programmes outlined in this strategy statement:

- the motivation, commitment and calibre of our staff
- the collaboration of management, staff and unions based on a Partnership approach
- the encouragement of a culture of good management, innovation, flexibility and efficiency in our working arrangements
- the availability of a high quality statistical and technical skills base
- public credibility and trust
- the goodwill and cooperation of data providers.

Partnership Framework

The Partnership Committee played a key role in the preparation of this strategy statement and approved the final text. The Committee will also play an active role in monitoring progress and reviewing the strategy annually. This will help ensure common ownership and commitment to the development and implementation of the goals and programmes and a participative approach to resolving issues and challenges as they arise.

Key Performance Indicator

- Active participation by the Partnership Committee in monitoring progress and reviewing the strategy annually

Action Programmes

Action programmes for the achievement of the high level goals, the efficient completion and improvement of ongoing activities, and the implementation of the Business and Support Programmes will be jointly developed on a bottom-up basis by management and staff. Individual Sections will prepare Local Business Programmes (LBPs) annually. These will cover all activities in local areas, including ongoing work and new developments. They will clearly specify the objectives to be achieved and the targets to be met during the year and indicate timetables and appropriate performance indicators. LBPs must be prepared in considerable operational detail and allocate responsibilities since they will become the basis for the implementation of the new Performance Management and Development system for staff.

To facilitate tracking and monitoring by Senior Management, the local programmes will be summarised into Divisional Action Programmes (DAPs). These will contain only the main objectives to be achieved by each Division. At the beginning of the year, DAPs will be assessed by the Directorate to ensure that they are relevant and that they will advance the developments and objectives outlined in the Business and Support Programmes in the strategy statement.

Key Performance Indicators

- Local Business Programmes comprising objects which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timebounded (SMART) complied each December by individual Sections for the following year
- Divisional Action Programmes compiled each January from LBPs
- Divisional Action Programmes are relevant, advance the high level goals and achieve the objectives outlined in the Business and Support Programmes in the strategy statement.

Monitoring and Review

Line managers, in collaboration with staff, will regularly monitor and track progress on the implementation of the Local Business Programmes and make any adjustments necessitated by changing circumstances.

Progress on the Divisional Action Programmes will be assessed at half-yearly meetings chaired by the responsible Director. Following these reviews, the Directorate will, with the relevant Senior Statistician/Principal, review the progress made in implementing each Programme. Feedback from the Directorate reviews will be provided to staff and to the Partnership Committee.

At the end of each year a formal progress report on the strategy statement will be prepared and published by the Office, in accordance with Section 4 of the Public Service Management Act, 1997. The report will describe the progress made in achieving the goals and objectives outlined in the Statement of Strategy. The report will also contain an assessment of the ongoing relevance of the goals and programmes contained in the strategy statement and indicate any changes, including new targets, or reprioritising needed to meet changing circumstances.

Key Performance Indicators

- Local Business Programmes monitored and reviewed on an ongoing basis
- Progress on the Divisional Action Programmes monitored and reviewed half-yearly
- Progress Report on the Statement of Strategy published annually.

CSO Information and Customer Services

Customer Service Plan

The CSO is committed to delivering the statistics needed by Government and the public to the highest possible standards. The Office publishes a Customer Service Plan that sets out in detail how the CSO aims to fulfil this commitment. The Customer Service Plan 2001-2003 was published in conjunction the CSO’s Statement of Strategy 2001-2003 and it summarises the major targets which the CSO has set for itself over the three-year period.

Many of these targets are about the contents and timeliness of our statistical results. They are also about how we publish statistics, with a growing emphasis on electronic dissemination, and about the consultation mechanisms which ensure that the service provided by the CSO meets the needs of users.

The Customer Service Plan is available on our website at


The CSO provides a wide range of statistics and analyses covering the economic and social situation in the country. The main subject matter areas are:

- Agriculture
- Balance of Payments
- Demography
- Foreign trade
- Industry and Building
- Labour Market and Vital Statistics
- National Accounts
- Prices
- Services Statistics

Means of delivery

The CSO disseminates the results of its statistical inquiries in a variety of ways including:

- Statistical releases
- Publications and associated diskettes/CD-ROMs
- Internet site (
- StatsMail/StatsFax service
- EireStat Spreadsheet Service
- Information section
- Trade Help Desk
- Census Inquiries section
- Anonymised micro-data tapes

In addition the individual subject matter sections respond to detailed inquiries relevant to their particular area. Special customer tailored analyses can be provided on a fee basis where resources permit.

Details of the CSO information services

- Statistical Releases

The most recent results of regular statistical inquiries are immediately issued as they become available through the Government Information Service at 11.00am in the form of Statistical Releases. These are available by post on a fee basis. Background notes outlining the concepts, sources and methods behind the statistics are included in each release.

- StatsMail & StatsFax Service

All statistical releases are available by post (StatsMail). Subscribers may select the releases they wish to receive on a regular basis. The monthly Consumer Price Index and Live Register Statement is also available by fax (StatsFax); other releases may be obtained by fax on request.

- Economic Series (monthly)

The principal short-term indicators issued in the regular Statistical Releases are reproduced in the monthly Economic Series. This periodical provides five years retrospective data for a selection of over 150 principal short-term economic series.

- Statistical Bulletin (quarterly)

The full details given in the regular Statistical Releases are subsequently included in the quarterly Statistical Bulletin. The methodological descriptions of new and updated series are also included in the Bulletin as special articles.

- Statistical Abstract (annual)

The main features are also included in the annual Statistical Abstract which is compiled and published by the CSO. This yearbook is the most comprehensive source of statistical data published in Ireland. A new annual publication, the Statistical Yearbook of Ireland, was issued for the first time in 2001. It replaced the Statistical Abstract and has been redesigned with considerable use of colour and graphs.

- Detailed Publications

The detailed results of large-scale inquiries conducted by the CSO are issued in special publications. Details of the concepts, sources and methods behind the statistics are included.

- CSO Library

All CSO publications and a wide range of publications issued by other national statistical services and international statistical agencies may be consulted free of charge in libraries in Cork and Dublin Offices.

- CSO Internet Site

The CSO's Internet site contains general statistics and information on many topics including:

- The Office itself
- Recent News, Developments
- Statistics due next week
- 4-month Release Calendar
- Services available
- FOI Act details
- Recent Statistical Releases
- Press Releases
- Key Economic Indicators
- Principal Irish Statistics
- Recent publications
- Links to relevant Irish WWW sites
- Links to international WWW sites

The CSO's Internet address is

- CSO Data Bank

The CSO's computerised Data Bank (EireStat) contains its principal economic and social statistics. The Data Bank contains about 29,000 time series and 4,000 cross-sectional variables. Most series are updated within an hour of publication.

The CSO website also includes the Eirestat Spreadsheet Service (ESS) from which data may be downloaded.

- Personal Visits

Personal visits by inquirers to the CSO are welcome.

- General Inquiry Service

The CSO handles a large range of general inquiries on a daily basis.

- Direct Subject Matter Inquiries

Direct inquiries to the relevant statistical subject matter areas are welcome.

- Small Area Population Statistics (SAPs)

These statistics are available on a fee basis from various Censuses of Population for DEDs, Wards, Rural Districts, Urban Areas, etc. either in the form of printed copy or on diskette. In all cases the statistics provided are aggregates of sufficient numbers of returns to ensure the confidentiality of individual information.

- Detailed Foreign Trade Statistics

Monthly details of imports and exports at the most detailed 8-digit customs tariff level (approximately 10,000 headings) by country of origin/destination are provided on a fee basis in the form of computer print-out or magnetic tape. Details for specific commodities of interest to particular users are also provided monthly on a fee basis.

- Provision of Special Statistical Analyses

A considerable volume of ad hoc statistical analyses, which are not incorporated as standard tables in published reports, are provided on a fee basis on request.

- Access to Anonymised Micro Data

Under the provisions of the Statistics Act, 1993 researchers may access anonymised micro-data collected by the CSO. Anonymised micro-data (Census of Population, Household Budget Survey, Quarterly National Household Survey, etc) have been lodged with the Irish Social Science Data Archive and are available for research purposes. Researchers appointed Officers of Statistics under the Statistics Act may also access non-identifiable micro-data collected in business inquiries subject to the confidentiality and other provisions of the Act.

- Reuters & Bloomberg Information Services

The principal headline figures are available on the Reuter and Bloomberg electronic information services.

- International Agency Publications

Statistics compiled by the CSO also appear with comparable data for other countries in the regular publications of Eurostat (Statistical Service of the EU), OECD, UN, ILO, etc. These are available in the CSO libraries.

- Advance Notice of Release Dates

Weekly and four month in advance calendars of releases and publications are available and may be viewed on the CSO Internet site. These calendars can be e-mailed, posted or faxed on request.

Statistical Legislation


There is a very comprehensive general legal basis, at both national and EU level, governing the compilation of official statistics. The most important instruments are:

1.Statistics Act, 1993
2.Council Regulation (EC) No 322/97 on Community Statistics, i.e. the EU "Statistical Law".

Statistics Act, 1993

Irish statistics were compiled under the provisions of the Statistics Acts, 1926 and 1946 up until 1 November 1994 when the Statistics Act, 1993 came into operation.

The 1993 Statistics Act underpinned the statistical independence of the CSO on a statutory basis by providing that:

"The Director General shall have the sole responsibility for and be independent in the exercise of the functions of deciding-

(a) the statistical methodology and professional statistical standards used by the Office;
(b) the content of statistical releases and publications issued by the Office; and
(c) the timing and methods of dissemination of statistics compiled by the Office"

(Section 13, Statistics Act 1993)

The other principal features of the Statistics Act, 1993 are:

-the establishment of the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the post of Director General and the National Statistics Board on a statutory basis;
-reinforcement of the existing statutory confidentiality provisions for data collected by the CSO from survey respondents and other sources;
-CSO authority to co-ordinate the statistics produced by other public bodies;
-increased CSO powers to access administrative records for statistical purposes;
-provision for forms completed in the Census of Population conducted since the formation of the State to be accessed after 100 years (the returns for the 1901 and 1911 Censuses conducted under UK legislation are accessible in the National Archives);
-provision for anonymised micro data to be made available for research purposes.

The Act fully reflects the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics adopted by the UN Economic Commission for Europe in 1992.

In accordance with Section 8(c) of the Data Protection Act, 1988 any restrictions in that Act on the disclosure of personal data do not apply in the case of the CSO if it requests such disclosure as a requirement (other than for the Courts, Garda Síochána, Prison Administration, Ombudsman and Medical Records) under Section 30 of the Statistics Act, 1993.

Council Regulation (EC) No 322/97 on Community Statistics

EU Council Regulation 322/97 on Community Statistics lays down the organisational framework under which the Community’s statistical system should be implemented. It defines the procedures to be followed in regard to:

- the agreement of multi-annual and annual work programmes
- the arrangements for dissemination
- the statistical confidentiality regime at national and community levels.

In addition, it also requires that the production of Community statistics should be governed by the principles of impartiality, reliability, relevance, cost-effectiveness, statistical confidentiality and transparency. These principles enshrine in Community legislation internationally accepted best practice for the production of official statistics.

Statistical Liaison Groups

Formal liaison groups for consultation with users have been established. These groups include:

- Macro-Economic Liaison Group
- Census Liaison Group
- Energy Statistics Liaison Group
- Labour Market Statistics Liaison Group
- Business Statistics Liaison Group
- Earnings Statistics Liaison Group
- Agricultural Statistics Liaison Group

The primary purpose of the groups is to assess ongoing statistical activities in the relevant areas and to advise both the CSO and the National Statistics Board on emerging and new needs. The groups are chaired by the CSO and generally meet once or twice a year. Each has ten to fifteen experienced members, representatives of interests in the particular topics, nominated by Government Departments, state sponsored bodies, representative organisations, third level institutions and some individual experts.

Statistical Confidentiality

All information supplied to the CSO is treated as strictly confidential. The Statistics Act, 1993 sets stringent confidentiality standards: Information collected may be used only for statistical purposes, and no details that might be related to an identifiable person or business undertaking may be divulged to any other government department or body.

These national statistical confidentiality provisions are reinforced by the following EU legislation:

· Council Regulation (EC) No 1588/90 on the transmission of data subject to confidentiality to the Statistical Office of the European Communities (EUROSTAT);
· Council Regulation (EC) No 322/97 on Community Statistics;

for data collected for EU statistical purposes.

Further details are outlined in the CSO's Code of Practice on Statistical Confidentiality

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