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Country Experience: Italy:  Cooperation between the National Statistical Institute of Italy (ISTAT) and the National Customs Authority, in particular on data quality (ch. 5)

Box V.5 Cooperation between the National Statistical Institute of Italy (ISTAT) and the National Customs Authority, in particular on data quality

Institutional arrangements – establishment of a committee. The National Statistical Institute of Italy (ISTAT), as responsible agency, has established and maintained long-lasting institutional cooperation with the National Customs Authority. From an operational point of view, a dedicated committee, composed of members of each organization and chaired by ISTAT, oversees all the technical, IT and methodological issues related to the successful data transmission of customs data.  In addition, the Committee takes on board and examines any issues related to changes in national regulations, EU-level regulations and customs procedures as far as they may affect quality and timeliness in the production and dissemination of external trade figures. The Committee then informs the relevant superior bodies if some action is required in terms of changes in the national legislation or application procedures. In particular, ISTAT is continuously informed by the Customs Authorities of any changes in customs data structure and procedures.

Cooperation on data quality. The provision of high-quality customs data has always represented a key issue in the institutional and technical cooperation between ISTAT and the National Customs Authority. Up to now, the National Customs Authority has supported timeliness in data transmission while performing only formal quality checks on customs and statistical variables. On the other hand, ISTAT has developed a sound methodology for outlier detection and is regularly engaged in data quality checks performed automatically or under the direct supervision of trade experts at the product level. The National Customs Authority has recently expressed its strong interest in cooperating with ISTAT in order to improve the quality of customs data for statistical purposes, under the institutional umbrella of the National Statistical System. This initiative, which implies stronger cooperation on technical and methodological grounds with full respect for national confidentiality rules, was welcomed by ISTAT from both technical and cost-efficiency perspectives. Given the sharp decline in human resources devoted to the foreign trade statistics production process all over the world, such cooperation can be regarded as offering an opportunity to devote the limited amount of available human resources to more value-added quality checks by moving downward (to the level of the data collection and preliminary validation process) more standardized inconsistency and data quality checks. 

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