Availability of Information
The CSO disseminates a wide range of statistics (see http://www.cso.ie/en/statistics/a-zofreleasespublications/). These statistics are copyright, but may be quoted provided the source is acknowledged. The Office also routinely provides information to the public in relation to its functions, activities, statistical methodology, contact points, etc. The FOI Act is designed to allow public access to information held by public bodies which is not routinely available.
The CSO compiles a wide range of statistics to meet national (i.e. Government, business, researchers, general public, etc.), EU and other international requirements. The bulk of the statistics produced are now mandatory under EU statistical legislation.
Most of the information required for this purpose is collected directly by the CSO from households and businesses. The information is generally collected on a sample basis to minimise the statistical reporting burden on the community. The samples used for this purpose must be representative and a high response is necessary to ensure that the derived results are accurate and reliable.
Data is also extracted from the administrative systems of public bodies for statistical purposes that avoid the need for the CSO to make duplicating requests from persons, households or business in direct statistical inquiries.
Legal Basis for Statistical Inquiries
The Statistics Act, 1993 provides the legal basis for all statistical inquiries, both statutory (i.e. obligatory) and voluntary, undertaken by the CSO.
The Act provides a statutory guarantee that identifiable information collected in the course of CSO inquiries will be treated as strictly confidential and will be used only for statistical purposes.
The CSO assigns the highest priority to ensuring that information relating to identifiable survey respondents is never revealed. Only aggregate results are published.
The five-yearly Census of Population is the only statutory household survey conducted by the CSO. The other household surveys, principally the QNHS (approximately 39,000 households each quarter), are conducted on a voluntary basis. Other than the Quarterly Travel Inquiry, conducted by post, household data is directly collected by CSO Interviewers who carry official identification
Statutory Statistical Inquiries
The majority of CSO surveys are voluntary. For some critical statistical inquiries, principally in the business statistics area, a Statutory Order under Section 25 of the Statistics Act, 1993 is made, requiring persons or undertakings to provide particular information to the CSO. Participation is compulsory under law in these statutory inquiries. The current statutory inquiries and corresponding Statutory Orders are available on the CSO website.
The CSO conducts monthly, quarterly and annual surveys covering all sectors of the economy. Other than the annual Census of Industrial Production and the annual Census of Building and Construction, these business surveys are conducted on a sample basis to minimise the statistical reporting burden on the business sector. Particular efforts are made to minimise the data demands on small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). However, it is essential that SMEs are represented at an appropriate level in CSO inquiries to ensure that their major contribution to the growth of the economy is monitored and reflected in the national statistics. Newly established businesses and a rotating proportion of existing enterprises are covered in ongoing special inquiries to ensure that the basic data (e.g. name, address, legal status and number of persons engaged) held on the CSO Business Register is up-to-date so that representative samples are selected.
Business inquiries are conducted by post. The covering letter makes it clear whether or not the inquiry is statutory. It also specifies the latest date for the return of data. CSO contact points are specified for assistance if a business has difficulty in understanding the data requirements. Best estimates are accepted if exact information is not readily available.
Business inquiry data can also be lodged using the CSO Secure Deposit Box – this is a facility to which registered external providers can gain secure access using a web browser and lodge files and/or text to the appropriate CSO survey area.
The timeliness and accuracy of CSO business statistics depends on the promptness, level and quality of responses to its inquiries. The following is the usual procedure in cases where a business has not responded to a statistical inquiry by the specified date:
For statutory inquires, the CSO does everything possible to encourage businesses to respond and to facilitate them in meeting the survey requirements (e.g. acceptance of best estimates). A non-respondent is referred to the CSO Enforcement Unit only as a last resort. A warning letter is then issued to the company Secretary or proprietor advising that if a return is not received by the appointed date, the case will be forwarded to the Chief State Solicitor who may initiate legal proceedings under Section 36 of the Statistics Act, 1993.
Under the Statistics Act, 1993 it is an offence for a person or undertaking to:
Information on Legal Penalties for a person or undertaking found guilty of an offence under the Act is available on the CSO website.
Dissemination and Customer Services Arrangements
CSO statistics are disseminated in a variety of ways. Details of the customer services (including the social media policy and access arrangements for people with disabilities) provided by the Office are set out on the CSO website at http://www.cso.ie/en/aboutus/contactus/.
Research Access to Microdata Records
Under the provisions of Section 34 of the Statistics Act, 1993, the CSO may provide access to microdata files under strict conditions to ensure that the integrity and confidentiality of data collected under the Act is maintained. Details of research access to Microdata Records are available at http://www.cso.ie/en/aboutus/lgdp/csodatapolicies/dataforresearchers/.