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FOI Request: Administrative Data

Request

I have seen this page
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/the-national-statistics-standard/code-of-practice/statement-of-administrative-sources/index.html on the statement of administrative sources.

That page states:

"this Protocol [from the code of practice] requires all producers of official statistics to publish, in consultation with the National Statistician, a Statement of administrative sources that lists:

- the administrative systems they currently use to produce official statistics  
- information about other administrative sources that are not currently used for statistical purposes but  that have the potential to be so used
- the arrangements they have put in place to provide statistical staff with appropriate access to such sources; to take account of changes to such systems; to audit the quality of the administrative data used for statistical purposes; and to ensure the security of the resultant statistical processes."

Please send me the protocols for all departments (including ONS) in response to this request and let me know where they are published (ideally a url linking to each statement).

I assume that the statements will describe (as the link says)"the administrative and management sources that we currently use to produce official statistics, or that have the potential to be so used, differentiating between: those sources that we own and managed and those owned and managed by other organisations." If not, please supply the information for the ONS

Response

Official statistics published by the Office for National Statistics are based on two main sources – data gathered from statistical surveys, including the Census, and data extracted from other organisations’ administrative or management systems.  These administrative and management data will have been initially collected for purposes such as operational monitoring and analysis, policy development, analysis of the effect of policy changes, forecasting, resource allocation, answering Parliamentary Questions and Freedom of Information requests.

By using data which are already available within administrative or management systems, rather than collecting data afresh, we are able to limit the overall burden placed on data providers, and also avoid the costs of mounting dedicated data collection exercises. In addition, the information we extract from such systems often has the advantage of being more timely than statistical data and, when compared with data from surveys (and particularly sample surveys), can also deliver data with a greater breadth of coverage.

The UK Statistics Authority actively encourages public bodies to exploit administrative and management sources for statistical purposes. However the Authority recognises that the statistical advantages of such arrangements can only be fully realised if statisticians have appropriate access to such systems; if statistical purposes are reflected in the design, management, and development of such systems; and if adequate safeguards are put in place to ensure the professional integrity of any official statistics derived from them.

The Authority‘s main requirements are set out in the third Protocol attached to their Code of Practice for Official Statistics. Amongst other things, this Protocol requires all producers of official statistics to publish, in consultation with the National Statistician, a ‘Statement of Administrative Sources’ which lists:

  • the administrative systems they currently use to produce official statistics;

  • information about other administrative sources that are not currently used for statistical purposes but which have the potential to be so used;

  • the arrangements they have put in place to provide statistical staff with appropriate access such sources; to  take account of changes to such systems; to audit the quality of the administrative data used for statistical purposes; and to ensure the security of the resultant statistical processes.

This document, in conjunction with the spreadsheet detailing the Office for National Statistics’ statistical usage of other organisations’ administrative or management sources, forms the Office for National Statistics’ ‘Statement of Administrative Sources’.


Statistical usage of our own administrative or management sources:

The only management information owned by the Office for National Statistics that feeds into statistical products is the personnel information held on the Atlas System.  The main administrative purpose of this system is to hold Office for National Statistics information on Financials, HR (including the field force), procurement and expenses.

Various feeds of information go into Atlas; these include:

  • Payroll,

  • Field Information Management System (FIMS), and

  • Cost & Time System (CATS).

Reports from this system include:

  • COINS return to Treasury (Financial) - monthly

  • Cabinet Office sick return - quarterly.

  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) Public Sector Benchmarking - annual.

  • Treasury Benchmarking of back office functions - annual

  • Quarterly Public Sector Employment (QPSE) - quarterly

  • Senior Civil Service (SCS) survey - biannual

  • Annual Civil Service Employment Survey (ACSES) – annual


Statistical usage data used to produced Official Statistics:

ONS access a number of administrative data from other Government Departments. The Statement of Administrative Sources is produced twice a year and provides an record of all datasets accessed and used. The web address below can be followed to view the Excel spreadsheet that provides details of the various datasets used by ONS to produce Official Statistics. The current Statement was published in October 2014. The next version will be published (in the same location on the ONS website) in April 2015.

The ONS Statement of Administrative Sources is accessed on the web page link below: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/guide-method/the-national-statistics-standard/code-of-practice/statement-of-administrative-sources/statistical-usage-of-administrative-or-management-sources/index.html

Information about the Office for National Statistics’ governance arrangements for administrative or management sources

Arrangements for providing statistical staff (whether inside or outside the organisation) with access to administrative or management sources for statistical purposes:

Apart from internal management information, ONS only holds administrative information for statistical purposes.  Within ONS, access to administrative information is controlled by the relevant Information Asset Owner.  The control is implemented through controlled login to the ONS network with access controls placed on individual systems.

Outside ONS, access to administrative information is regulated by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.  Access is granted to individual researchers and projects under a Data Access Agreement which specifies the terms and conditions under which the information can be processed.  Such access is authorised by the Microdata Release Panel within ONS.

Administrative information that is received as a result of Information Sharing Orders (gained under s.47 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007) is restricted to only those allowed access by the regulation.

Arrangements for auditing the quality of the original source data:

Where administrative information is already held by ONS for statistical use, the quality of the source data is reassessed as part of the regular reviews of the wider statistical system that it is a part of.

For information that requires an Information Sharing Order the quality is tested early on in the process of gaining access.  It is assessed by our own staff to ensure it is of sufficient quality for the intended statistical outputs as part of the feasibility study before a formal request is submitted for the information to be made available to ONS.

Procedures for handling changes, and possible discontinuities, in the underlying source data.

Where possible time series are recalculated to allow a period of comparison if there is a change or discontinuity in the underlying source data.  Such events are always highlighted and described in any publication of the statistics.

Procedures for ensuring the security of the statistical processes which use administrative or management sources.

The ONS operates within a strong legal framework that provides safeguards for privacy.  This is provided by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, the Statistics of Trade Act 1947, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998. 

The ONS also aims to comply with the requirements identified by the Data Handling Review and the mandatory requirements stated in the Security Policy Framework. 

ONS also ensures that it has up to date and tested Business Continuity Plans in place to guard against the results of unforeseen threats to its statistical processes.

Statements of other government departments

I can confirm that the Office for National Statistics does not hold the Statement of Administrative Sources (52.5 Kb Word document) for other Government Departments, however they can be found in the links in the attached word document. The National Statistician's Guidance, Use of Administrative or Management Information, first published in 2009, makes clear that departments are expected to publish their statement of administrative sources (on their website) and advises as to its contents. Moreover, the preparation and publication of such a statement is part of the evidence submitted by an organisation that produces official statistics in the assessment of those statistics against the Code of Practice.

The guidance can be found here:

http://www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/national-statistician/ns-reports--reviews-and-guidance/national-statistician-s-guidance/use-of-administrative-or-management-information.pdf

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