This all started with a tweet that had this newspaper clipping:
This quickly made its rounds around the world and understandably since Tanzania will be hosting this year’s Open Government Partnership Africa Forum.
Looking at the comments that came out of this (and having been interviewed by the media many times and my stories always changed for the sexier version), I decided to read this Statistics Bill, 2013 that was passed by the Tanzanian Parliament.
Here is what I think.
This bill is fantastic!
Every single government in the world has a right to constitute a body that is responsible for its data collection dissemination and publication. This bill goes to institutionalize that body (NBS) and to define its role. The Kenya National Bureau of statistics, like all other government agencies also went through this process in the Statistics bill, 2006.
I honestly do not find fault in this bill, in fact, like any other institutional document, I find this to be in order.
- This act is aimed at the establishing the National Bureau of Statistics and the statistics governing body to provide for the coordination of the national statistical system.
- The oath of secrecy goes to protect some government information and secrets that generally, for any government should be protected. This is not new and this exists in all bills that i have ready. Every government has this.
- This bill actually encourages working together of the NBS with other government institutions and private agencies by joint collections and providing that they develop and maintain a comprehensive national databank by using sectoral data banks developed by the various agencies.
- The journalist in the above article seemed to have an issue with the definition of the official statistics which according to this bill are statistics produced by:
- the beureau
- government institutions
- The very surprisingly interesting thing is the definition of an ‘agency’ – these include research institutions, non – governmental organizations, development partners or any other user or producer of statistics.
- Although this is subject to the approval of the bureau, this is possibly the best provision that I have seen anywhere.
- So, contrary to what the journalist published, this bill actually makes provisions for those out of government.
- This bill also ensures data protection in the disclosure of unidentified information by insisting that all data must be anonymized before publication and all individual forms and returns destroyed within 5 years.
- In this bill also, are the plans by the government to fund its own data collection through appropriations by parliament. Although they are open to donations, looking at the ordering of their funds and resources to the bureau, this comes in last (if ordering is anything to go by.)
- All institutions have penalty regulations for those that do offenses or those with gross misconduct. This is no different for government institutions and as the official carrier of national statistics, you do not want your staff to go unpunished for misrepresentation or miscommunication of statistics that might have heavy economic, social or security implications.
All in all, after reading the bill, the one thing that is clear is, do not trust every opinion you read. Create your own.