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High quality for strong trust

All members of the European Statistical System are subject to peer reviews, incl. Eurostat, the national statistical systems of the Member States of the European Union (EU), and the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). They will be held by 2023. So far, the peer review teams have visited France, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, Denmark, as well as Eurostat. The peer reviews are going on according to the schedule. The next country whose statistical system will be reviewed is Austria. The visit for Bulgaria will end officially on Monday.


Users: We work well with NSI and trust the statistical data

Meetings with various stakeholders completed the fourth day of the Peer Review of the National Statistical System. The international review team talked both with the representatives of the bodies -producers of data, and the users – business and employers’ organisations, syndicates, media, academic community. The diverse profile of the participants in the discussions today contributed to a real picture of the cooperation of the National Statistical Institute with all groups that use statistical data in their work.

Reliability of data and trust in official statistics were in the focus of speeches. The participants in the meetings stressed that they trust the statistics produced and disseminated by NSI, and keep good contacts with the institute and its experts. The media representatives said that in the ocean of fake news the official statistics is an important benchmark for the processes going on in society. They expressed their satisfaction by the speed they get the required information, the opportunity for comparison with the other EU Member States and to have statisticians from NSI for interviewees. They want the final data from Census 2021 to be presented interactively and in detail on the Census website.

According to the employers' organizations and business associations, the necessary changes in the data provided by the companies are traditionally consulted and the NSI respects their opinion. The unions stressed that they could not do their job well without official statistics and expressed a desire to participate in technical groups that provide feedback on the work of the NSI, as well as to expand the scope of data received free of charge.

Representatives of the academic community shared that they are well acquainted with the NSI surveys, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the methodologies used by European statistics. However, the very fact that university teachers are involved in the preparation of students from 8th to 12th grade who participate in the International Olympiad in Statistics, and they are over 1000, speaks of the trust that the academic community has in the activities of the NSI.

At the beginning of the day, the institutions that provide data to the NSI talked about joint work and various aspects of cooperation.


The national statistical system - what's next

What are the strengths and weaknesses of cooperation within the National Statistical System? What will the statistics look like in a decade? What are the NSI’s plans for future development? These were the main topics in the discussions on the third day of the Peer Review of the National Statistical System in Bulgaria. In addition to NSI experts, teams from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Executive Environment Agency and the National Social Security Institute also took part in the talks. Administrative units of the three institutions produce agrostatistics, statistics on waste, social protection, pensions, accidents at work, etc. They send data directly to Eurostat.  

In three separate sessions, the statistical bodies presented their activities and views on what could be improved. They also shared their opinion on their cooperation with the NSI and the exchange of experience within the National Statistical System.

The NSI team presented how it implemented the recommendations of the peer review in 2015 and outlined the prospects for the coming years. A special discussion was devoted to administrative and new data sources.


NSI data seen through the prism of quality and information security

The quality and security of information at the NSI were the focus of the second day of the Peer Review of the National Statistical System in Bulgaria. These are some of the 16 principles set out in the European Statistics Code of Practice, which the NSI follows in the entire process of data collection, processing and dissemination. The implementation of these principles is also the basis for public confidence in official statistics.

NSI has introduced an Integrated Management System which ensures the quality of processes and information security. The institute is certified according to ISO 9001 and ISO/IEC 27001. The participants in the sessions today also discussed issues related to the methodologies of statistical surveys, the use of administrative data sources and the possibilities for modernization of the processes. 

Directors and heads of departments took part in the talks and at the end of the day the reviewers met with the young NSI employees – statisticians with up to 5 years of experience to hear their assessment for the work of the institute. Meetings with the other national authorities and a wide circle of stakeholders are forthcoming.


Start of the Peer review of the National Statistical System of Bulgaria

In the period from 28 March till 1 April 2022 the third in row Peer review of the National Statistical System (NSS) of Bulgaria will be held within its membership in the European Statistical system (ESS). All ESS members are subject to peer reviews, incl. Eurostat, the national statistical systems of the EU Member States, and of the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). The period when the peer reviews of the whole European Statistical system will be held is from 2021 by 2023.  

In each ESS member country, besides the national statistical office, between 3 and 6 other national authorities are also reviewed – bodies which also collect, produce and distribute official European statistics. In Bulgaria in the Third peer review besides the National Statistical Institute, also administrative units are included within the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment and Waters and The National Social Security Institute.   

The peer review is aimed at assessing the compliance of the national policies and practices in the statistics field with the principles of the European Statistics Code of Practice – a document which ensures the quality of the official data. The Code comprises 16 key principles which cover the institutional environment, the statistical processes and the statistical outputs, as well as a set of 84 indicators for assessment of the implemented practices and standards.

The methodology of the peer review is uniform for Eurostat and all ESS member countries and includes elements of audit. First, NSI and the selected other national authorities fill in a comprehensive self-assessment questionnaire and they submit documents for implementing the Code principles in their practice as evidence for their answers. The questionnaires and the documents are checked and analyzed by an expert team including 4 experts in statistics, audit and management, assigned by means of a special procedure by the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board (ESGAB). There is a Eurostat representative in each review team. After the initial assessment, the team visits the respective country where it carries out more exhaustive review and meets with a wide circle of stakeholders, incl. government, business, media, social partners, academia representatives, etc. Finally, the review team compiles a final report with recommendations, on which NSI elaborates a plan for further improvement actions in compliance with the recommendations.  

The peer review for Bulgaria is guided by Ms. Marjo Bruun, until recently Director General of the Statistics Office of Finland. Ms. Bruun was a member of the ESS Partnership Group in 2014 and 2015. She co-chaired the Task Force for ESS Vision 2.0 in 2014. She was a member of the Bureau of the Conference of European Statisticians and its Chair from 2016 till 2021.

The other team members are:

  • Kees Zeelenberg – he has been working for 30 years in the Statistics Office of the Netherlands. He has a degree in econometrics and a doctorate in economics, and is an author or co-author of more than 50 articles and books on econometrics and statistics. He has been Director of Methodology and Quality Department for long years.
  • Jordi del Bas – he is economist by education and deals with projects for development in the private sector by profession. He is senior accredited trainer in assessment to the Secretariat General of the European Commission. He has also worked as senior independent assessor for international organisations (European Commission, several UN and World Bank agencies) in more than 50 countries in the world.
  • Helena Ottosson – she has devoted her entire professional career to the European Union since Sweden joined it in 1995. Ms. Ottosson is a jurist by education, interested in languages. She had worked in the Court of the European Union as a jurist linguist for 10 years before moving to the European Commission and Eurostat. Now she is Head of the Legal Department of Eurostat.

Observer of the Peer Review in Bulgaria is Ms. Claudia Junker who is Head of Task Force "Peer Reviews and quality" at Eurostat.


Three other national statistical authorities of the Republic of Bulgaria will participate in the Peer review 2022 together with the NSI

The statistical authorities were selected according to two criteria.

The National Statistical Institute and three other national authorities (ONAs) will participate in the forthcoming Peer review of the European Statistical System (ESS). These are structural units of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the Ministry of Environment and Water and the National Social Security Institute. They are part of the National Statistical System (NSS) and play an important role in the production of European statistics.

The selection of the ONAs was made according to the Methodology for peer reviews, based on a combination of two criteria - quantitative and qualitative. The first one was the importance of European statistics, measured by a percentage threshold of producing European statistics, and the second one was an assessment of the importance of the statistical authority from the perspective of the NSI. An argument for the decision was the key role of these institutions in the country's economy, in the development of policies related to decarbonisation and the Green Deal, as well as in social reforms.


Eurostat goes under the microscope

Peer Review of Eurostat by the European Statistics Governance Advisory Board (ESGAB)

How does Eurostat comply with the 16 principles of the European Statistics Code of Practice (CoP)? The peer review conducted by the European Statistical Governance Advisory Board (ESGAB) between 22 June and 28 July, 2021 will try to answer this question. The experts of ESGAB will evaluate Eurostat with respect to its compliance with the Code of Practice as well as discuss future-oriented improvements of European statistics. A set of concrete recommendations will be the result, and form part of the final report to be published early 2022. Over the next two years, all national statistical institutes that are members of the European Statistical System (ESS) will be subject to such peer reviews.

“This time, we will pay special attention to the question of professional independence, the coordination role of Eurostat as well as all aspects of the Code related to modernisation”, remarked Aurel Schubert, the Chair of ESGAB, at the occasion of the launch of the peer review. “Ensuring the highest quality of European statistics is of paramount importance for the public trust in those statistics and their producers. Here, the CoP and the regular peer reviews play a crucial role. In times of Covid-19 also questions related to the - often innovative - solutions of Eurostat and the ESS to the statistical challenges of the crisis and the lessons for the future will be important topics of the review. ESGAB, as an independent expert advisory body, is well placed to discuss and evaluate these developments, help to draw the right conclusions and make relevant recommendations for the future direction of European statistics”, concluded Aurel Schubert.

The peer review comprises several elements:

  • a self-assessment of Eurostat based on a questionnaire,
  • several (virtual) meetings with representatives of the most important stakeholder groups (like EU Commission users, research institutions, media, European Central Bank, international organisations, the European Data Protection Supervisor, or the European Statistics Advisory Committee (ESAC)), and also with Eurostat staff and senior management, and
  • a final report to the European Parliament and Council of the European Union.

The report is expected to be published in January 2022. The previous peer reviews of Eurostat had taken place in 2007 and 2014.