Australian Bureau of Statistics Management of Business Providers

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1 Purpose Austraian Bureau of Statistics Management of Business Providers 1 The principa objective of the Austraian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in respect of business providers is to impose the owest oad possibe whie meeting its obigations to provide Government and the community with a high quaity officia statistica service. 2 The ABS recognises its reiance on providers in undertaking our core business. Business providers are managed within an overa strategy referred to as Tota Approach Management (TAM). This strategy aims to minimise the impact on providers whie sti achieving an acceptabe eve of compiance with ABS requests for information to ensure reiabe statistica estimates are obtained. The emphasis, both within this poicy and within the TAM approach, is on buiding the reationship between the ABS and its business providers, through an environment of trust and cooperation. This is consistent with the ABS Corporate Pan. 3 The cooperation of providers is essentia in achieving ABS core business and management of their capabiities and expectations are essentia factors in the coection of required data. In acknowedgement of the pressures paced on providers in the provision of information, initiatives introduced by the ABS have incuded the Statistica Cearing House and the Business Provider Reations Poicy Committee. Both act to diminish, where possibe, the impact of coecting data from businesses. 4 In recognition of the importance of managing our reationship with providers the ABS aims to minimise demands made. This is achieved through a range of measures incuding managing the number of approaches to providers in respect to their data; providing assistance if difficuty is being experienced; atering the mode for which data can be provided and in some cases accepting key data items (KDI). The importance of deaing with providers in a respectfu way is stressed to a staff who have potentia to contact providers. 5 At times when non compiance is encountered, the ABS sometimes uses the powers given in its egisation to obtain the required information. This is ony done as a ast resort when a measures to assist the provider have been exhausted. Prior to this point, contact with the provider is conducted to determine what difficuties they may be experiencing in providing the required information and to convince them of the importance of compying by stressing the uses to which it is put in government poicy formuation. 6 Effective management of business providers: owers the rea costs to businesses in providing statistica information; minimises the need to resort to compusory powers; improves the perception businesses and governments have of the ABS and its functions; owers the costs to the ABS invoved in obtaining statistica information by reducing contact with providers and the eve of non compiance measures which need to be impemented;

2 improves the quaity and timeiness of the statistica information provided to the ABS; and strengthens reationships between the ABS and its providers which are beneficia to the business of both parties. 7 A major initiative of the ABS since 1995, recognising the demands made on such businesses by government authorities, has been to minimise provider oad. Load was reduced by 33% between 1995 and Legisation 8 The Austraian Bureau of Statistics has a responsibiity under the Austraian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 (ABS Act) to "coect, compie, anayse and disseminate statistics and reated information". In order to fufi this responsibiity, the Census and Statistics Act 1905 (CSA) empowers the Austraian Statistician to "coect such statistica information... as he or she considers appropriate". 9 Section 6 of the ABS Act requires that each new proposa for the coection of information for statistica purposes be aid before both Houses of Pariament, uness the proposa is for the coection of information on a vountary basis. 10 Another primary responsibiity of the Austraian Statistician, as set out in the ABS Act, is to ensure that particuar regard is given to "the avoidance of dupication in the coection by officia bodies of information for statistica purposes... [and]... the maximum possibe utiization, for statistica purposes, of information... avaiabe to officia bodies" in order to minimise reporting oad. This is being put into effect through the operations of the Statistica Cearing House and through the greater use of administrative by-product data. Deegations and Authorisations 11 Some deaings with providers require persons in positions which hod appropriate deegations to undertake the task. An exampe of this is when Notices of Direction (NODs) are issued in cases of non compiance. For business coections, these require the Assistant Statistician, Integrated Coections Branch (ICB) to give authorisation. 12 In regard to requests for exemption from business surveys, the deegation ies with the Assistant Statistician, ICB for most business coections for a types of exemptions. Poicies 13 The foowing poicies provide guidance regarding business provider management issues. Deveopment/Review Stage 14 Before proceeding with detaied investigations into new statistica coections, Branch Heads in Centra Office, and Regiona Directors in the case of State-specific coections, shoud ensure that: the users' needs for the data justify the coection and the range of data items Invoved; statistics suitabe for users' needs are not avaiabe from some other source;

3 the required data cannot be produced with ess provider oad by modifying an existing coection rather than instituting a new coection (incuding the possibiity of using a sub-sampe of an existing coection); checks are made whether an existing data coection can be eiminated or reduced in size or content as new data requirements of users indicate a shift in their needs or priorities; and it is not possibe to eiminate a data item because the same or a simiar data item is coected in another coection. 15 To reduce demand on business, administrative by-product data shoud be used in preference to direct coection to meet statistica objectives wherever possibe. An exampe of this is the use of Austraian Taxation Office (ATO) administrative by-product data. If this is not achievabe, the use of common reporting formats between the ABS and other organisations shoud be encouraged. 16 A proposas for new coections and significant changes to existing coections must be assessed in terms of the provider oad that wi resut, and must be referred to the Economic Statistics Strategy Coordination Committee (ESSCC) and the Statistica Cearing House (SCH) for cearance. Survey Frame 17 Maintenance of a high quaity frame (in terms of sizing information, industry, coverage eves, minimum dupication and defunct units) is important as it heps keep overa sampe sizes to a minimum. Use of out of date or inaccurate information on contacts and structure can ead to a significant degree of annoyance among businesses, especiay when they have taken efforts to notify the ABS of such changes. It aso eads to inefficient use of ABS resources. Survey Design 18 The design of surveys has a significant impact on provider oad, both in tota and distribution terms. Because it invoves compex methodoogica issues such as optima sampe size, stratification, overap and rotation contro and estimation strategies, Statistica Services Branch (SSB) shoud be activey consuted during this phase. 19 The design of coections must incude specific consideration of provider oad for sma businesses. For periodic sampe coections, sampes shoud be designed so that a proportion of businesses in the smaer sizes wi be reguary rotated out, so that, wherever possibe, a sma business shoud not be in a particuar survey for more than 3 years. Sampe design shoud take account of the high reative cost for sma businesses to compete statistica forms. 20 A coection forms must be deveoped and tested in accordance with ABS guideines and must be approved by Economic Standards and Cassifications Section, the reevant Business Statistics Centre and the Assistant Statistician ICB. 21 Coections must not be conducted more frequenty than is appropriate to meet the justified needs of users for the resuting statistics.

4 Data Content and Definition 22 Provider oad can be minimised by imiting the amount of information sought from seected businesses and defining each data item in a way that is easiy understood and readiy avaiabe from business records. 23 An expanation must be given to providers of the reasons for which data are being coected. 24 Coections must incude a standard question on the time taken which shoud be paced at the back of the questionnaire. This question wi be used to measure and monitor provider oad. Coection Methodoogy 25 A staff invoved in business statistica coections shoud fufi their responsibiities as outined in the Business Surveys Charter (the Charter). Copies of the Charter shoud be made freey avaiabe to providers and a staff invoved in business statistica coections. Providers are sent a copy of the Charter when they are seected into coections as a new provider. To ensure its reevance, the ICB is responsibe for reguar review and update of the Business Surveys Charter and the Business Provider Reations Poicy Committee (BPRPC) signs off changes. 26 Wherever practicabe, a affected providers shoud be informed in advance of any major changes to the detais and frequency of the data to be suppied so that they can impement any changes necessary to their record keeping systems. Where practica, businesses which are new seections to a survey shoud be contacted before the actua coection phase to undergo a basic induction process. 27 In order to minimise provider oad, requests for information made by different coections of the same provider need to be coordinated. For arge businesses, processes wi be put in pace to aow different requests to be combined. For smaer businesses, overap between different sampe coections shoud be minimised were possibe. Consideration wi be given to samping options which wi aow 'hoidays' for sma businesses once they have participated in ABS coections for a ength of time. 28 Where practica, a providers to a survey shoud be made aware that statistica information is avaiabe free-of-charge on the website and that additiona data can be made avaiabe for a charge. Intensive Foow Up 29 Many providers first experience of the direct persona contact with staff of the ABS is during intensive foow up (IFU). It is therefore a significant determinant of those providers' impressions of the ABS. As IFU forms a arge eement of the contact ABS has with providers, a strong customer focus shoud be pursued in this area of contact. The purpose of IFU is to gain the cooperation of the provider in returning data to the ABS. A poicies and procedures emphasise this approach, with the egisative powers of the ABS to direct a provider to compy with requests for information being used ony as a ast resort. 30 A record of a provider contact is kept in the Provider Integration Management System (PIMS) to ensure records of prior interactions with providers are avaiabe when subsequent contact occurs.

5 31 Best practice can be assured if the foowing actions are undertaken: there is reguar review of the nature and extent of efforts to advise providers of the purposes of the coections; and empirica investigations into the effectiveness of IFU processes and practices are continued. Query Action 32 The impact of query action on provider oad shoud not be underestimated. To minimise this: query action shoud be in proportion to the potentia effects reporting errors may have on the important statistica aggregates produced by the coection; editing and processing systems are to be organised to minimise the number of foow-up contacts with providers, consistent with obtaining good quaity estimates; and information on errors shoud be used to address systematic probems causing these errors (eg poor questionnaire design). Compaints 33 Compaints are concerns expressed by providers about their reationship with the ABS. They may incude, for exampe, compaints about: communication with the ABS (incuding etters and teephone conversations); provider oad (number of surveys they are in, compexity of data requirements, frequency of surveys); cost of providing information; timing of surveys; and/or confidentiaity of the data they provide. 34 Many providers express concerns about their participation in ABS surveys at one time or another. These are ony ogged as compaints when the concern is: expressed in a etter or emai (which may be a separate correspondence or attached to a survey form); written on a form in the comments box. Comments written on areas of the form outside image areas cannot currenty be identified; or given over the teephone, when the provider is not satisfied with the response provided by the interviewer and asks for further action, such as to speak to a supervisor or for a written response. 35 Because compaints may be subject to ater review or even ega processes, it is very important that accurate records are kept of the compaints handing process.

6 Exemptions 36 Many of the compaints from business providers incude a request for exemption from ABS surveys. As a genera rue, exemptions are not granted to businesses participating in surveys conducted under the CSA. This is because the ABS uses scientificay designed probabiity sampes which ensure that the estimates pubished are unbiased and of a specified accuracy. Non-response of any type can cause bias if nonrespondents are different to respondents. The ABS must therefore insist on high response rates by not granting exemptions simpy at the request of participating businesses. However, there are some circumstances where exemptions may be possibe. 37 Exemptions to ABS surveys wi ony be granted under "exceptiona circumstances". Exceptiona circumstances incude a sma business which has compained about providing data in a particuar survey for more than three years or is experiencing some emergency situation such as the provider having a severe iness. Exemptions shoud ony be granted after the procedures for granting exemptions have been stricty foowed. 38 Exemption records must aso be carefuy maintained to ensure that data is not requested from units granted an exemption, and to provide management information on the number of businesses excuded from each cyce of a coection. Refusas 39 At various times during intensive foow-up and data coection, a business may refuse to provide information for ABS surveys. There are many reasons for this and it is the responsibiity of ABS staff to convince providers to report their information when requested either via form or teephone. Every effort is made to convince providers to cooperate in providing the required information incuding detaiing the uses to which the data wi be put, making offers of assistance, and accepting key data items. 40 If a provider sti continues to refuse to suppy data after standard foow up and refusa procedures have been undertaken, prosecution is sometimes appropriate and can be considered. To commence this process, a Notice of Direction (NoD) is issued to the provider by the Assistant Statistician, ICB (on behaf of the Austraian Statistician) directing them to provide the required data. This is ony done as a ast resort as every effort shoud be made by ABS staff prior to this to encourage cooperation by providers. Prosecution, if considered appropriate, is recommended in consutation with Secretariat Section and is undertaken by the Commonweath Director of Pubic Prosecutions (CDPP). Measuring and Monitoring Provider Load 41 To monitor the impementation of provider management poicy, assessments of provider oad appicabe to a specific coection shoud be made: in the initia deveopment phase of a new coection; as part of any major redeveopment of an existing coection; and when the coection is being conducted. 42 Data from these assessments shoud be used to oad estimates of actua and projected oad to the Coection Management System (CMS). Provider oad data for each coection cyce needs to be dissected by form type and size of business (micro, sma and other businesses).

7 43 Data oaded to the CMS wi be used to compie tabes on provider oad and are provided to BPRPC annuay for consideration. The ABS is required to measure provider oad imposed on an annua basis, and pubish the estimates in the Annua Report. Detais of new initiatives taken to reduce business provider oad wi aso be pubished in the Annua Report. 44 New initiatives which potentiay have significant benefits to providers shoud be activey pursued by reevant service and coection areas. Among these are: greater use of eectronic data capture; extending key provider management; impementation of 'a of Government' reporting (specificay standard business reporting); providing mechanisms for dependent source feedback to the business register (Inteframe); and using other sources to identify required changes on the business register and improve benchmarking information. 45 To enabe the effect of this poicy on individua providers to be assessed and monitored, historica indicators wi be maintained against units on the Business Register as a measure of their participation in ABS coections. These indicators wi be used to reguary review changes in the distribution of the oad on providers. Other Commonweath Coections 46 The ABS has a roe to pay in minimising the oad on businesses imposed by statistica coections of other Commonweath agencies. The Statistica Cearing House is a primary mechanism for achieving this.

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