According to the recent Organisational Development Exercise (OD Exercise) report released by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB), a number of statistical activities are carried out by various agencies on ad-hoc basis has resulted in data gaps and inconsistencies, duplication of efforts, waste of limited resources, and respondent burden.

Currently, ministries and agencies are responsible for collecting their own sector-specific data for policy and planning purposes.

The Bhutan statistical system review revealed that the current practices couldn’t be categorised as either “decentralised” or “centralised” system. “It is rather mixed and lies between this two systems. Through necessary discussion, it was clear that the approach is not intended to be fully centralised but still continue to follow mixed approach,” the report stated.

NSB’s OD Exercise was carried out on July 4 2017 for more than two weeks by a team comprising of five members from works and human settlement ministry, gross national happiness commission, RCSC, and NSB.

Taking into account the existing situation and gap, the report recommended developing clear guidelines and strategies for data reporting between gewogs, dzongkhags, ministries or agencies, and NSB, to focus on the above mentioned core mandates (products and services), minimize uptake of ad-hoc works, to develop comprehensive policy on national statistics, and to enact statistics bill.

The review also found that there was a need for clarity on some of the roles after the breakdown of the core product and services of the organisation revealed that NSB has been burdened carrying out non-core product and service. “This has to some extent, impacted on delivery of its core mandate of developing standards and compliance, building statistical capability in agencies to generate demand for data and defining clarity in the roles and responsibilities.”

The report suggested certain reports like thematic analysis report, ad-hoc survey and sectorial survey report such as integrity assessment survey report, mortality report, and nutrition survey report as best when carried out by respective agencies.

While going by the mandate, NSB should be responsible for all primary national data and take lead role in the surveys like RNR census, labour force survey and national health survey as it is important that quality and reliability of the data is not compromised.

The report stated that the existing system reveals that overall there is poor coordination of statistical activities within the government, lack of clear “data reporting” system, limited mechanism for data repository, information dissemination, and duplication of system.

The report said that there is a need to institutionalise a robust parenting system. NSB as the sole survey clearance house to produce quality data, develop national data repository or ‘one stop shop’ for statistical products and services, and establish communication link among the divisions for clarity and collaborative approach.

The report recommended that government must keep aside budget for conducting national survey and census to achieve timeliness and without having to depend on donor. This is because except for recurrent cost and a few activities, almost all major survey activities of the government are conducted through support of donor agencies, which, according to the report, affects timeliness and independent data production.

Total of Nu 92.244 million was allocated to the NSB for the 11th Plan. The NSB has received a total of Nu 215 million over the last four fiscal years, of which Nu 42.008 million was not spent. This, the report said, was mainly due to population and housing census that had to be conducted in the middle of the fiscal year due to budget constraints.

Yangchen C Rinzin