Govt: Zero tolerance over fabrication of statistics

Updated: 2013-01-09 06:58

By Fan Feifei (HK Edition)

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Task force set up to investigate reports of malpractices by census officers

The Commissioner for Census and Statistics Lily Ou-yang said the department holds "zero tolerance" toward fabrication of data and has set up a task force to investigate news reports of malpractice by census officers. The reports said that frontline officers carrying out census surveys have fabricated answers in a way that may have led to underestimation of Hong Kong's jobless rate for a decade.

"Our department adopts a zero-tolerance attitude against forgery. Statistical workers must take pride in their professionalism and reliability of their data. To uphold the public trust in the department and our reputation on the international front, our department has set up a task force to look into the matter comprehensively," she said.

An independent person from the Statistics Advisory Board will be invited to join the inquiry. The investigation report will be submitted to the secretary for financial services and the treasury, she went on.

Meanwhile, Ou-yang said the department has adopted three measures to prevent forgery by frontline census officers. She has met with staff representatives of census officers to emphasize the importance of professionalism and accuracy in the work. She said the new measures will strengthen the review checks on statistical data and any suspected inaccuracies will be reported to the assistant commissioner for follow up. Surprise spot-checks will also be conducted.

Speaking to the media before an Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said he attached importance to survey statistics. "The government and I are highly concerned about every aspect of the society, (and) the survey statistics' completeness and accuracy, so we will launch an internal investigation and follow-up the media report".

The census department's data review procedures and quality assurance system are based on international standards and practices, said the commissioner for census and statistics, adding the reliability and accuracy of statistics is secured constantly by making reference to related statistical data from a macro-economic perspective.

She said reviews of other data show the trend of the unemployment rate is in line with that of other major social and economic indicators, such as wages, job vacancies, and unemployment cases handled under the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme.

Recent news reports charged census officers have made up answers and reduced the number of questions they asked to save time and to improve the appearance of their work efficiency. The report alleged that the truncated questions led to underestimation of the number of unemployed in Hong Kong for about 10 years.

Professor Paul Yip from the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at the University of Hong Kong expressed concern that if the unemployment rate is not accurate, it could affect the formulation of some social policies based on this data.

fanfeifei@chinadailyhk.com

(HK Edition 01/09/2013 page1)