South Africa: Report on Observance of Standards and Codes(ROSC)—Data Module

The Money and Banking Division of the Research Department of the South African Reserve Bank plans to conduct a review of its entire time series database following the implementation of new bank reporting structures in January 2001. This is a time-consuming process, and the release of a comprehensively revised time series structure, incorporating balance-sheet information with a monthly frequency, is not expected before the end of 2003. Review of the composition of “other assets” and “other liabilities” and to reclassify are needed.


The Money and Banking Division of the Research Department of the South African Reserve Bank plans to conduct a review of its entire time series database following the implementation of new bank reporting structures in January 2001. This is a time-consuming process, and the release of a comprehensively revised time series structure, incorporating balance-sheet information with a monthly frequency, is not expected before the end of 2003. Review of the composition of “other assets” and “other liabilities” and to reclassify are needed.

I. Introduction

1. The data dissemination module of this Report on Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC) provides a summary of South Africa’s practices on the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of the data categories specified in the IMF’s SDDS, and of the practices on the provision of advance release calendars for these categories. It is complemented by an assessment of the quality of national accounts, prices, government finance, monetary, and balance of payments statistics using the experimental Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF) being developed by the IMF’s Statistics Department. In addition, the mission was asked to assess elements of employment statistics within the framework of national accounts. This assessment is based on information (data and metadata) provided to the Statistics Department prior to and during a staff mission as well as publicly available information.

2. Section II includes an overview of the SDDS and an assessment of South Africa’s data dissemination practices against the Standard. A summary assessment of the quality of the principal macroeconomic statistical datasets, following the dataset-specific assessment frameworks that were developed by the Statistics Department, is presented in Section III. Section IV provides staff recommendations to achieve further improvements in the quality of South Africa’s statistics. The report also contains an Appendix which summarizes the views of a cross-section of users of South Africa’s macroeconomic statistics.

II. Data Dissemination Practices and the Special Data Dissemination Standard

A. Overview of the SDDS

3. South Africa’s data dissemination practices are assessed against the IMF’s SDDS.2 This is a “best practice” standard. It covers four sectors of the economy (real, fiscal, financial, and external) as well as population, and identifies four dimensions (data, access, integrity, and quality) of data dissemination. For each of these dimensions, the Standard prescribes two to four monitorable elements or good practices that can be observed, or monitored, by the users of statistics (see Box 1). However, the IMF’s monitoring of the Standard as authorized by the IMF’s Board of Executive Directors is limited to the dimensions of data (coverage, periodicity, and timeliness) and access (advance release calendar). It should also be noted that the SDDS is a disclosure standard, that is, it focuses on encouraging the authorities to provide information to users, including information that will enable users to assess the data. The SDDS itself does not aim to assess the quality of data for any specific or predetermined use.

B. Current Dissemination Practices

4. South Africa has subscribed to the SDDS since August 2, 1996 and started posting its metadata on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board on September 27, 1996. South Africa has been in observance of the SDDS specifications for the coverage, periodicity and timeliness of the data, and for the dissemination of advance release calendars since September 18, 2000. The National Summary Data Page and the Data Template on International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity were hyperlinked to the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board on April 24, 1997 and September 1, 2000, respectively.

5. The three institutions responsible for the compilation and dissemination of the SDDS data categories are the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), the National Treasury (S ANT), and Statistics South Africa (Stats SA). The SARB has responsibility for disseminating data on national accounts, the analytical accounts of the banking sector, the analytical accounts of the central bank, general government operations, central government operations, central government debt, interest rates, exchange rates, share-price indices, balance of payments, the international investment position, and the template on international reserves and foreign currency liquidity. The SANT is responsible for compiling and disseminating data on the national budget (budgetary central government operations). Stats SA compiles and disseminates data on the national accounts, the manufacturing production index, price indices, labor market, and population. In addition, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) is responsible for compilation and dissemination of data on merchandise trade.

6. The authorities provide access to these data through a variety of publication and internet web sites:

Data Dimension: Coverage, Periodicity, and Timeliness

7. Table 1 compares South Africa’s data dissemination practices with the data dimension (coverage, periodicity, and timeliness) of the SDDS. South Africa meets the data dimension for all data categories, except for employment, unemployment, and debt guaranteed by central government. Since March 2001, the employment data based on the business register are no longer being issued as “official” employment data. With the objective to improve employment data, the authorities have revised the employment survey and have also introduced a new labor force survey. Pending full analysis of these surveys, employment data derived from these two sources are being disseminated in two discussion papers on “Comparative Labour Statistics.” Nevertheless, the National Summary Data Page continues to disseminate employment data based on the business register from the discussion papers.

Table 1

South Africa: Overview of Current Practices Regarding Coverage, Periodicity, and Timeliness of Data Compared to the Special Data Dissemination Standard

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Note: Periodicity and timeliness: (D)daily; (W)weekly or with a lag of no more than one week from the reference data or the closing of the reference week; (M)monthly or with a lag of no more than one month; (Q)quaterly or with a lag of no more than one quarter; (A) annually; and (…)not applicable, as these are widely available from other published sources.

8. Regarding unemployment and debt guaranteed by the central government, South Africa is taking the entitled flexibility option on periodicity and timeliness.3

9. The periodicity and timeliness of wages and earnings, consumer price index, general government operations, analytical accounts of the banking system sector, analytical accounts of the central bank, and merchandise trade, exceed those prescribed by the SDDS (see Table 1).

Access Dimension

10. Advance release calendars giving at least one-quarter ahead notice of approximate release dates, and at least a one-week ahead notice of the precise release dates, are disseminated on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board web site, as well as on respective agency’s web site as listed in paragraph 6. Notices to this effect appear in The Monthly Release of Selected Data of the SARB and in the statistical releases of Stats SA.

11. Data are released simultaneously to all interested parties, generally on the Internet web sites of the relevant agencies, and on South Africa’s National Summary Data Page (

Integrity Dimension

12. The SDDS requires the disclosure of information on laws, regulations, decrees, etc., that govern the collection, compilation, and/or dissemination of data, as well as the confidentiality of the data collected. The terms and conditions under which official statistics are compiled and disseminated in South Africa are available to the public, in electronic and nonelectronic formats, and they provide a legal framework that supports the integrity of the statistical system.

Dimensions and Elements of the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS)

The SDDS prescribes the following practices under each of the identified dimensions:

Data dimension (coverage, periodicity and timeliness)

  • the dissemination of 18 data categories, including component detail, covering the four main macroeconomic statistical categories, with prescribed periodicity and timeliness.

Access dimension

  • the dissemination of advance release calendars providing at least a one-quarter ahead notice of approximate release dates, and at least a one-week ahead notice of the precise release dates; and

  • the simultaneous release of data to all users.

Integrity dimension

  • the dissemination of the terms and conditions under which official statistics are produced and disseminated;

  • the identification of internal government access to data before release;

  • the identification of ministerial commentary on the occasion of statistical release; and

  • the provision of information about revision and advance notice of major changes in methodology,

Quality dimension

  • the dissemination of documentation on statistical methodology and sources used in preparing statistics; and

  • dissemination of component detail and/or additional data series that make possible cross-checks and checks of reasonableness.

Subscribers are required:

  • to post descriptions of their data dissemination practices (metadata) on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board. Summary methodologies, which describe data compilation practices in some detail, are also disseminated on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board.

  • to maintain an Internet web site, referred to as the National Summary Data Page, which contains the actual data described in the metadata, and to which the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board is electronically linked.

At its March 29, 2000 meeting on the Third Review of the Data Standard Initiatives, the Executive Board of IMF approved the incorporation of a new SDDS data category on external debt. The transition period for implementing this data category expires in March 2003. Directors also confirmed the transition period for data on the international investment position to expire on December 31, 2001 and approved the timeliness to be of a maximum of nine months.

As a result of this meeting, IMF staff also began monitoring observance of the standard through subscribers’ National Summary Data Pages maintained on the Internet. Monitoring commenced from July 2000, and is limited to the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of the data, and to the dissemination of advance release calendars.

13. Practices on internal access prior to public release and ministerial commentary are disseminated on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board for the data categories to which they apply.4 SDDS data disseminated by the SARB are not provided to government officials outside the SARB before their release to the public. Data disseminated by Stats SA are provided to a few specifically listed officials under a lock-up system. Under this system, the approved officials are given the press release one hour before the embargo time in a secure room at Stats SA in Pretoria and remain incommunicado in that secure room until embargo time. Data disseminated by the SANT are not provided to other officials prior to their release to the public, except for the merchandise trade statistics; the Preliminary Statement of Trade Statistics is made available to the SARB on an embargo basis at least three hours before general release.

14. Data are released with no ministerial commentary attached, except for central government operations and central government debt, which have explanatory commentary by the Director-General of the SANT in a monthly press release. This press release accompanies the publication of the Statement of Revenue, Expenditure and Borrowing and of the Exchequer Account. The press release accompanied the Exchequer Account until March 2000. Since April 2000 the published Exchequer Account was replaced with the Statement of Revenue, Expenditure and Borrowing which is accompanied by a press release.

Quality Dimension

15. Summary methodology statements for all data categories, except for merchandise trade and the exchange rates, have been provided to the IMF. As of May 2001, eight summary methodology statements had been posted on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board and are accessible at The others are being reviewed by the IMF’s Statistics Department and the authorities. South African statistical agencies also disseminate component details and relevant data series that make cross-checks and checks of reasonableness for all data categories possible, as prescribed by the standard.

Monitoring of Data

16. In accordance with the outcome of the Third Review of the Data Standard Initiative, the IMF staff began monitoring subscribers’ performance under the SDDS in July 2000. Monitoring of SDDS observance is limited to the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of the data and to the dissemination of advance release calendars.6 Since monitoring began, South Africa’s dissemination practices have been in observance with the Standard’s requirements, and the dissemination of data on the National Summary Data Page has been timely.

III. Summary Assessment of Data Quality

A. The Framework for Assessing Data Quality

17. Work toward developing a framework for assessing the quality of data has been under way in the IMF’s Statistics Department for some time. This initiative derives from the objectives of complementing the dimensions of the SDDS with a consideration of the quality of the data being disseminated, and of focusing more closely on the quality of the data that underpin surveillance of countries’ economic policies. Against this background, the Statistics Department of the IMF has developed a tool to provide a structure and a common language to assess data quality. The DQAF that has emerged comprises a generic framework7 that brings together internationally accepted core principles for official statistics and provides an overarching structure for dataset-specific frameworks (for national accounts, balance of payments, monetary, government finance, and price statistics) that are organized around indicators of quality.

18. This DQAF covers five key dimensions of data quality and a set of prerequisites that provide a common frame of reference for the assessment of quality. These dimensions are integrity, methodological soundness, accuracy and reliability, serviceability, and accessibility. The description of these dimensions is provided in Section B below.

19. A central feature of this framework is its structure, which focuses on principles of quality that are organized in an orderly progression from the abstract to the more specific.8 Thus, for each of the five dimensions and the set of prerequisites, a set of elements, indicative of desirable practices, and a group of indicators or pointers to these practices have been developed.

20. The information resulting from the application of this framework to the South African statistical system is presented below. An assessment of five macroeconomic datasets (national accounts, consumer and producer price indices, government finance, monetary, and the balance of payments statistics) was conducted using the frame of reference provided by each dataset-specific DQAF. On the basis of this information, summary assessments were prepared. The mission’s conclusions are also presented in the form of standardized summary tables in which the assessment of data practices is made on a qualitative basis, using a four-part scale (Tables 2.12.6).

Table 2.1

Data Quality Assessment Framework: Summary Presentation of National Accounts

Country: South Africa

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Note: NA = Not Applicable; O = Practice Observed; LO = Practice Largely Observed; LNO = Practice Largely Not Observed; NO = Practive Not Observed
Table 2.2

Data Quality Assessment Framework: Summary Presentation of National Accounts

Country: South Africa

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Note: NA = Not Applicable; O = Practice Observed; LO = Practice Largely Observed; LNO = Practice Largely Not Observed; NO = Practive Not Observed
Table 2.3

Data Quality Assessment Framework: Summary Presentation of National Accounts

Country: South Africa

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Note: NA = Not Applicable; O = Practice Observed; LO = Practice Largely Observed; LNO = Practice Largely Not Observed; NO = Practive Not Observed
Table 2.4

Data Quality Assessment Framework: Summary Presentation of National Accounts

Country: South Africa

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Note: NA = Not Applicable; O = Practice Observed; LO = Practice Largely Observed; LNO = Practice Largely Not Observed; NO = Practive Not Observed
Table 2.5

Data Quality Assessment Framework: Summary Presentation of Monetary Statistics1/

Country: South Africa

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Note: NA = Not Applicable; O = Practice Observed; LO = Practice Largely Observed; LNO = Practice Largely Not Observed; NO = Practive Not Observed

Assessment using the Depository Corporations Survey as the reference point.

Table 2.6

Data Quality Assessment Framework: Summary Presentation of Balance of Payments

Country: South Africa

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Note: NA = Not Applicable; O = Practice Observed; LO = Practice Largely Observed; LNO = Practice Largely Not Observed; NO = Practive Not Observed

B. Summary of Findings

21. South Africa’s macroeconomic statistics and statistical base are adequate to conduct effective surveillance. Nevertheless, IMF staff identified shortcomings in some statistical practices that have the potential for detracting from the accurate and timely analysis of economic and financial developments, and the formulation of appropriate policies. The main findings are presented below according to the structure of the DQAF.

Prerequisites of quality

Quality, as defined in the framework, encompasses quality of the institution or system behind the production of the data as well as the quality of the individual data product. This approach is rooted in the United Nations Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics and in the more traditional quality-of-the-product approach. In the DQAF, the zero category, prerequisite of quality, serves to capture this systemic perspective.

22. The compilation and dissemination of official statistics in South Africa are governed by the Statistics Act,1999. The Act provides for: “…a Statistician General as head of Statistics South Africa, who is responsible for the collection, production, and dissemination of official and other statistics, and for coordination among producers of statistics.” It specifies that official statistics must be “relevant, accurate, reliable, and timeous; objective and comprehensive; compiled, reported, and documented in a scientific and transparent manner; be disseminated impartially; be accessible; be in accordance with appropriate national and international standards and classifications; and be sensitive to distribution by gender, disability, region, and similar socio-economic features.”

23. Authorized resources, including modern computing technology support, appear to be adequate for the current operational work of Stats SA, but resource constraints limit future statistical development. Quality is a central focus of the work of the agency, as evidenced by references to quality in numerous internal documents and external publications, and the ambitious program in train for further statistical improvements. Legal sanctions for nonresponse are available, although they are reportedly never used. An independent body, the Statistics Council of South Africa, meets regularly to provide advice on statistical issues of current interest.

24. Government finance statistics are compiled and disseminated by three agencies. Fiscal data compiled and disseminated by the SANT are governed by the Public Finance Management Act,1999 (PFMA), as amended on April 1, 2000. Confidentiality provisions are sound, and resources (staff and computer) are adequate for the tasks being undertaken, although resource constraints have influenced the division of tasks across the agencies. Many elements of the compilation and dissemination of government finance statistics are carried out by the SARB; Stats SA is responsible for local government statistics. Stats SA also publishes an annual analysis of the general government accounts according to the final Auditor-General Reports. Data sharing and coordination among the various agencies involved is adequate.

25. Statistical work of the SARB is governed by the 1996 Constitution of South Africa, which guarantees the independence of the institution; by the South Africa Reserve Bank Act,1989, which stipulates its central bank functions; and by earlier government notices. The SARB is clearly identified in official publications as the compiler and producer of monetary statistics. Balance of payments statistics have long been a SARB responsibility. The SARB, for historical reasons and because of relative resource availability, undertakes also the compilation and dissemination of the expenditure side of national accounts compilation and government finance statistics. Insofar as the SARB undertakes work beyond its immediate monetary policy responsibilities (for instance in national accounts compilation), it is subject to the Statistics Act, and its statistical work has to be endorsed by the Statistician General.

26. Resources, including computer facilities support, are adequate for the SARB’s responsibilities. Arrangements are in place for the smooth interaction of the various departments involved in the compilation of its statistics. There are no formal channels for consulting with users (such as a users’ committee), but SARB staff are readily accessible and are involved in frequent bilateral interaction with users. There is a strong awareness of quality considerations, as evidenced for instance by the application of many editing and valuation checks at the SARB on the returns of other depository corporations (ODCs) before they are entered into the system. The SARB claims a high response rate to its surveys resulting from the incentive provided by sharing the output of the surveys with the respondents. There are established procedures for cooperation within the SARB for the purpose of compiling monetary and balance of payments statistics, as well as established rules to ensure that respondents’ data are kept confidential and are used only for statistical purposes.

27. Coordination between the compiling and disseminating agencies appears to be effective. In addition to formal committees, coordination involves informal ad hoc meetings between the responsible officials in the various agencies. Among the formal committees, the Classification Committee, chaired by the SARB, and including the SANT, Stats SA, and the Accountant General’s Department, ensures an appropriate classification (GFS86) for government finance statistics. With regard to reporting information, there is no evidence of duplication of efforts. However, potential inefficiencies may arise due to uncertainties in the legislative background.


Integrity identifies features that support firm adherence to objectivity in the collection, compilation, and dissemination of statistics. Professionalism and technical standards should guide policies and practices, which should be reinforced by their transparency.

28. Practices are in place at Stats SA to ensure professionalism in statistical policies and practices, transparency, and ethical standards, as covered by the public sector code of conduct. The professional independence of Stats SA is recognized in the Statistics Act,1999, which stipulates that statistics must be disseminated impartially. Sources and techniques are selected purely on statistical grounds. All data are released simultaneously to the public, following the lifting of the pre-release embargo. Stats SA products are protected by copyright, and attributed to Stats SA. Staff may follow up on public misinterpretation of statistics.

29. Similarly, statistical activities at the SANT are marked by a high degree of professionalism ensured by the public sector code of conduct, and by the requirements of the Statistics Act,1999, as well as by the Public Finance Management Act,1999, which seeks to secure transparency, accountability, and sound management of government finances. Staff may follow up on public misinterpretation of statistics.

30. The SARB compiles statistics on an impartial basis. Staff are free to choose the most appropriate data sources. Data disseminated in the SARB’s Quarterly Bulletin are clearly attributed to the originating agency. The SARB has a formal code of conduct, and staff behavior is motivated by high standards of professionalism; prohibition of disclosure of information is established by the South Africa Reserve Bank Act,1989. The SARB seeks to prevent misuse of monetary and balance of payments statistics by providing explanatory notes at the time the data are released and following up on any misrepresentation of the statistics. Advance notice is given of significant changes in sources and methods in the official publications and in research papers (e.g., plans to introduce revised bank returns or changes in balance of payment methodology toward BPM5).

Methodological soundness

Methodological soundness refers to the application of international standards, guidelines, and agreed practices and is indicative of the soundness of concepts and definitions, scope, classification and sectorization, and basis for recording. This dimension will, by necessity, be dataset specific, reflecting specific standards (for example, the 1993 System of National Accounts (1993 SNA) for national accounts and the fifth edition of the Fund’s Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5) for balance of payments).

31. The overall structure of the national accounts follows internationally accepted standards and recommendations (1993 SNA). The delimitation of the economy, the production and assets boundaries, and the classifications used are largely in accordance with internationally recommended systems. However, some government-related transactions are recorded on a cash basis instead of an accrual basis, due to the limitations of source data. For the same reason, as well as for methodological reasons, valuables, historical monuments and agricultural work in progress have not been included in the measurement of assets.

32. The CPI and PPI are based on internationally endorsed standards and recommendations, and use classifications compatible with internationally recommended systems.

33. The labor market estimates are based on internationally accepted standards and recommendations, and use classifications compatible with internationally recommended systems.

34. The three agencies (the SARB, the SANT, and Stats SA) involved in the compilation of government finance statistics broadly follow the internationally accepted standard of Government Finance Statistics Manual 1986 (GFS86). These agencies, as well as the Auditor-General are involved in the compilation of source data which is used by the SARB to compile the government finance statistics reported according to the SDDS Standards. Government finance statistics cover the operation of consolidated central government (budgetary central government, extra-budgetary funds, and social security funds), general government (consolidated central government, provincial governments, and local governments), as well as central government debt. The SARB compiles government finance statistics data strictly using the GFS86 standard in terms of classification, a cash basis of recording, and makes detailed data available on a gross basis. In addition, data are available with limited details on nonfinancial public sector borrowing requirement and surplus/deficit of the nonfinancial public enterprises.

35. Transition plans are being developed for the implementation of the new GFS Manual (presently in draft form) which recommends accrual accounting. The PFMA and the Municipal Finance Management Bill,2001 require financial reports of all levels of government to be on an accrual basis as specified by the Accounting Standards Board, which is responsible for the development of generally recognized accounting practices (GRAP). The Act requires that the SANT and provincial governments prepare consolidated financial statements according to GRAP by April 2003. The Board will prescribe a uniform accounting and financial reporting system and will set a timeframe for implementation.

36. The analytical framework used by the SARB for compiling monetary statistics reflects concepts and definitions that are, in general, based on the Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual (MFSM). The SARB prepares a depository corporations survey (DCS) that consolidates the accounts of the central bank with the Corporation for Public Deposits (CPD), and the aggregated balance sheets of ODCs. The last comprises 58 banks, 2 mutual banks, the Land Bank, and the Postbank. The DCS therefore provides a broad institutional coverage of the domestic banking system. Plans are being developed by the SARB to achieve greater consistency between the analytical framework now in place and the MFSM. In this connection, the possibility of introducing additional sectoral breakdowns consistent with the MFSM and of producing a financial corporations survey are being considered.

37. The DCS serves as the basis for the calculation of monetary aggregates, including several measures of money. The broadest measure of money (M3) includes financial instruments that are close substitutes for deposit money. The monetary statistics distinguish between foreign and domestic claims and liabilities. The principles underlying the valuation of financial assets and liabilities are, in general, consistent with the MFSM (e.g., financial assets and liabilities are valued at market prices). The accrual-accounting principles recommended in the MFSM are applied to financial transactions and are therefore reflected in the positions at the end of the accounting period. Accrued interest is allocated to specific instruments and classified by sector. During 2000, unclassified assets constituted 15 percent on average of the total assets in the depository corporations survey, while unclassified liabilities made up 17 percent of total liabilities during the same period. Work is in progress at the SARB to improve the classification and sectorization of accounts as part of an extensive review of the money and banking database.

38. South Africa’s balance of payments statistics are compiled in broad conformity with guidelines presented in BPM5. Transactions are recorded at market prices and converted to rand at the rates prevailing at the time of the transaction. In principle, balance of payments is compiled on an accrual basis, using survey information and applying various adjustments (for instance for timing differences) to ensure the uniform classification of information. However, there are deficiencies in the coverage, valuation, and classification of the reserve assets component, as well as in the coverage of some service transactions, mainly travel and construction service components. Only partial data are compiled on communication services, and coverage of reinvested earnings on direct investment is limited to foreign branches of domestic depository corporations. Investment income is classified as direct investment income and other investment income, the latter comprises portfolio and other investment income. No distinction is made between monetary and non-monetary gold, and gold exports in current account are compiled on a net basis. Securities that are borrowed or acquired under repurchase agreements are mainly recorded as securitized loans. Financial derivatives are compiled for depository institutions.

Accuracy and reliability

Accuracy and reliability identifies features contributing to the goal that the data portray the reality of the economy. Elements include identified features of source data, statistical techniques, and supporting assessments and analysis. Data should sufficiently portray reality at all stages of dissemination, from “flash” to “final” estimates. Data should also be routinely assessed for errors, discrepancies be investigated and revisions studies be published.

39. The source data for compiling the national accounts are obtained largely from the survey program of Stats SA, supplemented by data from administrative, regulatory and other sources. The currently published estimates are based on a system of periodic benchmarks carried forward on a set of annual and quarterly indicators. To the extent that survey scope and coverage may not be complete for some areas, national accounts estimation procedures supplement the survey source data with estimates based on related information. The new comprehensive economic survey program, along with systematic use of administrative data, which is currently being implemented for economic statistics, will materially assist both Stats SA and the SARB in their efforts to monitor and improve the quality of the national accounts estimates. The current national accounts estimates are based on sound methods and procedures, including validation and cross-checks of source data and of various components of national accounts.

40. The CPI is compiled using internationally accepted procedures and methods. The weights are obtained from a household income and expenditure survey. The price collection does not cover rural areas, but the impact of this exclusion is currently being investigated.

41. The PPI methodology and procedures are in general sound. The weights are obtained from a comprehensive data collection program, and specified prices are collected for the principal commodities produced, imported, and exported. However, some technical issues still need to be resolved.

42. The methodology and survey techniques for the employment survey are sound and follow internationally accepted practices. However, the survey frame has been based on the old business register, with resulting undercoverage in some activity areas that have potentially large numbers of small unincorporated businesses. With the implementation of the new business register/frame, it has become possible to design a comprehensive stratified sample survey of all employers above an exclusion threshold (VAT registration), which, within the next twelve months, should provide comprehensive coverage of employment. Supplemented with data on the zero-employee businesses (the self-employed) from the household-based Labor Force Survey, this should provide a solid base for analysis of the structure of employment as well as trends by activity.

43. Government finance statistics are compiled using comprehensive data sources, mostly from public records with supplementary information from the depository corporation subsector. Source data from financial reports of general government entities have sufficient detail to allow consolidation of data for different levels of government. To ensure that data are on a cash basis, corresponding account balances from the banking system are also used to make the necessary adjustments. The Vulindlela (“open the way”) information management system enables the matching of detailed treasury accounts with the GFS86 classification. There are no material gaps in the coverage of data collection. Quarterly data for operations of extra-budgetary funds, social security funds, and local government are derived from sample surveys. The samples normally cover 80 percent of total value. Preliminary data are timely and revised systematically when actual data become available. Revision analysis is done internally on a regular basis as part of operations, and necessary steps are taken when needed to ensure accuracy of the data. The inter-agency Classification Committee oversees the accuracy and reliability of government finance statistics.

44. Monetary statistics are compiled on the basis of accounting records of the SARB and individual report forms of ODCs prepared according to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in South Africa. The reported data are disaggregated in terms of instruments and sectors to provide sufficient information to derive monetary statistics broadly in line with the MFSM. Report forms used by ODCs are revised every two-three years to incorporate new data requirements resulting from changes in international standards and developments in financial instruments. There is scope for improvement in the reclassification of “other assets” and “other liabilities”, and the SARB is considering options to obtain additional information required from reporting institutions. Electronic reporting and data processing, automated validation procedures, and documentation of data compilation practices contribute to the production of accurate, timely, and reliable monetary statistics.

45. The SARB’s comprehensive data collection program for balance of payments statistics comprise 12 surveys it conducts itself to collect financial flow data; the trade statistics compiled by the SARS; and the survey of trading statistics of hotels conducted by Stats SA. Data from primary sources are supplemented by administrative data including information from foreign exchange transactions records. The data sources are reviewed continuously to ensure that the data collection program remains comprehensive. The primary data sources are timely and broadly sufficient to compile balance of payments statistics. The SARB employs comprehensive estimation techniques to address deficiencies in coverage of source data, including timing and valuation adjustments to merchandise trade with the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and services transactions (passenger transportation, travel, and insurance components). Primary data sources are routinely assessed and validated against other available information (e.g., exchange control records and other administrative data). Price/value analysis of merchandise trade data is conducted by the SARS and the SARB. This analysis is followed by time-series analysis of freight earnings in relation to trade flows and by bilateral reconciliation of data with SACU countries.


Serviceability focuses on practical aspects of how well a dataset meets users’ needs. Elements include the extent to which data are produced and disseminated in a timely fashion, with appropriate periodicity, are relevant, are consistent internally and with other datasets, and follow a predictable revisions policy.

46. The national accounts compilation and dissemination program responds well to user needs. Evaluation of user needs is based on frequent and detailed assessments conducted through consultations with a broad cross-section of users, through surveys, workshops, conferences and special studies. The data are consistent internally and over time. The statistical discrepancy, which ranges between 1/2 to 1 percent, is published. The revision schedule of the national accounts estimates follows a regular well-publicized pattern.

47. The CPI and the PPI meet user requirements, based on regular and detailed user feedback, obtained through surveys, workshops, technical advisory committees, and consultations with experts. The indices are consistent over time.

48. The new employment survey has been developed in response to user needs ascertained through technical advisory committees, advice from international experts, user workshops, and surveys.

49. Government finance statistics broadly meet users’ needs, in particular, for purposes of fiscal policy development and monitoring. The three agencies disseminate various aggregates of government finance statistics, up to operations of general government, that serve users reasonably well. Government finance data are internally consistent, with the deficit on a cash basis corresponding to total financing on a cash basis. Data are also reconcilable externally with data from other sectors—national accounts, the depository corporations subsector, and balance of payments. The status of the data (preliminary or revised) is identified and appropriate notes are presented explaining reasons for significant changes in the time series.

50. The monetary statistics compilers at the SARB review developments in the domestic and international financial system on an ongoing basis to identify any new financial instruments affecting the collection and compilation of monetary statistics in South Africa. The metadata for South Africa posted on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board states that data for the analytical accounts of the central bank (CBS) are final when first released, while those for the banking sector (DCS) are preliminary and revised with final data the following month. National publications do not explain the revision policy for monetary statistics. In practice, monetary statistics data are considered final when first released (ODCs rarely submit revisions) and are disseminated simultaneously to the public on the SARB’s site on the Internet and in hardcopy. The returns of individual depository corporations are posted on the SARB’s web site after the consolidated data have been published.

51. Monetary statistics are consistent over time. Automated checks are undertaken to assess the internal consistency of the reported data as well as the time series maintained in the money and banking statistics database. Monetary statistics are generally consistent with other statistical systems, although potential inconsistencies exist with regard to the sectorization of local governments. These are properly sectorized as a subsector of general government in the flow of funds accounts, but are treated as part of the private sector in the monetary statistics. However, it is possible to reconcile both sets of data (flow of funds and monetary) since local governments are separately identified in the monetary accounts.

52. Balance of payments statistics are consistent over time. Notice of major changes in methodology is given in all statistical releases at the time of a change. Balance of payments data are reconciled with the national accounts. Financial account transaction flows are reconciled with changes in the stock of foreign debt on a semi-annual basis, and with the international investment position data on an annual basis. Data for the last four years are considered to be preliminary and subject to revision. Users are informed about the main causes of any revisions in the data. Revisions were made to historical data on gold exports for 1992-96 during 1996 in light of new information on forward gold sales. Over the long run, the net errors and omissions item has been insignificant.


Accessibility deals with the availability of information to users. Elements of this dimension refer to the extent to which data and metadata are clear and easily available and to which assistance to the user is adequate to help them find and use the data.

53. The dissemination of national accounts, price, and employment statistics and the corresponding metadata meet user needs. Both Stats SA and the SARB provide high-quality user advisory services and support, including making the data and metadata available both in a range of hard copy publications and in electronic form on the respective web sites. The practice of advance release calendars and announcements of forthcoming statistical or methodological changes, and of workshops, is particularly well developed.

54. Government finance statistics are disseminated in detail sufficient for fiscal policy analysis and monitoring. Data are disseminated both in hard copy and electronically. Detailed methodology descriptions are not available. However, a summary methodology description is disseminated on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board. The SANT publishes a brief methodology as an annex to the annual Budget Review. Information on contact persons is provided. Each agency disseminating fiscal data provides its own advance release calendar with respect to its area of responsibility. Data are released simultaneously to all users.

55. Monetary statistics are widely accessible and their interpretation is enhanced by dissemination of tables, charts, and text. Data are available in several formats including monthly, quarterly and annual SARB reports and on the SARB’s Internet web site. Users are informed of the dissemination of new data through the publication of advance release calendars on the web site of the SARB that meet the requirements of the SDDS. Brief methodological notes are included in the SARB’s Quarterly Bulletin. The SARB is considering the possibility of disseminating more extensive methodologies on the compilation of monetary statistics. In the meantime, users with access to the internet may consult the metadata on compilation and dissemination practices, as well as summary methodologies that describe the broad scope, concepts, and definitions used in compiling monetary data currently available on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board. Assistance to users is facilitated by the availability of contact information from South Africa’s page on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board and in the SARB’s Quarterly Bulletin. Nonpublished but nonconfidential data are available upon request from the SARB.

56. The SARB’s Quarterly Bulletin contains quarterly balance of payments data and provides a breakdown of official reserves between Special Drawings Rights and foreign exchange. To meet users’ needs, explanatory notes are published in the Quarterly Bulletin, the Monthly Abstract of Foreign Trade, and also in the annual Foreign Trade Statistics. An advance release calendar that gives one-quarter-ahead notice of the precise release dates is disseminated on the SARB’s Internet web site. The data are released simultaneously to all interested parties. Balance of payments sub-aggregates are made available upon request. A catalogue of publications, documents, and other services to users is maintained and updated each year.

IV. Staff Recommendations

57. Based on the results of the data quality assessment, discussions with the South African authorities in the respective statistical agencies, and responses from data users, the following measures are proposed to increase further South Africa’s adherence to international statistical standards.

Institutional Arrangements

  • Strengthen inter-agency coordination and cooperation in the compilation of macroeconomic statistics, notably government finance statistics, and formalize arrangements as needed through memoranda of understanding, and, ultimately, through legal reinforcement.

National Accounts

  • Extend structural detail, especially in the services area, both in the industry and in the commodity dimension. Particular emphasis needs to be given to emerging service activities that have a large concentration of small establishments, and to goods and services originating with tourism-related industries (such as accommodation services, restaurants, entertainment and recreation, and travel agencies), as an input to the balance of payments compilation and for development of the supply side of tourism satellite accounts.

  • Develop the commodity dimension of production, as part of the implementation of the Central Product Classification (CPC) throughout the system.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

  • Extend price collection to rural areas and compile and publish the total CPI including rural areas.

  • Review and enhance procedures for the introduction of new products and treatment of quality change, where necessary.

Producer Price Index (PPI)

  • Review weighting schemes for the PPI and develop industry selling price indices for deflation of production by industry in national accounts.

  • Review and enhance procedures for the introduction of new products and the treatment of quality change, as well as for treatment of unique or complex goods.

Government Finance Statistics

  • Improve the periodicity and timeliness of central government guaranteed debt to at least a quarterly basis with a timeliness of one quarter after the reference period.

  • Update, enhance, and make more accessible the information on the methodology for the compilation of government finance statistics.

  • Enhance fiscal statistics with details on the operations of consolidated nonfinancial public enterprises and of consolidated nonfinancial public sector. While the present statistics already provide for the operations of general government, the supplementary statistics on operations of nonfinancial public sector would facilitate further policy development and fiscal monitoring. Information on the nonfinancial public sector published by the SARB on the nonfinancial public sector borrowing requirements should be supplemented by data on savings, capital transfers and capital gain received, gross capital formation, land and intangible assets, net lending, and financing sources or instruments.

Monetary Statistics

  • Revise the monetary statistics database to incorporate new detailed information being collected since January 2001 from ODCs with a view to improving classification and sectorization of monetary statistics. Publish monetary data by economic sector when meaningful time series become available.

  • Review the composition of “other assets” and “other liabilities” and reclassify as needed. Develop a plan to collect details from ODCs on interbank positions (while observing confidentiality of individual reporters).

  • Prepare and publish a survey of other financial corporations and a financial corporations survey from data already being compiled by the Research Department of the SARB.

  • Establish procedures for informing users about revisions to the data. Although monetary data are almost always final, they may be subject to revisions and users need to be informed accordingly.

  • Prepare documentation on the methodology currently used in the compilation of monetary statistics and disseminate it in one of the SARB’s publications or on the Internet.

Balance of Payments Statistics

  • Revise definition, classification, and valuation principles used in recording data on the reserve assets component of the balance of payments in accordance with BPM5 concept and definitions.

  • Revise methodology for compiling non-monetary gold statistics in the goods component of the balance of payments by excluding the monetary gold element and by reporting gold export transactions on a gross rather than net basis.

  • Review the estimates for the travel component of the balance of payments, using the information currently collected by Stats SA, and evaluate the need to supplement this information with data obtained from the Information Flow System for the financial sector. Over the long term, expand the collection, processing, analysis and publication of the data required for the travel component of the balance of payments. Stats SA, in cooperation with the Department of Home Affairs, the National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, and the SARB, needs to develop and improve sample surveys of travelers and travel expenditure patterns. For inbound tourism, the quarterly survey of foreign tourists leaving the country (exit survey) should provide a breakdown of expenditure by main expenditure category (accommodation, mode of travel, purchases of goods and services). For outbound tourism, information on expenditure, by category, by residents traveling abroad, should be appended to the labor force survey (household survey).

  • Improve the coverage of the merchandise trade statistics with the Southern Africa Custom Union countries that are compiled by the SARS.

  • Update the publication on the sources and methods used in the balance of payments compilation.

Users’ Views

An informal survey of the usability of the statistical data produced by the South African authorities was conducted by IMF staff among key users of economic statistics. The survey was conducted by personal interview and mail sample survey. In general, users were satisfied with the quality of statistics and the availability of topical areas of statistics. Users viewed the coverage, periodicity and timeliness of statistics to be appropriate for economic analysis. Users also indicated that significant improvements had been made in terms of availability of statistics during the past few years. Overall, users’ views were consistent with the findings of the mission, and the main areas for improvement are broadly in line with the proposals suggested by the IMF staff as well as with the statistical data development program being put in place by the authorities, based on earlier users’ feed back.

Specific questions were asked regarding the quality of balance of payments, monetary, fiscal, national accounts, price, and labor market statistics. In this connection, respondents mentioned, in particular, national accounts, labor market, and external trade as areas that could be improved.

In national accounts, some users indicated a requirement for regional estimates of GDP, preferably on an annual basis. (It should be mentioned that the Stats SA work program calls for the development of provincial GDP estimates, and Stats SA conducted a workshop in March 2001 on this and other national accounts issues.)

Criticisms were expressed on labor market statistics regarding coverage and accuracy. Coverage of employment statistics should be expanded to include data for business services, and the household-based labor force survey program should ensure the availability of information on the informal sector and the self-employed. (In this connection, as noted above, Stats SA is conducting a new labor force survey of households that should help improve labor market statistics.) Users, while recognizing the scientific design of the household survey, questioned the reliability of survey results mainly because of the professionalism of the field workers employed in survey data collection.

Regarding external trade statistics, users expressed the view that customs data should be improved to reflect more accurate information. Some users questioned the coverage of trade statistics, considering (i) the size of the unclassified items category, and (ii) the procedures of customs clearance, resulting possibly in serious smuggling problems (especially in Durban). The system of customs documents should be improved in order to reduce the large unclassified category.

On fiscal data, users would like coverage to be expanded from general government to the nonfinancial public sector.

While users found the analytical and conceptual frameworks on which statistical aggregates and data categories were based to be expressed clearly, some felt that would be desirable to present more detail on data analysis and assessment for professional statisticians and economists in official publications, including the SARB’s Quarterly Bulletin. Some users would like to have better access to, and more details on, methodology, including that used for seasonal adjustments and revisions of data.


The mission team was led by Wipada Soonthornsima, and comprised Natalia Ivanik, Teresa Villacres (all of the IMF’s Statistics Department), and Anna Ansmits (expert). Charles Enoch (Senior Advisor of the IMF’s Statistics Department) joined the mission from May 12, 2001.


A detailed description of the SDDS can be found on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board on the Internet at


The SDDS allows subscribers the use of two flexibility options in recognition of differences in economic structures and institutional arrangements across countries, i.e., for up to two data categories, a subscriber may avail itself of flexibility provisions with respect to periodicity and timeliness.


These data categories are national accounts on a production basis, production index, labor market indicators, consumer and producer price indices, central government debt, and merchandise trade.


As of September 2001, all summary methodology statements submitted by the authorities have been posted on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board.


Monitoring is carried out against the release dates stated in the advance release calendars and the metadata, i.e., to verify not only that the data are released according to the calendar but also that the data disseminated correspond to the metadata posted on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board. Other elements of the SDDS are on a self-disclosure basis by subscribers, that is, the subscribers are asked to confirm on a quarterly basis that their descriptions of their practices are accurate.


Information on data quality could be found at the IMF web site on the “Data Quality Reference Site” (


See Carol S. Carson, “Toward a Framework for Assessing Data Quality,” IMF Working Paper 01/25, 2001, also available at