On behalf of the Government, Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has examined whether parts of the statistics produced by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education should become official statistics. Official statistics are particularly important for describing society and exist for general information, investigative activities and research. The Swedish Agency for Public Management has not investigated which agency would be best suited to assume this statistics responsibility. In accordance with the commission, we have delimited our study to surveying the prerequisites of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education to assume this responsibility.
It is not self-evident what should be official statistics
The Swedish Agency for Public Management's review shows that there are no unequivocal guidelines on what should be official statistics. Previous investigations found that the concept of official statistics is based on a notion that these statistics are particularly important for describing society, but which statistics are official often owes more to tradition than to their content and quality.
The decision must be based on assessments of the reasons for and against
The Swedish Agency for Public Management has found that we cannot use objective grounds alone to either recommend or oppose parts of the statistics produced by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education becoming official statistics. A decision must be made after weighing the reasons for and against this. Reasons in favour of this are above all that if the statistics were to be included in the official statistics system, they must take user needs into account to a greater extent than is the case today. Thus, from a user perspective, quality will be raised.
Reasons against this include an increase in the Agency's costs if parts of its statistics become official. Our assessment is that it is mainly costs at the initial stage that are a burden. The Agency needs to draw up a series of documents. It also needs to formalise contacts with users to involve them in matters such as the design of statistics. Finally, the Agency needs to invest both calendar time and worked time to define the content in detail.
In the future work, factors such as contacts with users and the updating of documents would mean increased costs. The Swedish Agency for Public Management's assessment is that this increase in running costs can be managed within the Agency's existing financial framework.
The quality and accessibility of statistics need to be improved to meet official statistics requirements
The Swedish Agency for Public Management has reviewed the Agency's current production of statistics based on how well it lives up to the quality requirements and guidelines laid down in Acts, Ordinances and regulations on official statistics. Since the Agency does not currently have a statistics responsibility, it is not at present obligated to comply with these. The Swedish Agency for Public Management indicates a number of areas in which the Agency needs to develop its activities in order to live up to the requirements placed on an agency with statistics responsibility. Among other things, the statistics need to be described better, their forms of publication need to be developed and the statistics need to become more user-controlled.
Given that these areas have been developed, the Swedish Agency for Public Management's overall conclusion is that the Swedish National Agency for Higher Vocational Education has the prerequisites to become an agency with statistics responsibility.
Costs of activities
In 2013, the Agency's statistical activities cost about SEK 3.8 million. Just over 30 per cent of this cost consists of expenses for consultancy support and statistics purchases. The Swedish Agency for Public Management has not found anything to indicate inefficiency. One exception is that services are mainly procured through a direct award procedure. We believe that the Agency should consider making procured services subject to competition.
The statistics needs of users
A user survey conducted by the Swedish Agency for Public Management revealed that a relatively small number of users considered statistics to be of great importance to their activities and that they used them extensively. Among the views expressed by users was that the statistics needed to become more accessible electronically, which is one of the requirements placed on official statistics.
The Agency's statistics are not included in international reporting to bodies such as the EU's statistical office, Eurostat. Statistics Sweden is responsible for reporting, e.g. education statistics and then uses register data on higher vocational education programmes to produce the statistics reported.