According to its mission statement, Statistics Austria commits to the obligation to provide high-quality statistical products and information services. The 2000 Austrian Federal Statistics Act has set a new and modern framework in which Official Statistics are to be elaborated and disseminated in Austria.
The work on quality at Statistics Austria covers the whole institution of "Official Statistics": beyond the central focus on the quality of products it also comprises efficiency, qualification and motivation of staff members, as well as customer relation management and the relation to the respondents.
Statistics Austria strives to deal with all five areas mentioned above simultaneously and none of them must be neglected. Only in that way, Statistics Austria will be able to continue a permanent process of change and of overall quality management as well as to guarantee that the targets set are well balanced.
The Austrian Statistics Act sets the main focus of the Statistics Council's work on quality assurance. A working group called Quality Assurance Committee was established, aiming at a continuous monitoring and evaluation of Statistics Austria's quality of work.
Quality reports are an instrument to observe a relevant set of metainformation over a period of time and to locate potential fields of necessary improvements. The degree of quality of a statistical product can be retrieved from information contained in so called standard documentations. These standard documentations follow a fixed structure with metadata on every statistical product with an Executive Summary containing a table related to the most important key facts. After explaining the relevant concepts, procedures and processes relevant for the specified product in detail, the final chapter which is structured in accordance to the ESS- quality definition of the structure is dedicated purely to quality. Therefore the Standard Documentation can be seen as a user-oriented quality report providing all kinds of users (sophisticated power users as well as "quick readers") with relevant metainformation.
On the basis of Standard Documentations, which have to be compiled for all products, Statistics Austria organizes since 2003 the so-called "Feedback talks". They represent a statistical audit function with the objective of having all statistical products reviewed.
These feedback talks on quality are held continuously in collaboration with the Quality Assurance Committee of the Statistical Council. There are two main tasks of the Feedback Talks. The first one is to involve power users giving them the opportunity to suggest and discuss possible improvements for the product. Secondly, the Standard Documentation will be updated according to the proposals of the Quality Assurance Committee and the most relevant users.
During 2010, Statistics Austria developed Quality Guidelines covering the whole statistical process chain. The aim of the Quality Guidelines is to transfer the message to all users that Statistics Austria is striving for high quality standards, following – whenever possible - best practices for all products. Further, the quality guidelines give orientation to staff for individual steps in the production process. The document covers 26 relevant topics by describing them shortly and presenting the relevant guidelines in a grey box at the end of each chapter.
On November 15th 2012 it was decided within the European Statistical System (ESS) to start a so called “Second Peer Review Exercise” for every national statistical system within the ESS. In the course of this review, the degree of compliance to the principles of the European Code of Practice is checked. The Peer review visit in Austria, which took place from 13 to 17 October 2014, confirmed a very high degree of compliance for Statistics Austria and the Austrian statistical system.
The first round of Peer Reviews was based on the first version of the Code of Practice, where only the compliance to the principles 1 to 6 and 15 has been integrated in the assessment by the external Peer Reviews teams. The resulting report was published by Eurostat and shows an excellent result for Statistics Austria.