Tougher statistics law on the horizon

Tuesday August 21 2018



Kigoma Urban MP (ACT-Wazalendo) Zitto Kabwe

Kigoma Urban MP (ACT-Wazalendo) Zitto Kabwe 

Dodoma. The government of Tanzania is in the process of amending the extant legislation on statistics.

This is with the objective of prohibiting individuals and institutions who conduct surveys, opinion polls and other forms of research from disseminating their findings for public consumption without prior approval of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The proposed amendment also targets interpreters who distort official statistics released by the Bureau.

According to the draft of the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No.3) Act, 2018 – whose first reading in parliament was during the 2018/19 budget session in June and July – the government proposes that persons collecting and disseminating data must seek prior NBS approval to do so.

However, statistics stakeholders say the proposed amendment would severely limit the freedom of institutions and individuals involved in collecting, analyzing and disseminating statistical information for survey and non-survey activities.

In any case, the timetable for the next Bunge session released by the Speaker’s Office last Friday shows that the Constitution and Justice Committee is expected to receive recommendations on the issues from stakeholders this Friday. A senior University of Dodoma lecturer, Dr Paul Loisulie, says the amendment severely curtails the freedom to collect, analyze and disseminate statistics.

“This law limits statistics collectors from releasing findings to the public – unless they’re first approved by NBS,” Dr Loisulie said, adding that if the Bureau doubts them, it will ban their release.

Noting that the proposed amendment may also cause distortion of genuine data, Dr Louisie said this could adversely impact development where such statistics are necessary for planning.

“For example, the proposed amendment might prohibit research to determine the number of teachers needed – which is very important for policy-making,” he said, lamenting that critical research findings may not be widely-known if the amendments are enacted.

Kigoma Urban MP (ACT-Wazalendo) Zitto Kabwe said the proposed amendment will curtail the statistical freedom enjoyed by various institutions in Tanzania – including totally prohibiting independent data interpretation.

Noting that the proposed amendment “is unfit for the growth of professional research development,” Mr Kabwe said if everyone with statistical data must seek NBS approval, this indicates that if the government is not satisfied with research findings by an individual or institution then, almost automatically, NBS will not approve dissemination of the findings.

The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Mohammed Mchangerwa, said “the aim of the proposed amendment is to ensure that all disseminated statistical data come from authorised institutions or individuals. The amended law will clearly state when to apply, what is allowed and what isn’t allowed… It is expected to help promote peace and security of the country”.

The proposed amendment – which was drafted by the Attorney General, Dr Adelardus Kilangi – is intended to insert a new section 24A in the principal Act that specifically provides for the public dissemination of statistical data.

“The existing law has no provision that requires anyone who has data to first seek approval from the NBS before publishing or otherwise disseminating the data,” Dr Kilangi notes in his statement on the amendment as posted on the Bunge website.

He further said that “the amendment targets to prohibit any person from disseminating statistical data to the public with the intention of distorting, or questioning, statistics released by NBS”.

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