Stats SA official axed over census

2013-07-21 10:00

A row over the results of the R3.4?billion 2011 national census has claimed a second senior Stats SA official – but the fight is not over.

Marlize Pistorius, a respected senior statistician and senior Stats SA manager, was dismissed last Friday following a lengthy disciplinary process regarding the calculation of the Census 2011 results.

This week, she lodged an appeal against her dismissal with the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council.

Akhtari Henning, Stats SA’s deputy director for corporate affairs, confirmed both the dismissal and the appeal.

Pistorius’ superior, Dr Jairo Arrow, went on early retirement in January following an acrimonious dispute with Statistician-General Pali Lehohla over the calculation of the census’ post-enumeration survey (PES).

The PES is a second, smaller population count done after the census to verify the initial countrywide count and establish how many people were not counted, which is referred to as an undercount.

This undercount is then used in the calculation of the total population. The official undercount of Census 2011 was 14.6%.

Rumours of action against Arrow and Pistorius regarding their dispute with Lehohla have been circulating since before the release of the census data in November last year.

At the time of the census results’ release, two consultant demographers, professors Rob Dorrington and Tom Moultrie from the University of Cape Town, also raised questions about the accuracy of the PES and said the results appeared rushed.

The dispute went all the way to Planning Minister Trevor Manuel after Arrow sent him an SMS claiming Lehohla was involved in “a massive attempt to obtain different results of the PES” than what Arrow and Pistorius had calculated.

It started when Arrow and Pistorius presented Lehohla with data revealing a very high undercount of 18.6% in the initial census after Lehohla had set the organisation a target of a single-digit undercount for the project.

Arrow claimed in a statement that Lehohla had requested they come up with lower figures and were removed from the project when they refused to give in to Lehohla’s demands.

But Lehohla told City Press in February that he had picked up inconsistencies in the calculation of the PES, and had ordered Arrow and Pistorius to recalculate the results.

When the duo refused to back down from their findings, they were eventually removed from the survey.

Lehohla said that he himself eventually found the errors in the calculations.

Pistorius has, throughout the process, steadfastly declined to speak to City Press about the charges against her.

She was asked to comment through an intermediary on Friday, to no response.

Arrow had previously said in his statement that both he and Pistorius had, at all times, acted professionally and in the best interests of Stats SA.

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