Statistical AgenciesA Comparison of the U.S. and Canadian Statistical Systems Gao ID: GGD-96-142 August 1, 1996
Proposals to consolidate the agencies comprising the federal statistical system have sparked congressional interest in the centralized Canadian statistical system. This report provides information on the Canadian statistical system and Statistics Canada, that nation's statistical agency, and compares it with the U.S. statistical system. GAO discusses differences between the two systems in their organizational and budget structures; their legal frameworks that govern privacy concerns, data confidentiality, and the ability to share data; and the positions and the authority of the Chief Statisticians of the United States and Canada.
GAO found that: (1) the U.S. statistical system consists of about 70 agencies, with 11 agencies having statistical activities as their primary missions; (2) the Office of Management and Budget oversees and coordinates the U.S. statistical system, but each agency has its own separate budget; (3) one Canadian agency is responsible for virtually all government statistics activities and provides statistical services to all federal departments and provincial governments under a single budget; (4) in each system, regulatory agencies and state, provincial, and local governments also provide data to statistical agencies on particular topics; (5) the legal framework of the U.S. statistical system consists of several laws, policies, and regulations, some of which are agency-specific, that govern the collection, use, and confidentiality of statistical data and which also limit data sharing among agencies; (6) in Canada, the central statistical agency is authorized to access all government as well as private records for statistical purposes and provides for broader data sharing and confidentiality and privacy protection; (7) both countries have designated a Chief Statistician to coordinate their systems; (8) the U.S. Chief Statistician does not produce or redirect resources among statistical agencies; and (9) the Canadian Chief Statistician has the rank of deputy minister, coordinates both the federal and provincial statistical systems, produces statistical information, controls the system's budget, and can redirect resources within the system.