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Overseas experts recommend more autonomy for Swiss statistics office

Experts have recommended that the Swiss Statistics Office be made more autonomous. The suggestion is part of a peer review process, which found that the office has been subjected to political interference.

The study was carried out by two Canadian experts: the head of Canada's Statistics Office, Ivan Fellegi, and a former colleague, Jacob Ryten.

They were asked to conduct a thorough peer review of the Statistics Office's operations, amid concerns that it was "in danger of becoming blinkered", in the words of its director, Carlo Malaguerra.

The findings of the review were generally positive but did point to serious weaknesses in some aspects of the statistics office's operations.

The main recommendation was that the office become more autonomous, possibly in the form of an institute with its own identity and rules.

The experts concluded that overall the office is a "healthy organisation", staffed by competent people. They also noted it had maintained its ethical principles despite occasional political interference.

However, they said the office needed to orientate itself towards its customers and operate in a more business-like manner. They criticised the presentation of its findings, saying it was not enough to just publish facts and figures.

The review also recommended that the office be funded primarily by the taxpayer to preserve its identity as a public service organisation. It was seen as vital that the office has both a federal and cantonal character.

Later this year, the office will carry out a nationwide census.

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