ABS brings in army of experts to help out with 2021 Census

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ABS brings in army of experts to help out with 2021 Census

KPMG plus two panels.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has lured two risk executives to one of two new panels and hired audit firm KPMG to help out with the 2021 Census following last year's disastrous national survey.

KPMG has been brought on to provide 'independent assurance and an external perspective' on governance for the ABS' next Census.

It has been asked to review and recommend improvements to these areas to ensure "successful delivery, value for money, strong information security and effective risk management" for the 2021 survey.

The ABS is keen to avoid a repeat of the 2016 bungle that saw the electronic survey initially taken out by a series of DDoS attacks and kept offline due to a series of behind-the-scenes failures between the ABS and its IT outsourcing partner IBM.

The Australian Federal Police - which was called in on the night of last year's Census alongside CERT Australia and the Australian Signals Directorate - recently indicated that it had made progress in its investigation into those behind the DDoS attack.

Alongside its appointment of KPMG, the ABS has also created two separate panels to help provide "strategic oversight and strategic direction" for the next Census.

It has established a "Census executive board" chaired by chief statistician David Kalisch to oversee the lead-up to the 2021 survey.

Two risk executives - ATO chief finance officer Frances Cawthra and Telstra service operations executive director Craig Hancock - have been appointed to the panel.

"Ms Cawthra and Mr Hancock were invited to bring an external perspective to the board, by providing their experience as senior executives leading complex and large scale programs that have a significant technology component and the general public as the customer base," the ABS told iTnews.

While the board has been stood up as part of the broader ABS transformation, one of its main tasks will be setting the strategy and overseeing the delivery of the 2021 Census.

To ensure data quality for the most recent national survey and beyond, the ABS has also introduced an independent panel to provide quality assurance of the census results.

It has given the panel "privileged access" to ABS processes and information so it can properly oversight the data checking, head of Census Duncan Young told recent budget estimates hearings.

The panel is chaired by James Cook University vice chancellor Professor Sandra Harding and is made up of former chief statistician Dennis Trewin; University of Melbourne head of demography Professor Peter McDonald; former chief Canadian statistician Peter Morrison; Tasmanian Treasury deputy secretary Anton Voss; and Western Sydney University pro vice chancellor Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver.

The panel was put in place as a response to the outage, in recognition that the ABS needed to show the public there was independent assurance around the Census process and data, Kalisch told estimates.

He said the ABS was likely to continue the arrangement for the next Census and subsequent surveys.

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