Deputy Premier Lorna Smith presents the Statistics (Amendment) Act 2023 last Thursday in the House of Assembly. The bill passed with amendments. (Screenshot: HOA)

As part of efforts to help government collect information as the census continues, lawmakers have passed a bill designed to impose harsher penalties on people who withhold statistics they are required to provide.

The proposed Statistics (Amendment) Act 2023, which was Gazetted on Feb. 8 and passed with amendments last Thursday, increases the maximum fine for offenders from $3,000 to $10,000 and the maximum prison sentence from three months to one year.

The bill also aims to empower the director of the Central Statistics Office to impose administrative fines.

“Our journey towards this amendment has been shaped significantly by the challenges encountered by the Central Statistics Office, especially during critical exercises like the Population and Housing Census,” Deputy Premier Lorna Smith said. “A key obstacle has been the lack of compliance by individuals and entities in providing necessary data, which compromises the quality and the completeness of the information collected. This noncompliance not only hinders the CSO’s operational efficiency, but also impacts our ability to make evidence-based decisions that are vital for this territory’s progress.”

She added that the proposed amendments are designed to enhance compliance, streamline enforcement and ensure procedural fairness.

The bill would also codify a change that took place in 2012, when the former Development Planning Unit was publicly renamed the Central Statistics Office.

The final version of the bill, which awaits the governor’s assent, has not yet been Gazetted.


Last Thursday in the House of Assembly, Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer supported the bill, but he also asked if there would be consequences for the government itself not providing necessary data.

“I just want to make sure that something is in there — there’s some sort of consequence when there’s a lack of bringing information for our government agencies that is necessary,” he said.

He used the ongoing airport expansion business case as an example.

“It’d be good to know where some of our guests are coming into the territory from,” he said, adding that this information could help inform the business case. “Madam Speaker, that information should be forthcoming, but it’s a bit tedious to get. But I just want to know how we would address a situation like that.”

Ms. Smith agreed.

“I don’t know how we’re going to fix that one, but certainly in terms of tourism statistics — all kinds of statistics — we tend to be behind, and I hope that we can get that fixed,” she said.

Opposition member Myron Walwyn (R-D6) said he supports “what the deputy premier is trying to do,” but he added that he found the penalties “punitive” and believed the proposed discretionary powers given to the CSO director were too great.

He also suggested greater public education on why data collection is important.

‘Data drives donors’

Opposition Leader Ronnie Skelton also expressed concerns over upping the penalties.

Health and Social Development Minister Vincent Wheatley supported the bill.

“Data drives donors,” he said. “I want to impress upon the community of the need to gather proper data, proper statistics: When you’re asked to provide information that you do so; you do so willingly; you do so honestly,” he said. “We need data for reporting purposes, as a country, as departments.”

The bill passed unanimously after legislators debated it in closed-door committee.