Friday, June 19, 2015

No ambition on open government

When the government released its initial Open Government Partnership Action Plan last year, I criticised it for displaying no real commitment to open government and transparency. Now the SSC has very quietly published the relevant Cabinet papers on its website - and they show that originally the government wanted to do even less. The initial Cabinet paper (ERD(13)25: 'Agreement to Join Open Government Partnership') proposed simply using the government's existing "Better Public Services" programme (which sees the government set targets for certain policies and publish performance information) as its action plan. But as they later recognised, this wasn't enough:

Cabinet previously agreed that New Zealand’s Action Plan would focus on the Better Public Services Results programme and targets [CAB Min (13) 31/3]. I consider that a focus solely on the BPS Results programme will not adequately address OGP requirements to meet at least two OGP “grand challenges” and OGP principles, or requirements to include new initiatives, and work more closely with civil society.
Stakeholders were critical of focusing an Action Plan on the BPS Results programme. For these reasons, I recommend that the Action Plan include the initiatives outlined in the table below. Together, they create a package of initiatives that not only support and complement one another, but also support the Government’s State Sector Reform Programme and New Zealand’s OGP commitments.

Which is why we got a hodge-podge of other existing initiatives. But even then they note:
There is also a risk that including the BPS Results programme in the Action Plan could receive criticism, as stakeholders considered that a focus on this programme would not adequately take account of the OGP principles and objectives. To address these risks, the Action Plan notes that it is a living document that will be refined, modified and updated over time. It includes the TINZ National
Integrity System report and Kia TÅ«tahi relationship Accord which broaden the focus of the Action Plan. It will also adopt a formalised process for working with stakeholders including establishing a stakeholder-led advisory group. This approach would also align with the spirit and intent of BPS Results, which seeks to partner with a range of different stakeholders overtime, to deliver better public services.

In other words, they have to fudge it. And its worth noting that that Stakeholder Advisory Group still hasn't been appointed; I guess they couldn't find any former National MPs who wanted to serve on it.

As for what happens next, there's a calendar: the government is supposed to publish a "self-assessment" of how well it has done in meeting its action plan by September 30 this year, and that will be reviewed by the OGP's Independent Reporting Mechanism. And early next year they're supposed to start working with civil society on creating their second national action plan, which is due by June 30 2016. Hopefully it will be far more ambitious than the first one.