Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Open Government: The Minister isn't interested

Yesterday I received an OIA response from Minister of State Services Paula Bennett covering all the advice she had received since January 2015 on the Open Government Partnership. Which turns out to be a paltry seven documents. There's the stuff you'd expect: a general briefing from shortly after she became Minister, stuff on the appointment of the Stakeholder Advisory Group, a couple of briefings on the draft and final Midterm Self-Assessment Report. One interesting feature is that whenever they talk about consultation they redact material as "free and frank advice" - which isn't very open. But what's really interesting is what's not there: any briefing on the upcoming process for creating the second National Action Plan.

Consultation on this is scheduled to start next month, and the final document is due by June 30. You'd expect the Minister to be being kept aware of this, if not briefed early (late last year, say) on consultation and commitment options so she could choose what she wanted to do. Instead, there's nothing. Its possible that the Minister was briefed a few weeks ago, and that briefing excluded from the response, but its definite that she hadn't been briefed as of February. Which means in turn that SSC simply wasn't thinking about it that far ahead.

The upshot: the Minister isn't interested in the OGP, and SSC isn't interested in keeping her in the loop or asking her if she wants to do anything differently. And insofar as she hasn't been asked, then it is senior public servants in SSC who are to blame for the unambitious targets and appalling approach to "consultation" that they are inflicting upon us.