Monday, April 11, 2016

Open Government: The Minister isn't interested II

So far, New Zealand's participation in the Open Government Partnership has been defined by ministerial disinterest and SSC incompetence. Two weeks ago, the Opposition finally started paying attention to this, with Labour MP Clare Curran asking a series of parliamentary questions inquiring about the upcoming action plan process. The answers to the first batch of these came back over the weekend, and they don't paint a very pretty picture.

Firstly, the biggie: what concrete changes have occurred as a result of joining the OGP? According to State Services Minister Paula Bennett, the answer is that now we have an action plan. And that's it. No mention of whether the actions in that plan have led to any actual change in the way we do government ("no", according to the OGP's Independent Reporting Mechanism), which you'd think is the point. Apparently the Minister thinks that the purpose of the OGP is to generate plans rather than change.

Secondly, what lessons have been learned from the government's miserable failure on its first action plan? Officials are (still) considering it. Which given that one of the key identified failings was consultation an co-creation, and we have only 79 days to go until the next action plan has to be presented to the OGP, is leaving it pretty fucking late.

Thirdly, what action has she taken to fix those problems? None. The Minister is asleep at the wheel, and the result is going to be a further erosion of New Zealand's international reputation.

Finally, what advice has the Minister received on the consultation process for the next action plan? None - but she expects to receive some in future. Again, 79 days to go - its a bit fucking late now. And there's an obvious question of why she wasn't being advised about it back in October, in time to get a proper consultation process in place. Did she not ask, or did SSC not tell?

All of which seems to support my initial conclusion: 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.