Friday, October 02, 2015

Open Government: NZ's mid-term self-assessment

Yesterday, the State Services Commission finally published New Zealand's draft Open Government Partnership Mid-term Self-assessment Report - the one they'd refused to provide during the recent consultation round and refused to disclose under the OIA. They've also re-opened consultation for another two weeks, until October 16. Which is interesting, because according to the OGP's timeline and the one they provided to their stakeholder advisory group, it was supposed to be signed off by the Minister on September 10 and submitted to the OGP by September 30. It is unclear at this stage whether they have negotiated an extension, decided to be late so they can do it properly, or are "consulting" on a document which has already been submitted (and sadly, given their past behaviour, the latter isn't beyond the realms of possibility). But either way, it shows what an abortion this process has been.

So what about the report itself? I'll be making a detailed submission on it later, but I'm not impressed with a few sections. Firstly, there's an attempt to justify the government's inclusion of existing programmes as OGP commitments on the basis that they're "ambitious". But that's not enough; the OGP is clear that you can only include existing programmes in an action plan if doing so results in improvement, greater ambition or additional commitment (so tighter timelines or tougher targets). SSC tries to get around this by claiming that the "greater public and international exposure" from inclusion in the action plan will result in improved transparency and accountability. I don't think so. Or rather, if that's the level of additional benefit required, then the entire concept of additionality is meaningless. Plus of course there's the mistaking "making information available" with "accountability" - something which will likely get them spanked in independent review.

Secondly, they promise more and better consultation in future - they'll change, really! I'll believe it when I see it.

And then there's this bit:

New Zealand’s Action Plan contains commitments that are ongoing, multi-faceted, and extremely ambitious – and this is appropriate given the position from which we are building. It means that our first mid-term self-assessment report can only reflect a fraction of the complexity and scale of each of these projects.

Which sounds an awful lot like ACT's "I think my argument is so powerful, it's not necessary to talk about it". Alternatively, it suggests that their commitments were not specific and measureable enough to be reported on. Either way, I'm not impressed.