Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Open Government: Delayed

For the past few months I've been highlighting the rapidly approaching deadline until New Zealand's Open Government Partnership second National Action Plan must be presented to the OGP. Now, quietly, the government has announced a delay:

The timeframe for when New Zealand will finalise its second national action plan for 2016-18 is being extended to allow time for wider engagement with New Zealanders and civil society organisations.

Feedback from the Independent Review carried out by the Open Government Partnership, available on the OGP website at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/country/new-zealand/irm, tells us that our engagement needs to be more inclusive.

To allow time to do that we will not be submitting our second action plan by the time it is normally due on 30 June 2016. The plan will be developed over a number of months and published by the end of October 2016.

And by "quietly", I mean quietly. There's been no press release or public announcement of this - just a link buried on a website which was not marked as updated - meaning that multiple people who have been watching this like a hawk for news didn't notice it for over a week. This is what the SSC calls "awareness raising".

So, the SSC is now consulting - not on an action plan, but on how to consult. The problem, of course, is that even with this delay, they will still be cutting things extremely fine to do a genuine co-creation process - they will have only four months to solicit whole-of-government policy proposals from the public, assess them for feasibility, and gain Cabinet approval for potentially far-reaching changes. That would be a difficult ask, even with the best will in the world - and given their past behaviour, I think we have good cause to doubt their commitment. Still, hopefully it does indicate change, and that we won't be getting another pre-determined action plan of pre-existing administrative initiatives rammed down our throats with a mockery of "consultation".

OTOH, it is also a high-risk strategy. While the government has talked of asking for an extension, past experience is that the OGP will enforce its deadlines. A country can be four months late before being given a warning, and the government may have interpreted this as a means of getting extra time. But if they're even a single day late on this, it will result in a second formal warning, and a likely suspension.