Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Open Government: A progress report

Back in 2016, the government adopted its second national action plan under the Open Government Partnership, committing to seven specific actions to make our government more open. The OGP requires countries to report regularly on progress, and in addition has an Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) to counteract their natural tendency to spin and bullshit as a substitute for action. The IRM has just released their latest draft report on New Zealand. So, how'd we do?

The good news is: pretty well. The government has actually been doing what it said it would do (which is more than it did last time), and been making clear progress towards meeting its commitments. Looking at some of the specific commitments, they're expecting a lot more information about where our money is going in this year's budget, plans to get all secondary legislation online and in one place (so we can know what the law is) are progressing well, and we now have some basic OIA statistics and a lot more departments are publicising their responses. Work on open data seems to be going less well, due to being moved to a new agency.

At the same time, the IRM notes that we can do more, and has a host of recommendations on how we could be more ambitious in our commitments and how we could take co-creation seriously (these being two real weaknesses: the previous government regarded OGP as a box-ticking exercise, and SSC was unwilling to engage in real consultation, let alone the co-creation required by the OGP). They also criticise the action plan for completely ignoring their past recommendations. The new government might mean we make some progress in those areas.

Finally, they have five key recommendations for the next action plan:

  • Expand the Expert Advisory Panel to include greater civil society representation
  • Reform official information laws and refocus the Open Data and Information Programme to publish social, environmental, and budget expenditure data
  • Develop standards for public consultation on policy initiatives
  • Include anti-corruption commitments in the next action plan, covering whistleblower protection and a public register of company beneficial ownership
  • Introduce citizenship education to increase democratic participation
We're supposed to be developing a new action plan this year, covering June 2018 - June 2020, so I guess we'll see whether the new government and new Minister will rise to this challenge. You can comment on the draft report here.