INDEPENDENT NEWS

Progress on open government finally

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2018 11:26 AM
Last year I wrote about the great potential of Open Government here, and about the last Government’s performance on the OGP to date here. These provide background on why Open Government is important and how New Zealand has been doing so far.
The Open Government Partnership features an Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) with an independent reviewer assessing each Government’s performance in order to keep them honest. The IRM for New Zealand has just released the latest draft report on New Zealand.
So how did the National Government’s performance in the latest assessment compare to the previous occasions in which they were heavily criticised by the independent reviewer (covered in the articles above).
The good news is there appears to have been a significant improvement this time around. The review indicates a lot more progress by New Zealand towards meeting its commitments made under the OGP.
According to blogger Idiot Savant at No Right Turn:
“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….. They also criticise the action plan for completely ignoring their past recommendations.”
There is still room for improvement. The review notes that New Zealand can do more, and provides recommendations on how the Government can be more ambitious in our commitments and take community engagement and the co-creation process more seriously. The good thing is that this provides clear indication for the new Government on how they can improve on this aspect which the former Government was criticised for failing – properly engaging in real consultation with the community – a key aspect of the OGP process.
The IRM provides the following 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
The Government is now required by the OGP to develop a new action plan covering the period from June 2018 - June 2020. The Labour Government has a pretty full schedule already, however it will be interesting to see how well they do after criticising National’s performance on the OGP. The Green Party has strong credentials and interest in the Open Government space, so hopefully their influence has some impact here.
Submissions are open now on the draft progress report. You can to the OGP page and make a submission here.
Joseph Cederwall
Freelance Writer
Joseph Cederwall is an interim co-editor and community engagement manager at Scoop Publishing. He is a part of the HiveMind and 'Opening the Election' project. He is a director and secretary of Freerange Cooperative, an international publishing cooperative. Joseph is a contributor to Enspiral - a non-hierarchical and open-source collective dedicated to supporting collaborative business and improving the world through social enterprise. With a grounding in law and anthropology he has worked in the Immigration and Human Rights field as a lawyer and advocate.
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