Open Government – a three year journey ends in disappointment

By Laurence Millar
TINZ Member with Delegated Authority

The government embarked on the creation of a fourth action plan under the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2019. Our journey started with expectation and enthusiasm that was dampened by the pandemic, but we were encouraged by the decision of the government to extend the completion of the plan to December 2022. This would enable more comprehensive engagement with civil society stakeholders and give the opportunity to co-create bold and ambitious commitments to the principles and practice of Open Government.

Our optimism was boosted by the active participation of the Minister for the Public Service. In previous newsletters we described our work with other civil society organisations (CSOs) during 2021 (see Open Government update on National Action Plan 4 and Opening Dialogue on Open Government Partnership) which continued into 2022.

The wide array of ideas from public consultation were shaped into “fledgeling commitments” at a series of workshops between May and July. But after that, the spirit of collaboration and co-creation disappeared. There was very little involvement from CSOs in the creation of the final versions of the commitments, and it became clear that the National Action Plan would fall well short of our already diminished expectations. CSOs met again with the Minister in October and we wrote a further letter before the draft paper was considered by Cabinet in November.

The draft plan is now open for a two week period of public consultation. You can read the TINZ submission here, but we hold little hope that any of our feedback will be incorporated before the deadline for submission of the plan to the OGP at the end of December.

The huge effort from civil society and from the lead agency Te Kawa Mataaho (TKM) has delivered a plan that is primarily a collection of current work already under way within government, and does not seize the opportunity to create a new direction for Open Government in Aotearoa. This is especially disappointing because it was an opportunity for the Public Service Commission to demonstrate leadership in upholding the principle “to foster a culture of open government” set out in section 11 of the Public Service Act (2020).

We are pleased that our continued insistence on the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as central to the commitments has been reflected in the final version of the plan. This is one ray of light in an otherwise bleak house.

Civil society groups have endeavoured, with largely volunteer resources, to drive real ambition in the plan. Most of our expertise and energy has been expended without purpose. In our letter to the Minister in 2021, we said

Without a change to the process for developing NAP4, we have serious concerns about the value of engaging with the work to develop the plan, and believe that - counter to its intentions - OGP work in New Zealand will continue to feed cynicism about ‘co-creation’.

It gives me no pleasure to report that the three year journey has reinforced this concern, and that the investment of time and energy of CSOs (thousands of hours) has not yielded significant returns.

Blog Post written by:
No items found.