Independent review of Open Government National Plan 2016-2018

David Dunsheath
Member with Delegated Authority
Newsletter Editor, Open Government Partnership, Parliamentary Liaison

David Dunsheath

TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Open Government

Transparency Times Newsletter Co-editor

New Zealand’s second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan (OGP-NAP) 2016-2018, was completed mid last year. It is superseded by the third OGP-NAP 2018-20. The second plan was subject to a government-independent, End-of-Term Review through OGP’s Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). The IRM is conduced by a local reviewer, Keitha Booth, appointed by the International office of the OGP. It is the IRM’s role to take an independent look at how well the Government is doing at achieving the commitments it adopted for its NAP.

 A draft of the IRM’s report was recently released for public consultation. This opportunity has failed to be taken up widely by the public and so Ms Booth has been diligent in setting up individual meetings to discuss the details of the review. The OGP strictly adheres to what are very short periods for consultation. The latest review period closed 21 February.

TINZ considers that this IRM End-of-Term draft Report reliably summarises the strengths and shortfalls resulting from government’s implementation of its second NAP 2016-2018.  The IRM report’s recommendations influence the effectiveness of New Zealand’s current third OGP-NAP 2018-2020.

Findings

Of the seven commitments in the second NAP, only Commitment 6, ‘Improving access to legislation’, was considered truly ambitious with its “transformative potential”. Its completed milestones have led to the ‘Legislation Bill’ currently before Parliament. If passed, it will create a single online, open-format resource of all New Zealand’s primary legislation. A potential second stage of Commitment 6 would encompass the vast array of secondary legislation.  

Only one milestone of one commitment was not fully completed. This relates to engagement of government agencies’ expertise in presenting Budget data in ways to make it easy to understand. This was simply out-prioritised by preparations for the 2018 Budget, a precursor to this year’s Wellbeing Budget.

The IRM’s assessment of the ‘marginal’ extent to which six of seven commitments contributed to ‘open government’, is largely a reflection of the conservative original target/commitment settings.

Many concerns over ‘Official Information practices’ (Commitment 2) remain, to form a key component of the current, third, OGP NAP 2018 – 2020 plan.

For the second OGP NAP, mixed progress was made with improving open data access and practices (Commitment 3) but momentum is anticipated to increase. A recommended across-agency ownership role is yet to be finalised.  

Modest progress was made with ‘Tracking progress and outcomes of open government data release’ (Commitment 4). Statistics New Zealand has achieved increased, if modest, public involvement and provided a new interactive dashboard after seeking public comment on a static prototype design. Social media is being pursued for increased public engagement.   

‘Ongoing engagement for OGP’ (Commitment 5) achieved very modest increases in civic participation, in part due to inadequate resourcing. However, the IRM notes that a much-enhanced focus on public engagement was then achieved during development of the current third OGP NAP 2018-2020.

Overall

Progress with plan implementation increased during its second year of the second OGP NAP after the change of government and its creation of the Open Government Portfolio.

The plan has provided valuable experience to the participating government agencies and the OGP coordinating agency, State Services Commission, leading to a yet stronger third OGP NAP 2018-2020 currently being implemented.

The wealth of recommendations from the IRM’s mid-term and end-of-term reviews have provided a significant contribution to development and implementation of the current OGP NAP.

TINZ thanks IRM’s Independent Researcher, Keitha Booth, for her End-of-Term Report that reflects thorough research and thoughtful comments. We applaud her wide consultation and extensive desk research towards preparation of this report, carried out within demanding requirements set by the OGP.

IRM Process

In order to ensure that each new plan gains optimum strength from its predecessor, OGP has an international system of government-independent reviews for each country. These reviews assess effectiveness of each OGP NAP for its design, implementation and outcomes and provide the public with opportunities to comment.

For each OGP NAP, there is a schedule of mid-term and end-of-term reviews undertaken with public consultation, each stage comprising: 

  • government’s own self-assessment report,
  • OGP’s IRM report.

This is a key process by which all stakeholders can track OGP progress within their respective countries. Comments were invited from the public.

New Zealand is one of approx. 80 countries which have voluntarily committed to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) global initiative. This is coordinated by the Washington DC-based international OGP body.

TINZ recognises considerable value from New Zealand’s participation, which strengthens national integrity systems through engaging the participation of the wider public, adding to the exercise of democracy. It aims to provide non-partisan assistance to successive governments to strengthen their OGP planning and widen public engagement in the design of ambitious commitments that will make a meaningful difference to the lives of New Zealanders.

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