OGP requires democratic involvement in government

David Dunsheath

TINZ Member with Delegated Authority for Open Government

Transparency Times Newsletter Co-editor

The culture of open government

One of five Public Service principles in the new Public Service Act specifies is “to foster a culture of Open Government”.  Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) aims to ensure the current biennial engagement of the public in OGP will develop into more continuous involvement of civil society under a wider Open Government strategy.

OGP provides a clear democratic mandate for the public to formally present ideas to improve and reprioritise government activities, and for the government to seriously heed these ideas. The vehicle for this participation is the government’s next (fourth) National Action Plan (NAP4) within the global OGP global initiative.

A democratic opportunity to contribute

OGP Wellington workshop March 2020

We, the people have a democratic right and obligation to participate in government. TINZ urges NZ organisations and individuals to participate by attending advertised OGP events. Alternatively, they are urged to urgently host their own local event that can be supported by SSC’s facilitation or SSC’s supply of session guidelines. A third option is emailed contributions, about:

  • Methods deployed by the public sector, to substantially raise public participation and engagement with open government initiatives, from the current very low levels
  • Policy priorities and settings, e.g. influence over innovative topics for inclusion within annual national budgets, and
  • Delivery of services, e.g. minimising risk of procurement/supply chain corruption.  

Challenging next steps

SSC recognises it does not have sufficient communications capacity and thereby is struggling to reach community groups to promote opportunities for their initial stage engagement. More seriously, it does not appear to have the attention of the Minister to promote the importance of OGP planning. Refer to separate article for related comments by Andrew Ecclestone.

Following the initial round of March workshops, SSC plans to facilitate a second round of more limited public involvement during April and May to synthesise a draft NAP4. For this they wish to encourage groups to pre-think their themes for this stage.

In anticipation of the September general election, SSC is aiming for Cabinet’s agreement of the draft plan in early June before its public consultation. If feedback results in changes within the scope for Ministerial approval, the OGP’s publication by 31 August might be achieved.

Evolving trends

TINZ urges government agencies to provide much greater engagement and partnering with external groups during the implementation phase of their individual NAP4 commitments. Their past performance has typically been delivery of fait-accompli commitments for public comment, by which time any public involvement is rendered ineffectual. 

SSC recognises that some government agencies are now realising that OGP provides them with a possible leverage opportunity to progress with some dormant initiatives.

SSC also recognises emergence of ‘adaptive management’ within government agencies for their NAP commitments. This may encourage more ambitious and transformational commitment outcomes, and longer-term commitments straddling multiple NAPs.

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