Yesterday, the Open Government Partnership released a Mid-term Progress Report on New Zealand's Open Government Efforts.
The report was conducted by highly respected Independent Reporter Keitha Booth, Former Director, NZ Open Government Information and Data Programme At Land Information New Zealand and former Senior ICT Advisor at the NZ State Services Commission.
This report is an important milestone as the report indicates the level of progress made on the commitments made by the Government under the OGP programme using measurable benchmarks.
The report is certainly not as damning as previous reports under this reporting mechanism have been, however, Booth indicates that there is still room for improvement in the open government space and gives clear indications of areas the Government can focus on in order to make real progress.
As part of OGP participation, countries make commitments in a two-year action plan. The New Zealand action plan contains seven commitments.
Table 1 of the report summarises each commitment’s level of completion and potential impact.
The report also provides a snapshot of progress for each commitment and recommends next steps.
Booth calls for more active public engagement in developing the next Action Plan and highlights key priorities such as OIA issues and whistleblower protection, Transparency around company ownership:
“Under the new administration, it is critical that the government actively collaborate with the public in developing the next action plan, broaden participation in the OGP process, and include ambitious commitments on access to information, whistleblower protection, company beneficial ownership for all legal entities, and other priority issues.”
The Report sets out Five Key Recommendations as follows:
1 - Expand the Expert Advisory Panel to include greater civil society representation
2 - Reform official information laws and refocus the Open Data and Information Programme to publish social, environmental, and budget expenditure data
3 - Develop standards for public consultation on policy initiatives
4 - Include anti-corruption commitments in the next action plan, covering whistleblower protection and a public register of company beneficial ownership
5 - Introduce citizenship education to increase democratic participation
Booth states that according to OGP requirements, these recommendations follow the SMART logic; they are Specific, Measurable, Answerable, Relevant, and Timebound.
The Government is now required to respond to these key recommendations in their annual self-assessments under the OGP process. It is clear that they have very little wriggle room left. These are specific recommendations that have been strongly supported by a wide range of community stakeholders throughout New Zealand’s involvement in this OGP process. There is no more scope for the Government to tinker around the edges and substantive change in these areas will be required or New Zealand’s reputation in the OGP community will be tarnished further.