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Open Government Partnership Ireland: Have Your Say

Open Government Partnership Ireland: Have Your Say

 

Open Government: Why your voice matters

Foreword by Paschal Donohoe, T.D. Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

 

 

 

As Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, I am leading the Government’s efforts to create with citizens a second National Action Plan as part of the Open Government Partnership.  As part of this international initiative, every two years, Ireland makes commitments to make the State ever more transparent, ever more accountable and ever more inclusive in how it reaches decisions.  We want your input in making these commitments challenging and effective, because good ideas can come from anywhere.   

 

The second National Action Plan will include commitments and actions to achieve three central aims:

 

  1. Increased Citizen Engagement

  1. Increased Transparency and Open Data

  1. Strengthened Governance and Accountability

 

The plan will promote the use of technology to advance each of these central aims.

 

 

We are looking for ideas which could improve a public service, make public policy making more transparent, strengthen governance and accountability or prevent corruption.  These ideas could involve new technologies, or improve the ways we use existing ones. Sections 1 to 3 of this document set out some context for each of these aims and some questions are posed. The online ‘Open Government Guide’ could help you generate ideas. 

Working Together

Businesses

Civil Society Groups

Citizens and Service Users

Government and Public Sector

 

Section 4 sets out how the consultation process will be conducted and how you can make a contribution. The process to turn ideas into possible National Action Plan commitments will be independently managed.  It will use an online consultation portal that will be transparent and exemplify best practice in public consultations. A series of Civic Forums will be held during September as part of the collaboration between the Government and citizens to ‘co-create’ a National Action Plan. 

You can find more detailed information on Ireland and the OGP and more detail on this consultation process on a dedicated website www.ogpireland.ie

 

1. Increased Citizen Engagement, to improve policies and services

 

There’s a simple reason people ‘put their heads together’ to try to solve complex problems: important aspects of the problem are less likely to be overlooked.

 

Complex policy issues cannot be solved by Government alone. When citizens are engaged in public policy making it leads to more informed decisions.  Policies and services can then better respond to people’s needs.  How the public might respond to policies and to new or reformed services will be better understood.  Citizens and service users can better understand the reasons behind some decisions and have more confidence that things are moving in the right direction.

 

The First National Action Plan, 2014-2016, included a number of actions to encourage more citizens to engage with policy making and service design.  These included:

  • New guidelines to public bodies on how to consult with the public
  • Public Participation Networks for Local Authorities
  • Reviewed Customer Complaints Procedures
  • Access to environmental information
  • Community Budgeting
  • Children and young people’s participation in decision making

 

It will take time for these new ways of participating to develop and become regular practice.  Changing the way citizens and public bodies interact with each other will depend on both parties.  An Implementation and Review Group will support this process and ensure Action Plan commitments fulfill their potential over time. An Independent Review of the first year of the 2014-2016 National Action Plan is available at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Ireland_2014-15_Final.pdf  

 

You might have experience of changes at a local level that have already worked.  Do you have an example of citizen engagement in policy making or service design that could be used in other parts of the public sector? Do you have an idea to encourage innovation in service design, or experience of using technology to encourage citizen engagement?  The Open Government Partnership has set five ‘Grand Challenges’ for participating countries. Each commitment in the Action Plan should address at least one of these. See Table 1.  Maybe your example of success or idea for improvement addresses one of these challenges.

 

The Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016 also contained initiatives to improve engagement with citizens and improve the experience of the public sector’s customers, reflecting the Government’s Quality Customer Service Initiative.  Do you, as a public service user, or an advocate for service users have an idea that could lead to real practical improvements in how public services are delivered? 

 

Table 1: The Five Open Government Partnership Grand Challenges

  • Improving Public Services— measures that address the full spectrum of citizen services including health, education, criminal justice, water, electricity, telecommunications and any other relevant service areas, by fostering public service improvement or private sector innovation

  • Increasing Public Integrity— measures that address corruption and public ethics, access to information, campaign finance reform, and media and civil society freedom

  • More Effectively Managing Public Resources— measures that address budgets, procurement, natural resources and foreign assistance

  • Creating Safer Communities— measures that address public safety, the security sector, disaster and crisis response, and environmental threats

  • Increasing Corporate Accountability— measures that address corporate responsibility on issues such as the environment, anti-corruption, consumer protection, and community engagement

 

 

 

2. Increased Transparency, to better understand Government activities and decisions and Open Data, for transparency and innovation

 

 

The decisions that are reached in developing policies and delivering services should be transparent.  Where it exists, data used in making those decisions and data that can be used to assess the outcomes of those decisions should be freely available.

 

Such transparency allows decisions and the data they rely upon to be scrutinised and, over time, improved, leading to better outcomes. Such transparency also underpins the systems of governance and accountability by which the Government and the Civil Service and Public Service is held to account.

 

The First National Action Plan, 2014-2016 included a number of actions to promote the transparency of decision making. These included:

  • Reform of Freedom of Information legislation
  • Regulation of Lobbying
  • Access to Environmental Information

 

Have you been involved with other citizens or service users to demand more open government or public services?  Have you accessed information contained in the ‘Publication Scheme’ of a public body? Have you accessed the Register of Lobbying on www.lobbying.ie? Ideas on how to make decision making more transparent are welcome.

Fiscal Transparency

Fiscal Transparency helps answer the question ‘Is it money well spent?’  It plays an important role in ensuring that public infrastructure investments, such as hospitals, schools, roads, electricity and water supply are well planned, well built, and well maintained.  Understanding what resources are available and the costs over time of the various choices helps to tackle social issues like financing retirement and education, housing and social welfare more effectively.

 

Initiatives such as Performance Budgeting, the National Economic Dialogue and the structured dialogue with Civil Society that is part of the ‘European Semester’ are all undertaken to make budgetary decisions more transparent.   

The National Economic Dialogue

The National Economic Dialogue is an important element of the budgetary framework and its objective is to facilitate an open and inclusive exchange on the competing economic and social priorities facing the Government. Representatives of community, voluntary and environmental groups as well as members of the Oireachtas, business, unions, research institutes, the academic community and the diaspora have been invited to the dialogue.

 

Performance Budgeting

The ‘performance budgeting’ initiative, which began with the annual Book of Estimates showing information on inputs (financial and staffing) alongside outputs and impacts, aims to strengthen focus on what is being delivered through public services, with public funds.

 

The European Semester

The ‘European Semester’ is a term used for the system of annual monitoring of the European Union’s budgetary monitoring, the ‘Stability and Growth Pact’ and the ‘Europe 2020’ strategy for ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’. The strategy contains targets for Ireland on: employment; research and development; climate change; education and poverty and social exclusion. A structured dialogue with civil society and other stakeholders is a key part of this process.

 

Can these initiatives be built on?  Can access to budget information be made easier? Can we build a better shared understanding of the resources available to the State? Can major investments by the State be monitored better?

Open Data

‘Open Data’ is about providing openly, in free and reusable formats, machine readable data generated in the public sector that can be used to promote innovation and transparency. It can be used to understand, and therefore improve, our health services, our transport infrastructure and our air quality.

The First National Action Plan, 2014-2016 included a number of actions to promote the provision of data on public services in open formats. As public bodies have progressed in areas like eGovernment and data analytics, the potential of data and, in particular, Open Data to help deliver economic, social and democratic benefits has become clearer. data.gov.ie brings these open datasets together in a single searchable portal. It is intended to provide easy access to datasets that are free to use, reuse, and redistribute.

A Technical Framework was developed to underpin the publication of datasets on the portal, the Open Data Governance Board was established and a number of events have been held to raise awareness. The number of datasets available on the portal continues to grow.  For further information on the Open Data Initiative see:  http://www.per.gov.ie/en/open-data/ and http://www.per.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/3.1.iv_.c-Open-Data-Initiative.pdf

 

Have you used Open Data? If so, which datasets? What did you do with them? What was the outcome? Could this be replicated with other data?

How did Open Data help achieve better openness, transparency and accountability?

How can it be made easier for citizens/civil society to turn data into insightful information?

How responsive are public bodies to requests to make data public and accessible?

 

3. Strengthened Governance and Accountability, to ensure integrity in public life

 

The First National Action Plan, 2014-2016 included a number of actions to bolster integrity in public life.  These included:

  • Reform of Ethics Legislation
  • Protection of Whistleblowers

In the same period, a three year plan to renew the Civil Service was adopted. The plan, which is to run until October 2017, has 25 practical actions to create a more unified, professional, responsive, open and accountable Civil Service that can provide a world-class service to the State and the people of Ireland.  This has resulted in Government Departments documenting and publishing their Governance Frameworks, in line with a central Corporate Governance Standard for the Civil Service.  The Code and frameworks will be continuously improved. Can the Standard be developed to make government departments more open and accountable?

Improving anti-corruption measures

Ireland participates in a range of international conventions to fight corruption. What further actions could be taken to bolster and improve Ireland’s anti-corruption measures? Are there areas where we need to tackle corruption and if so, how can we do this most effectively?

Transparency Clauses in Large Public Contracts

Transparency is a core principle in the award of public procurement contracts that is underpinned by EU Treaties and EU Directives.  It helps ensure the best value for public money. Transparency clauses in large public contracts could allow the public to see who receives how much for what, how well providers are performing.  What would be likely to work in making public contractors more accountable?  

 

4. Making your Contribution

 

Purpose

As a participant in the Open Government Partnership, the Government is committed to creating this National Action Plan with the active engagement of citizens and civil society.

 

We want to include commitments in the National Action Plan that increase citizen engagement, increase transparency, and strengthen governance and accountability; and which are specific, time-bound and measureable.  Individual commitments should be:

  • Specific: The commitment precisely describes the problem it is trying to solve, the activities it comprises and the expected outcomes.
  • Measurable: It is possible to verify the fulfillment of the commitment. Where commitments have multiple sub-commitments, they are broken into clear, measurable milestones.
  • Answerable: The commitment clearly specifies the main implementing agency, the coordinating or supporting agencies where relevant, and if necessary, other civil society, multilateral, or private sector partners who have a role in implementing the commitment.
  • Relevant: For each commitment, the action plan should explain its relevance to one or more of the open government principles outlined above (transparency, accountability, public participation and technology & innovation).
  • Time-bound: Commitment clearly states the date when it will be completed, as well as dates for milestones, benchmarks and any other deadline.

By ‘Co-Creating’ the National Action Plan through a  multi-stakeholder consultation process, the Government, Citizens and Civil Society, together, can refine and choose individual commitments that meet these ambitious criteria.

Your submission in response to this initial consultation document could:

  1. Propose a potential commitment
  2. Offer expertise to help develop and refine potential commitments or
  3. Offer the experience and perspective of a particular group in society or users of a particular public service that could be reflected in the development of the National Action Plan

Timeline

Submissions are invited in response to this initial consultation document (published on 24 August 2016) until 30 September 2016. A number of Civic Forums to discuss proposed commitments will be held during September 2016.  A draft National Action Plan, drawing on those submissions and discussions, will be published in Mid-October, 2016.  Submissions on that draft plan will be invited until the end of October and the National Action Plan will then be submitted to the Government for its approval.

Consultation Portal

If you would like to make a contribution to the creation of Ireland’s second National Action Plan, please submit your ideas at http://consult.ogpireland.ie/en

 

To make a submission, first register your details.  You will then be able to: 

  • Start your submission and complete it later
  • After submissions are published, make observations on them
  • Get notifications and updates about the consultation and your submission
  • Refine your submission in response to comments

You can make a submission or respond to a submission on the portal until 30 September 2016.

If you have any special needs that make it difficult for you, or someone you know, to use this portal, please contact the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform at ogpireland2018@per.gov.ie so that we can offer assistance.

 

Civic Forums

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has made arrangements to facilitate a number of Civic Forums during September 2016.  At these events, those who have made submissions can meet to discuss, refine and help choose commitments for the National Action Plan. Where gaps in expertise or the representation of society exists, we will work with civil society to identify additional participants.

 

Those making submissions will be invited to express their interest in participating in one or more of the Civic Forums and to express their preference for each of the available dates.  If any particular date is over-subscribed, participants for that Civic Forum will be selected so as to ensure that the potential commitments being discussed are of interest to those present, relevant expertise is available and society is fairly represented. Additional participants will be selected randomly and where possible, an alternative date offered to those not selected. We will aim to ensure everyone is given an opportunity to have their say.  

 

The first Civic Forum will be held on 8 September and the last on the 27 September, so please make your submission as early as possible and no later than 21 September if you would like to attend a Civic Forum.

 

The Civic Forums will be facilitated so that participants across all the events are given an equal opportunity to influence the outcome of the process.

 

Reaching Out

This consultation process will prioritise one of the key challenges of the development of Open Government Partnership National Action Plans, namely the engagement of citizens offering a broad range of social perspectives, to supplement those from civil society organisations already engaged with the Open Government Partnership. Reaching out in this way will help ensure that the proposed commitments are drawn from a broad social base, for whom the National Action Plan can have a substantive impact, and that the deliberations in the Civic Forums will be inclusive and effective in choosing commitments.

 

 

 

Themes

Do you have ideas on how to improve citizen engagement?
What ways can we improve the transparency & sharing of data?
How can we strengthen governance and accountability?
Do you have other or general comments?
Do you have comments on the consultation process?
Would you like to participate in a Civic Forum?