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Portugal Design Report 2018-2020

Portugal’s first OGP action plan joins a series of government-led efforts to promote transparency and civic engagement in the political process. Participating civil society and government representatives in the multi-stakeholder forum praised the co-creation process to develop the plan as a major milestone achievement for consultations in Portugal. Two commitments could potentially transform the areas of public consultations and access to public procurement information, while others are limited in scope. Moving forward, promoting more channels for public inputs in the co-creation process could be prioritized.

Table 1. At a glance

Participating since: 2017

Action plan under review: First

Report type: Design Report

Number of commitments: 8

 

Action plan development

Is there a Multistakeholder forum: Yes

Level of public influence: Involve

Acted contrary to OGP process: No

 

Action plan design

Commitments relevant to OGP values      8 (100%)

Transformative commitments:                   2 (25%)

Potentially starred:                                   2 (25%)

Action plan implementation

Starred commitments: N/A

Completed commitments: N/A

Commitments with Major DIOG*: N/A

Commitments with Outstanding DIOG*: N/A

*DIOG: Did it Open Government?

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. Portugal joined OGP in 2017. This report evaluates the design of Portugal’s first action plan.

General overview of action plan

Portugal’s first action plan focused on improving citizens’ access to public information. Portugal has been characterized by low levels of trust in political institutions and weak civic engagement, in part due to repeated cases of public mismanagement and corruption. This plan joins a set of initiatives to promote transparency and to involve citizens in the political process. Portugal could consider including other open government policy areas in future action plans, such as improving citizens’ relationship with the judiciary system.

The Administrative Modernization Agency (AMA) invited nine organizations to form the multi-stakeholder forum (MSF) responsible for the co-creation of the action plan. The invitation-only forum developed a first set of commitment proposals followed by a short consultation period where citizens could comment on existing proposals or propose their own. According to several forum members, the plan ended up limited in scope due to time constraints and the lack of a specific budget for implementation of the initiatives. Still, MSF members were unanimous in praising the process of bringing together civil society and public administration to work together on open government initiatives.

Civil society representatives brought forward most proposals, but only three were included in the final eight commitments. Most of the commitments represent small steps toward improving access to public information, reflecting AMA’s focus on feasibility. That said, the plan includes two potentially transformative commitments: the development of a new portal for public consultation in government-initiated legislation (Commitment 6); and a series of interrelated initiatives aimed at strengthening transparency in public procurement (Commitment 8).

Table 2. Noteworthy commitments

Commitment description Moving forward Status at the end of implementation cycle
6. Consulta.Lex

Create a portal for legislative public consultations, accessible to all, allowing citizens to participate in the legislative process.

The government could consider making it mandatory to provide feedback to citizens through the Consulta.Lex portal and disseminate the new platform among the general public and public entities that will start using it. Note: this will be assessed at the end of the action plan cycle.
8. Strengthening transparency in public procurement

Enhance transparency in public procurement by publishing open data on the entire public procurement cycle, reducing drastically the use of Direct Award Contracts, and developing and implementing civic monitoring mechanisms.

It is important to ensure that all organizations responsible for the implementation of the initiative take part in its development, even if not formally included in the forum.

As part of the implementation of the commitment, consider developing an Application Programming Interface (API) to accompany the repository Base.gov, to facilitate access to the data.

Note: this will be assessed at the end of the action plan cycle.

Recommendations

The IRM recommendations aim to inform the development of the next action plan and guide implementation of the current action plan.

Table 3. Five KEY IRM Recommendations

1. Establish more channels for public inputs in the co-creation process and guarantee reasoned and timely feedback to all participants. A public consultation process or workshop earlier in the development phase could incentivize more public involvement.
2. Promote parity of governmental and non-governmental organizations in the multi-stakeholder forum. Different tiers of participation in the forum could be considered.
3. Prioritize commitments involving the justice sector, one of the areas of public administration where public trust is lower. Engage directly with relevant actors in the sector and promote transparency or accountability.
4. Include commitments that have a balanced focus on accountability and civic participation initiatives in order to enhance the scope of future action plans.
5. Improve public knowledge about OGP process through mainstream media and targeted communications to increase engagement around future action plans.

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Filed under: IRM Report

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