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Sri Lanka End-of-Term Report 2016-2018

Sri Lanka’s first action plan covered a broad range of thematic areas including gender, anti-corruption, and access to information. While implementation saw no significant progress made from the midterm assessment, enacting Right to Information (RTI) legislation had a major effect in opening government. Regular meetings by the multistakeholder forum during implementation may elicit more substantial results.

Table 1: At a Glance
Mid-term End-of-term
Number of Commitments 23
Level of Completion
Completed 0 0
Substantial 1 2
Limited 18 17
Not Started 4 4
Number of Commitments with…
Clear Relevance to OGP Values 22 22
Transformative Potential Impact 1 1
Substantial or Complete Implementation 1 2
All Three (✪) 0 1
Did It Open government?
Major 1
Outstanding 0
Moving Forward
Number of Commitments Carried Over to Next Action Plan N/A

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) carries out a review of the activities of each OGP-participating country. This report summarises the results of the second year of implementation from July 2017 to July 2018, and includes some relevant developments through August 2018.

Originally positioned within the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) took over primary responsibility for leading and coordinating the OGP initiative in April 2016 through establishment of a dedicated OGP Unit. The MFA collaborated with civil society during development of the action plan in conducting 10 countrywide public consultations on topics to be included.

The Cabinet of Ministers established and appointed the National Steering Committee (NSC) in October 2016 to expand the number of government agencies involved in the OGP process. The president of Sri Lanka chaired the NSC, which comprised of other key government and civil society stakeholders. The NSC was tasked with overseeing implementation of the commitments in the action plan. However, the MFA recognised that regularly convening such a high-profile group would be challenging.

Therefore, the lead government institutions identified in the action plan assumed primary responsibility for ensuring implementation of their respective commitments. Representatives from these institutions, the MFA’s OGP Unit, and civil society together formed the multistakeholder forum to monitor implementation of the action plan. However, this forum also did not meet regularly and there was no citizen participation. While the MFA confirmed that the forum proceedings were not confidential, the minutes were not made public, nor were there any open invitations for wider participation beyond the main implementing stakeholders.[Note 1: Harim Peiris (Former OGP Point of Contact) and Asoka Obeyesekere (Executive Director – Transparency International Sri Lanka), interview by IRM researcher, 9 August 2017.] The presidential secretariat took over leadership and coordination of the OGP initiative from the MFA in April 2018.

Sri Lanka’s first national action plan included commitments in a variety of areas, ranging from health and environment, to corruption and the right to information. While the government passed legislation on the right to information, most commitments had only limited completion. As of September 2018, the government had not published a midterm or end-of-term self-assessment report. This is despite the MFA confirming that information had been collected for this purpose at the end of the first year of implementation.[Note 2: Prashanthi Krishnamoorthy (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), interview by IRM researcher, 1 December 2017. ]

At the time of writing this report, Sri Lanka had not yet presented or published a new action plan for the next cycle, 2018–2020. However, the presidential secretariat, in partnership with civil society, has conducted nine public consultations, and held several subsequent multistakeholder meetings and workshops, toward identifying and translating issues to be included as commitments in the next action plan. These consultations took place across all nine provinces.[Note 3: Chandima Wickramasinghe (Presidential Secretariat), interview by IRM researcher, 12 September 2018. ]

Consultation with Civil Society during Implementation

Countries participating in OGP follow a process for consultation during both development and implementation of their action plan. While the following section discusses consultation with civil society during implementation of the action plan, consultation during its development is discussed in greater detail in the 2016-2017 IRM Progress Report.

In Sri Lanka, consultation during implementation was a centralized process, coordinated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). Early in 2017, the MFA established a multistakeholder Working Group, chaired by the deputy minister of foreign affairs, to monitor implementation of commitments. The Working Group included representatives from government institutions responsible for commitment implementation, civil society, and the MFA’s OGP Unit. The composition of the working group limited participation to stakeholders directly involved in the implementation of commitments. The group met twice at the MFA, once in April 2017 and once in August 2017. This falls short of regular frequency, i.e., a minimum of quarterly meetings.

At these consultations, the lead government institution reported progress on each commitment through a brief presentation. The civil society organisation (CSO) counterparts were then provided an opportunity to respond to the presentation and raise questions and concerns regarding the reported progress. Apart from this protocol, the forum did not have other formal rules of engagement or participation. While the MFA confirmed that proceedings were not confidential, the minutes were not made public, nor were there any open invitations for wider public participation.[Note 4: Harim Peiris (Former OGP Point of Contact) and Asoka Obeyesekere (Executive Director – Transparency International Sri Lanka), interviews by IRM researcher, 9 August 2017.]

According to a civil society representative, the working group forum served as a unique and useful platform for ensuring accountability.[Note 5: Mr. Asoka Obeyesekere, interview by IRM researcher.] The forum also afforded space for discussion and cross-fertilisation of ideas between, and among, government and civil society participants.[Note 6: Id.] Despite this, the platform still did not facilitate the full implementation of commitments. The presidential secretariat assumed leadership of the OGP initiative from the MFA in April 2018. As this transfer happened at the final stages of the action plan period, no further formal consultations took place.

Civil society also created an informal forum to monitor commitment implementation. This forum first convened in early 2016 and comprised representatives of the OGP CSO Steering Committee. It met on a quarterly basis to discuss progress on commitments, share new ideas and innovations, and explore how other CSOs can be supported to promote open government. Although functionally similar in terms of monitoring the implementation of commitments, unlike the Working Group, there was no government representation in this forum.[Note 7: Id.] In the context of wider citizen engagement, the forum welcomed the participation of other interested CSOs, but existing representatives did not proactively pursue expansion.[Note 8: Id.] The meeting minutes were also not made public.[Note 9: Id.]

Table 2: Consultation during Implementation

Regular Multistakeholder Forum Midterm End-of-Term
1. Did a forum exist? Yes Yes
2. Did it meet regularly? No No

Table 3: Level of Public Influence during Implementation

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.[Note 10: See: http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iap2.org/resource/resmgr/foundations_course/IAP2_P2_Spectrum_FINAL.pdf. ] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

Level of Public Influence during Implementation of Action Plan Midterm End-of-Term
Empower The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.
Collaborate There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.
Involve The government gave feedback on how public inputs were considered.
Consult The public could give inputs.
Inform The government provided the public with information on the action plan.
No Consultation No consultation

About the Assessment

The indicators and method used in the IRM research can be found in the IRM Procedures Manual.[Note 11: IRM Procedures Manual, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/about-irm.] One measure, the “starred commitment” (✪), deserves further explanation due to its particular interest to readers and usefulness for encouraging a race to the top among OGP-participating countries. Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. To receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

  • Starred commitments will have “medium” or “high” specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgment about its potential impact.
  • The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.
  • The commitment would have a “transformative” potential impact if completely implemented.[Note 12: The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/node/5919.]
  • The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of “substantial” or “complete” implementation.

Starred commitments can lose their starred status if their completion falls short of substantial or full completion at the end of the action plan implementation period.

In the midterm report, the Sri Lanka action plan contained one starred commitment. At the end of term, based on the changes in the level of completion, Sri Lanka’s action plan contained one starred commitment.

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its reporting process. For the full dataset for Sri Lanka, see the OGP Explorer at www.opengovpartnership.org/explorer.

About “Did It Open Government?”

To capture changes in government practice the IRM introduced a new variable “Did It Open Government?” in end-of-term reports. This variable attempts to move beyond measuring outputs and deliverables to looking at how the government practice has changed as a result of the commitment’s implementation.

As written, some OGP commitments are vague and/or not clearly relevant to OGP values but achieve significant policy reforms. In other cases, commitments as written appear relevant and ambitious, but fail to open government as implemented. The “Did It Open Government” variable attempts to captures these subtleties.

The “Did It Open Government?” variable assesses changes in government practice using the following spectrum:

  • Worsened: Government openness worsens as a result of the commitment.
  • Did not change: No changes in government practice.
  • Marginal: Some change, but minor in terms of its effect on level of openness.
  • Major: A step forward for government openness in the relevant policy area, but remains limited in scope or scale.
  • Outstanding: A reform that has transformed “business as usual” in the relevant policy area by opening government.

To assess this variable, researchers establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan. They then assess outcomes as implemented for changes in government openness.

Readers should keep in mind limitations. IRM end-of-term reports are prepared only a few months after the implementation cycle is completed. The variable focuses on outcomes that can be observed in government openness practices at the end of the two-year implementation period. The report and the variable do not intend to assess impact because of the complex methodological implications and the time frame of the report.

Commitment Implementation

General Overview of Commitments

As part of OGP, countries are required to make commitments in a two-year action plan. The tables below summarise the completion level at the end of term and progress on the “Did It Open Government?” metric. For commitments that were complete at the midterm, the report will provide a summary of the progress report findings but focus on analysis of the ‘Did It Open Government?’ variable. For further details on these commitments, please see the Sri Lanka IRM progress report 2016–2017.

Sri Lanka’s first action plan comprises 12 commitments categorised under nine thematic areas. These areas include corruption, education, environment, women, health, information and communication technology, and the right to information. As in the IRM progress report, this end-of-term report divides the 12 commitments into 23 smaller ones for greater clarity and accessibility. This is reflected in Table 4 below.

Table 4: Assessment of Progress by Commitment

Commitment Overview Specificity OGP Value Relevance (as written) Potential Impact Completion Midterm Did It Open Government?
End of Term
None Low Medium High Access to Information Civic Participation Public Accountability Technology & Innovation for Transparency & Accountability None Minor Moderate Transformative Not Started Limited Substantial Completed Worsened Did Not Change Marginal Major Outstanding
1. Strategies to combat CKD
2. Affordable Medicines
3. Nat’l Health Performance
4. Teacher Transfer Policy
5. Gov. Info. Centre
6. Open Data
7. NEA
8. CCCRMA
9. FFPO & NWPEA
10. Local Gov. Procurement
11. Implement Procurement
12. Personal Law Reform
13. Gender & State Land
14. Women in Employment
15. Women in Local Politics
16. Anti-Corruption
17. UNCAC Obligations
18. Agency Coordination
19. Money Laundering
20. Campaign Finance Unclear
21. Asset Declarations
22. Enact and Implement RTI
23. Proactive Disclosure

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