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Estonia

Riigikogu Transparency (EE0050)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Estonia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Riigikogu

Support Institution(s): The Estonian Cooperation Assembly, Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations

Policy Areas

E-Government, Legislature, Open Data, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Estonia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Increasing the openness and transparency of the Riigikogu
Commitment Start and End Date
July 2018 – June 2020
Lead implementing agency/actor Riigikogu
Other Actors Involved State actors involved
CSOs, private sector,multilaterals, working groups The Estonian Cooperation Assembly, Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations
Commitment description
What is the public problem that the commitment will address? In 2016, the Riigikogu Rules of Procedure and Internal Rules Act was amended, making the minutes of committee sittings more informative than before.
The State Gazette (Riigi Teataja) enables subscribing to e-mail notifications regarding all draft legislations and the stages of legislative proceeding, from coordination to publishing in the State Gazette.
In 2017, the Anti-Corruption Select Committee developed recommendations for the members of the Riigikogu on how to communicate with lobbyist and described sample situations which may occur .
Therefore, the openness of the Riigikogu has somewhat increased; however, the practice has not been harmonised between committees and problems occur with the speed of publishing information, participation in the legislative proceeding of draft legislation, and access to data regarding both web publications and open data.
What is the commitment? In order to make the information on the web page of the Riigikogu more available and user-friendly, the web page is further developed in a manner which allows processing data related to the plenary assembly in a machine-readable format.
Publishing of minutes of committees is hastened and harmonised between committees.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem? By publishing the open data, information related to legislating becomes more available and more possibilities are created to use information published by the Riigikogu.
Faster publishing of minutes makes legislating more transparent, as the public receives up-to-date information on how the decisions are formed.
Which OGP values is this commitment relevant to? Transparency
Civic participation
Additional information
Milestone Activity Start Date: End Date:
Open data of the Riigikogu are being tested. October 2018 May 2019
Open data of the Riigikogu are constantly available. October 2018 June 2019
Minutes are published as soon as possible after a sitting of a committee has finished. July 2018 June 2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

3. Increasing the openness and transparency of the Riigikogu

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan [32]:

“In order to make the information on the web page of the Riigikogu more available and user-friendly, the web page is further developed in a manner which allows processing data related to the plenary assembly in a machine-readable format.

Publishing of minutes of committees is hastened and harmonised between committees.”

Milestones:

3.1 Open data of the Riigikogu are being tested

3.2 Open data of the Riigikogu are constantly available

3.3 Minutes are published as soon as possible after a sitting of a committee has finished

Start Date: July 2018

End Date: June 2020

Context and Objectives

The transparency of the work of the Estonian Parliament (the Riigikogu) was raised as a problem in the previous OGP action plan. The action plan had focused on developing internal guidelines for Members of Parliament for interacting with lobby groups, while the new action plan seeks to improve public access to information about the Riigikogu’s work. According to the problem statement in the action plan, the Riigikogu’s practice of publishing minutes from parliamentary committees’ sittings is not harmonized, minutes are often published with delays and access to the Riigikogu’s publications and open data could be improved. CSOs confirm that gaps exist. Maarja-Leena Saar, the manager of the Citizens’ Initiative platform [33] at the Estonian Cooperation Assembly, notes that monitoring the status of the citizens’ initiatives sent to Parliament could be substantially simplified if committees’ minutes were available in a timely manner and the Riigikogu’s data repository sent notifications of their publication in real time, with a link to the minutes. [34] According to her experience, minutes sometimes only become available a month after a sitting and occasionally only as printed and scanned PDF files, which need to be manually copied to the Citizens’ Initiative portal. Regarding access to open data, citizens have repeatedly asked for Riigikogu’s data on the Estonian open data issue tracker on Github, [35] indicating demand for this data in open, machine-readable and reusable formats.

When proposing this commitment for inclusion in the action plan, Liia Hänni (e-Governance Academy) also raised the more fundamental need to agree on how discussions and voting results in committees’ meetings should be recorded and on the legal grounds on which committees may restrict public access to their meeting minutes. [36] However, the Riigikogu did not refer to this part of the problem in the final commitment wording. According to Hänni, different interpretations of this right have been a source of controversy for years and have not been resolved in a satisfactory manner. [37]

In order to improve public access to information, the Riigikogu has committed to carrying out two types of activities: 1) publishing data about the Riigikogu’s plenary sittings in machine-readable open data formats, and 2) publishing minutes of committees’ sittings as soon as possible after a sitting. These objectives address the stated needs, although Liia Hänni’s suggestion to revise the legal bases of declaring committees’ minutes confidential remains beyond the scope of these activities. The commitment is clearly relevant to the OGP value of access to information and intends to employ technology to make information available to the public quickly and in open formats. Although the commitment also claims relevance to civic participation, it does not envisage any mechanisms for directly engaging citizens beyond simply informing them and is therefore not directly relevant to civic participation.

The commitment sets milestones that are verifiable, although it is not clear from the wording whether the publication of committees’ minutes “as soon as possible” means immediately or whether committees could delay publication by arguing that publishing them sooner would not have been possible. Based on the IRM researcher’s interview with Tiina Runthal from the Riigikogu’s chancellery, the Riigikogu’s objective is to make minutes available within seven days from the day following the committee’s sitting. [38] This deadline may be extended for justifiable reasons, such as the signatories’ illness or travelling on duty.

If implemented as planned, this commitment could potentially have a moderate impact on the Riigikogu’s transparency and public access to information about the Riigikogu’s work. According to Maarja-Leena Saar (Estonian Cooperation Assembly), publishing Riigikogu’s open data through an API [39] would be a major improvement and help solve their problem of missing information and manual work. [40] However, in Liia Hänni’s (e-Governance Academy) opinion, this commitment only does the necessary minimum to improve the Riigikogu’s transparency, and should continue in the next action plan to address the more fundamental questions of documentation and restrictions on public access to the committees’ work. [41] According to the IRM researcher’s assessment, both the provision of open data and the publication of committees’ minutes in seven days are important steps forward but the Riigikogu could do more to present the minutes on the website in a way that allows citizens to easily find information. For example, the current search function only allows users to search minutes by selecting the respective committee and date of the sitting but does not enable search by keywords or offer users the option of browsing the history of a committee’s sittings. According to Tiina Runthal (Chancellery of the Riigikogu), the Riigikogu does not plan any further activities for improving access to committees’ minutes besides publishing them within seven days. [42]

Next steps

As civil society stakeholders consider access to information about the Riigikogu’s work important, the Riigikogu could consider continuing efforts towards better public access to information in the next action plan. If implemented as planned, the current action plan will likely substantially improve the provision of open data. It will also create a basis to pursue the more ambitious goal of not only publishing committees’ minutes more quickly but also making more of them open to the public and improving the findability of relevant information. Given that this commitment has been mostly implemented, the following recommendations could be considered to increase the commitment’s impact during the implementation of the current action plan:

  • The Riigikogu is encouraged to continue interaction with the main users of the Riigikogu’s open data (e.g. the Estonian Cooperation Assembly) and the broader open data community on Github to improve the quality and usability of the published data and add new datasets based on users’ needs. In order to increase data reuse, it is also important to keep the metadata and links to the Riigikogu’s repository on the Estonian Open Data Portal up to date.
  • For the sake of ensuring equal access to information, the Riigikogu could analyze the accessibility of the information on its website (including committees’ minutes) for people with disabilities, in particular those with visual impairments. To this end, the Estonian Chamber of Disabled People recommends the Riigikogu to involve the Estonian Blind Union in evaluating the accessibility of the website for visually impaired and blind people. [43]
  • The Riigikogu could also consider ways of improving the ease of use of its website, in particular the search function for the minutes of plenaries and sittings of parliamentary committees. Meeting minutes can be an important source of information for the public and merely publishing them on the website may not be sufficient to make the information truly accessible to citizens.
  • Moving forward, the Riigikogu could also enable citizens to subscribe to notifications about events in the legislative process to proactively encourage the use of information that is available online.

 

[33] The Citizens’ Initiative (https://rahvaalgatus.ee/) is an online public participation instrument adopted as part of Estonia’s OGP action plan for 2014-2016 that allows citizens to submit collective addresses (petitions) to the Riigikogu if signed by at least 1000 citizens.
[34] IRM researcher’s interview with Maarja-Leena Saar (Estonian Cooperation Assembly), 29 March 2019.
[36] IRM researcher’s interview with Liia Hänni (e-Governance Academy), 27 March 2019.
[37] For example, Hänni’s blog post from 2015, https://ega.ee/blog_post/kui-avatud-riigikogu-me-vajame/
[38] IRM researcher’s email communication with Tiina Runthal (Chancellery of Riigikogu), 29 March 2019.
[39] APIs (application programming interfaces) allow information to be exchanged directly between software programs and are an increasingly common way of providing open data services.
[40] IRM researcher’s interview with Maarja-Leena Saar.
[41] IRM researcher’s interview with Liia Hänni.
[42] IRM researcher’s email communication with Tiina Runthal.
[43] IRM researcher’s email communication with Anneli Habicht (Estonian Chamber of Disabled People), 2 April 2019.

Commitments

  1. Transparent and Inclusive Policy Making

    EE0048, 2018, E-Government

  2. Inclusive Policy-Making

    EE0049, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Riigikogu Transparency

    EE0050, 2018, E-Government

  4. National and Local Government Action Plans

    EE0051, 2018, Public Service Delivery

  5. Presentation of Local Public Services

    EE0052, 2018, E-Government

  6. Participatiory Democracy Capacity-Building

    EE0053, 2018, Capacity Building

  7. e-Tax and Customs Board 2020

    EE0039, 2016, E-Government

  8. Reducing Bureaucracy and a Simpler State – the Zero Bureaucracy Project

    EE0040, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Implementation of the Principles of Open Governance at Local Level as a Result of the Administrative Reform

    EE0041, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. More Inclusive Policy-Making on a Central Government Level

    EE0042, 2016, E-Government

  11. More Open and Transparent Law-Making

    EE0043, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  12. Increase of the Engagement Capacity of State Authorities and Participation Capacity of Nongovernmental Organisations in Policy-Making

    EE0044, 2016, Capacity Building

  13. Intensify Participatory Budgeting on a Local Level

    EE0045, 2016, E-Government

  14. Increasing the Transparency of the Funding of Non-Governmental Organisations

    EE0046, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  15. Defining Participatory Democracy and Development of Digital Competence in School Education

    EE0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Visualisation of the Policy Making Process

    EE0016, 2014, Public Participation

  17. Upgrading Participation Channels

    EE0017, 2014, E-Government

  18. Improving Government Website

    EE0018, 2014, E-Government

  19. Standard for Information Requests

    EE0019, 2014, E-Government

  20. Early Notice on Policy-Making Processes

    EE0020, 2014, Public Participation

  21. Participation in Early Stage Policy-Making

    EE0021, 2014, Public Participation

  22. Early Access to Tax Policy Decisions

    EE0022, 2014, Public Participation

  23. Better Feedback Mechanism

    EE0023, 2014, Public Participation

  24. Selecting and Funding Participation Projects

    EE0024, 2014, Civic Space

  25. Web Tool

    EE0025, 2014, E-Government

  26. Civil Servant Guidelines for Participation

    EE0026, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Training Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)

    EE0027, 2014, Capacity Building

  28. Central Government Transactions

    EE0028, 2014, E-Government

  29. Local Authorities' Transactions with Private Entities

    EE0029, 2014, Civic Space

  30. Public Spending for Non-Profits

    EE0030, 2014, Civic Space

  31. Guidelines for Citizen Budgeting

    EE0031, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Guidelines for Redesigning Public Services

    EE0032, 2014, E-Government

  33. Registry of Public Services

    EE0033, 2014, Open Data

  34. User-Centric Public Services

    EE0034, 2014, E-Government

  35. Access to e-Services for Non-Residents

    EE0035, 2014, Citizenship and Immigration

  36. Open Data Portal

    EE0036, 2014, E-Government

  37. Opening Data

    EE0037, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Supporting Nongovernmental Open Data Use

    EE0038, 2014, Capacity Building

  39. Drawing up a Green Paper on Organisation of Public Services

    EE0001, 2012, Public Service Delivery

  40. Implementation of the Eesti.Ee Action Plan

    EE0002, 2012, E-Government

  41. Drawing up a Green Paper on Making Public Data Available in a Machine-Readable Form

    EE0003, 2012, E-Government

  42. Creating a Repository of Public Data

    EE0004, 2012, E-Government

  43. Launching Pilot Projects of Public Data Services Based on the Cloud Technology

    EE0005, 2012, E-Government

  44. Interactive Guidelines and Training in Implementation of the Good Practice of Public Engagement

    EE0006, 2012, Open Contracting and Procurement

  45. Launch of the Impact Assessment System

    EE0007, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  46. Overview of Ministries’ Work Processes

    EE0008, 2012, Capacity Building

  47. Integration of Impact Assessment Into the Process of Public Engagement

    EE0009, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  48. Creation of a Database of Declarations of Economic Interests

    EE0010, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  49. Adjustment of the System of Funding Non-Profit Associations and Establishment of a Disclosure System

    EE0011, 2012, Private Sector

  50. Starred commitment Drawing up a Proposal for Drawing up an Anti-Corruption Strategy

    EE0012, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  51. Draft Anti-Corruption Act

    EE0013, 2012, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  52. Establishment of the Public Ethics Council

    EE0014, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  53. Organisation of Ethics Training for Employees of Various Public Sector Organisations (Incl. Public Servants)

    EE0015, 2012, Capacity Building