Involve Citizens in Cour des Comptes Work (FR0007)
STAKES The Constitution states that the Cour des comptes is responsible for making a free, independent and collegial assessment of the use of public funds. It is a key institution of the French Republic. It is an independent jurisdiction situated midway between the Parliament and the Government, which provides assistance to both. It plays an essential role in the functioning of our democracy and government modernization. The Cour des comptes further undertaking on opening its own data, on promoting analysis based on data sciences, on developing citizens’ involvement in its work, contributes to the institution's commitment to the French process of open government.
CONTEXT & AIM Every year, the Cour des comptes, the regional and local chambers of the Cour des comptes and the organizations that are attached to it (High Council on Public Finances, Court of Budgetary and Financial Discipline, Council of Compulsory Levies, etc.) publish judicial decisions, reports and notices on the Cour des comptes’s website. Articles 14 and 15 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, which provide the legal bedrock for the missions of the Cour des comptes, have remained very modern: in a democracy, citizens have the right to ascertain, by themselves or through their representatives, the need for public taxation, to consent to it freely, to watch over its use, and to determine its proportion, basis, collection and duration. They have the right to ask a public official for an accounting of her administration. These provisions are the first manifestos in favor of the opening of public information and more open and more transparent governance. Following these principles, the financial jurisdictions took the initiative, from 2014, of opening first sets of public data. They will take this process further in the months to come. They will involve citizens more in their work, subject to the precautions inherent to the functioning of an independent jurisdiction, notably respect for secrets protected by the law.
• Open some of the data collected during inspections and evaluations, as well as data specific to financial jurisdictions The Cour des comptes undertakes to regularly provide the following data sets:
- The budgetary data forming the basis of current or past analyses of State’s budget execution
- When possible, the data forming the basis of current or past themed investigations of the Cour
- The data forming the basis of current or past work on local finances
- Certain data on activity of the financial jurisdictions, notably the update to the list of publications from the Court and the resources of the financial jurisdictions The Cour des comptes will also study, together with the Prime Minister’s Office, the establishment of a data portal "data.ccomptes.fr", listed on the government portal (data.gouv.fr), in order to systematize a strategy of data management and the opening of public information.
• Further involve citizens in the work of the Cour des comptes This involvement could take several forms:
- Opinion surveys in order to better identify the expectations of citizens in relation to the work of the Cour des comptes, both in form and content
- A contributory platform could be introduced to enable feedbacks from citizens' on their concerns
IRM End of Term Status Summary
1. Open some of the data collected during inspections and evaluations, as well as data specific to financial jurisdictions.
The Cour des comptes undertakes to regularly provide the following data sets:
a. The budgetary data forming the basis of current or past analyses of State's budget execution
b. When possible, the data forming the basis of current or past themed investigations of the Cour
c. The data forming the basis of current or past work on local finances
d. Certain data on activity of the financial jurisdictions, notably the update to the list of publications from the Court and the resources of the financial jurisdictions
The Cour des comptes will also study, together with the Prime Minister's Office, the establishment of a data portal 'data.ccomptes.fr', listed on the government portal (data.gouv.fr), in order to systematize a strategy of data management and the opening of public information.
2. Further involve citizens in the work of the Cour des comptes
This involvement could take several forms:
a. Opinion surveys in order to better identify the expectations of citizens in relation to the work of the Cour des comptes, both in form and content
b. A contributory platform could be introduced to enable feedbacks from citizens' on their concerns
Editorial Note:This is a partial version of the commitment text. For the full commitment text please see France's national action plan: https://bit.ly/2MTYhsR.
Responsible Institution: Cour des comptes
Supporting Institution(s): N/A
Start Date: Not Specified
End Date: Not Specified
The Cour des comptes – France's Supreme Audit Institution – is responsible for assessing the use of public funds, auditing the State and Social Security accounts, and evaluating public policies. Transparency and accountability are at the core of their mission but the institution is often perceived as complex by the general public audience. This commitment thus aimed to make the Cour des comptes more accessible for the public by opening data produced by the Cour des comptes and inviting citizen participation. The Cour des comptes sought to better include citizens in its activities through a citizen-feedback platform and opinion surveys.
Since 2014, the Cour des compts has opened a few datasets presenting the results of their work, including a dataset listing all the documents produced[Note54: “Productions des chambres régionales et territoriales des comptes, par chambre régionale et par type de production (2010-2015),” (data.gouv.fr, accessed 25 Mar. 2018), https://www.data.gouv.fr/fr/datasets/productions-des-chambres-regionales-et-territoriales-des-comptes-par-chambre-regionale-et-par-type-de-production-2010-2015/.] by the Cour and its regional chambers, the case law of financial jurisdictions, and all data regarding daily activities of the financial jurisdictions. The commitment aimed to further this transparency and open new data. The midterm IRM report found that the milestones lacked specificity and did not contain sufficient details about the implementation, timeline, or potential functionalities.
The completion of this commitment was limited by the midterm. By December 2016, the Cour des comptes had published 52 datasets on data.gouv.fr. In addition to opening new datasets, the institution organised a hackathon in May 2016 with data scientists, magistrates, public officials, and students to identify user needs for data access. In December 2016, the Cour des comptes participated in the General Interest Entrepreneurship program coordinated by Etalab. Lastly, the institution employed a data scientist for ten months to develop a tool for the public to easily extract data from the reports. For more information, please see the IRM midterm report.[Note55: Independent Reporting Mechanism, France Rapport D'ètape (OGP, 2017), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/France_Progress-Report_2015-2017.pdf.]
End of Term: Limited
In October 2017, the Cour des comptes had published 82 datasets on data.gouv.fr, mostly in .csv format. Etalab indicates that the Cour des comptes had opened all the underlying data used to produced its reports as well as the evaluations from local audit institutions. As noted in the midterm report, the lack of specificity of the first milestone (“open some data…”) makes it difficult for the IRM researcher to assess the completion of this commitment.
Following the DataSession organised in May 2016, five projects were presented to the Cour des comptes:[Note56: See https://www.etalab.gouv.fr/datasession-a-la-cour-des-comptes-une-premiere-brique-vers-louverture-des-decisions-de-justice (accessed 9 Jan. 2018).]
· OpenBudget.fr: making local government budgets easier to understand for the public;
· Reco-tracker: making it easier to track if public agencies follow the Cour's recommendations;
· Datapartage: making it easier to explore the Cour's data
· FRAP making it easier to geo-reference reports and data; and
· Doctrine.fr: indexing of judicial decisions.
The IRM researcher did not find any public information on the follow-up to this event or on potential support provided to the projects. In June 2017, the Cour des comptes organised a second DataSession together with the Commission d'accès aux documents administratifs (CADA), the prefecture of the Occitanie region and Etalab, with the aim, inter alia, to better identify the actors in public transparency in France, to make the Cour des comptes' data more user-friendly and to track what tax revenue is used for. The event was organised in parallel in Paris and Montpellier. The IRM researcher could not find any public information regarding the results and follow-up to this event.
The Cour des comptes hosted an entrepreneur in early 2017 named Frédéric Bardolle. Bardolle worked with Cour des comptes officials to better organise the governance of the institution's data and developed an API. He also assisted the Cour des comptes in its efforts to open data, both regarding the production of its reports as well as its internal operations.
Did It Open Government?
Access to Information: Marginal
Civic Participation: Did Not Change
This commitment made new data accessible to the public and strengthened the relationship between the Cour des comptes and civil society. As such, this commitment marginally opened government regarding access to information but did not change civic participation.
The Cour des comptes produces many reports and the implementation of this commitment moved the institution toward opening the underlying data for these reports and analyses. The dashboard indicates that 75 of these datasets have never been reused and the other seven have rarely been reused. There is no publicly available information regarding the criteria for releasing datasets. This raises the question of the relevance of the data opened by the Cour des comptes and awareness-raising efforts undertaken.
According to Etalab, the Cour des comptes has demonstrated a great interest in making its data available and usable. The IRM researcher could not find information regarding the Cour des comptes' strategy for releasing datasets. It does not appear that a mechanism exists to systematically open data. The project undertaken by Frédéric Bardolle should allow for a more systematic opening of data, but the results of his work were not yet known at the end of the implementation term. As mentioned above, the released datasets were barely used by the public, which questions the relevance of the data that has been opened and/or the efforts made to advertise the new data.
Regarding civic participation, the Cour des comptes has made new efforts to include civil society in its work through events and collaborations with data scientists. The results of these activities are yet to be seen, therefore it is not yet possible to find that this commitment is a major step forward for government openness.
This commitment was carried over to the new action plan. In the new action plan, the commitment focuses on publicising data opened by financial jurisdictions and improving data quality; on diversifying the methods used to communicate data and encouraging the reuse of opened data; and on testing new ways to inform and consult citizens.
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