Releasing ministerial research reports (NL0022)
Because it is not possible to publish all information online immediately, for both practical and financial reasons, the former action plan established certain categories of information for which publication is to be prioritised. They are: research reports, purchasing and procurement data, information relating to the award of grants and subsidies, and feasibility assessments further to various planning procedures. The process of publishing such information will allow the various stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the practical implications, costs and limitations of open government. Eventually, we will work towards a system which may be described as ‘open by design’, in which full publication of information is regarded as the norm.
Under the current action plan, the pilot projects commenced under its predecessor are to be continued and expanded to other ministries, as requested by various civil society organisations. These pilot projects involve the publication of research reports. Activities to date have shown that there is no standard approach with regard to the publication of feasibility assessments. Not all are made public; those that are appear in various forms and through various channels. Accordingly, efforts will now focus on creating greater uniformity. Financial data, such as information about procurement and the award of grants and subsidies, is already being published to the greatest extent possible, whereupon no additional action is required under the current action plan.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
4. Active publication of information
Under the current action plan, the pilot projects commenced under its predecessor are to be continued and expanded to other ministries, as requested by various civil society organizations. These pilot projects involve the publication of research reports. Activities to date have shown that there is no standard approach with regard to the publication of feasibility assessments. Not all are made public; those that are appear in various forms and through various channels. Accordingly, efforts will now focus on creating greater uniformity. Financial data, such as information about procurement and the award of grants and subsidies, is already being published to the greatest extent possible, whereupon no additional action is required under the current action plan.
1. Five Ministries will make their research reports available online (at www.rijksoverheid.nl). The research reports are made available online within four weeks of the report being finalized.
2. The results of these pilots are to be assessed by or on behalf of the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The House of Representatives will be informed of the findings during the latter half of 2016.
3. The extended pilot projects will form the basis for active publication of reports, and for the government-wide implementation of the approach thus developed.
4. On the basis of the pilots, a manual will be made available to assist other departments with the development and implementation of the new work process.
5. The Ministry of the Interior will support the government-wide implementation of the new method of working by:
a. organising four knowledge sessions (in 2017);
b. developing and making available communication tools such as posters and banners;
c. and by evaluating the government-wide active publication of research projects.
6. A further investigation of opportunities to publish feasibility assessments in 2016. The House of Representatives will be informed about the outcomes in January 2017.
7. Based on the results of this investigation, a standard procedure for the active publication of feasibility assessments will be developed under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Security and Justice (V&J). In addition, the government’s online legislative calendar (https://wetgevingskalender.overheid.nl/) will be improved, so that for each legislative file all relevant documents are accessible.
Responsible institution: Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Affairs
Supporting institution(s): all other ministries and executive agencies
Start date: 1 January 2016 End date: 30 June 2018
Editorial Note: This is a truncated version of the milestone text. For the full commitment text, please see The Netherlands National Action Plan (https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Netherlands_NAP-Appendix_2016-2018_EN_revised-with-changes.pdf)
Context and Objectives
The Dutch Public Access to Government Information Act XX[Note79: Access to information act, http://www.legislationline.org/documents/action/popup/id/6395.]XX sets out clear requirements to ensure open access to public information. In practice, however, the scope of public information available is still limited. This commitment is the continuation of commitment one from the first action plan, which sought to align Dutch open access practice with the European Directive on the Re-use of Public Information (2013/37/EU). XX[Note80: EU Directive, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32013L0037&from=FR.]XX Activities to date have shown that there is no standard approach when publishing feasibility assessments, and not all are made public. XX[Note81: Appendix to the 2nd national action plan, opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Netherlands_NAP-Appendix_2016-2018_EN_revised-with-changes.pdf.]XX
Although the commitment is titled, the ‘active publication of information,’ the main objective of this commitment is to disclose two categories of documents: research reports and feasibility assessments. In this action plan period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport joined the pilot project that was started under the former action plan by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations ('the Ministry') and the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The pilot focuses on disclosing research reports made by third parties under public procurement, such as scientific research reports commissioned by the government, that are usually used to develop or evaluate public policy. As such, this commitment is relevant to access to information.
The overall specificity of this commitment is high. Most commitment activities are clearly verifiable: the action plan indicates when and where research reports will be made available, it specifies the actions the Ministry will take to support the new approach, and it provides specific deliverables to gauge completion (e.g. documents addressed to the House of Representatives).
Interviewed stakeholders and experts pointed out that the active disclosure of information is the central issue of open government: there is a culture of reluctance toward publishing information. XX[Note82: Survey, appendix.]XX, XX[Note83: Interview with prof. W. Voermans, August 2017. ]XX This commitment represents a step in the right direction. In its present form, however, potential impact is limited because the project is still being piloted.
Overall, this commitment is substantially completed and on time. During the period covered by this report, milestones one, two, and four have been finalized and milestone five is well under way. The government has announced its intent for the pilot to be extended (milestone 3). There is no evidence that milestones six and seven have been started.
On 21 November 2016, the government informed Parliament in a formal letter about the results of the pilots that were evaluated by a working group. XX[Note84: Pilot results, rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2016/11/21/kamerbrief-over-voortgang-actieve-openbaarmaking-van-onderzoeksrapporten.]XX According to the letter, during the pilot period, 178 research reports were received by various ministries. 100 reports were disclosed within the promised 28 days, and 66 were published later on. The reports are currently published on kennisopenbaarbestuur.nl (milestones 1 and 2).
In the same formal letter, the government publicly declared its decision to roll out the project on research reports to all ministries (milestone 3). Such a decision is, according to the project leader, taken seriously by civil service, but there is no control mechanism on compliance. This project will be assessed by Berenschot, a commercial research bureau. The lead civil servant told the IRM researcher that it expects that the recommendations provided by Berenschot will be helpful. Recommendations were expected by 1 February 2018.
The manual to assist other departments is internally available and has been assessed positively by the IRM researcher (milestone 4). It is clear and complete. A PDF brochure has also been made internally available and handed over to the IRM researcher.
According to the self-assessment report, two knowledge meetings took place in the spring of 2017 (milestone 5). The government investigated the opportunities to publish feasibility assessments, and on 24 February 2017, the Minister of Security and Justice informed Parliament that the matter is complicated since the feasibility assessments are written and published in many different ways (milestone 6). XX[Note85: Feasibility assessments, rijksoverheid.nl/documenten/kamerstukken/2017/02/24/tk-transparantie-van-het-wetgevingsproces.]XX The plan was to publish the reports on the Legislative Calendar at the end of 2017. Although no feasibility assessments have been published yet, this does not represent a delay in the implementation of milestone seven since the publication of a standard procedure is planned for June 2018.
The IRM researcher recommends the government take this commitment forward into the next action plan with major modifications. Specifically, the government should consider the following:
•Use the manual and results of the assessment by Berenschot.
•Expand the current pilots to all government institutions.
•Include Parliament in the implementation of this commitment, since much of the information is meant for and available to Parliament.
•Expand the scope of the commitment beyond research reports and feasibility assessments to encompass the active disclosure of all other key categories of government information, with a specific focus on FoI requests, public contracts (‘convenanten and beleidsovereenkomsten’), tax rulings, plea deals with large companies, petitions, etc.
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open local decision-making
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Training civil servants on public participation
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