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Portugal

Consulta.Lex (PT0006)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Portugal Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Cabinet of the Secretary of State of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers

Support Institution(s): CEGER – Entity for Information and Communication Technology

Policy Areas

E-Government, Legislation & Regulation, Legislature, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Portugal Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

COMMITMENT #6: CONSULTA.LEX
Commitment Start and End Date: September 2018 – October 2019
Lead implementing agency/actor Cabinet of the Secretary of State of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers
Commitment description
What is the public problem that the commitment will address? The commitment aims to counteract the current withdrawal of citizens from their participation in the legislative process and in decision-making.
What is the commitment? Creation of a portal for legislative public consultations, accessible to all, allowing citizens to participate in the legislative process, through the consultation of legal diplomas and formulation of suggestions, and to accompany the evolution of particular legal diplomas until the final approval phase.
How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem? This commitment will allow citizens to be more closely involved in decision-making through a single location, accessible to all, where the legal diplomas in preparation or in consultation will be made available. The citizen can create a profile, being notified of all legal diplomas that are placed in public consultation in their areas of interest, and will be able to follow all the respective procedure of preparation and approval in its various phases. In this way, citizens can send their contributions, and become part of the normative procedure, receiving information on changes to the legal diploma, as well as on the assessment of the contributions they have made. Even after the legal diploma has been approved, there is still the possibility for the citizen to have access to relevant information about the contributions sent, receiving feedback on which were welcomed or not.
Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values? - By facilitating the access of citizens and stakeholders to consultation processes, greater Transparency and access to information is ensured;
-By encouraging informed participation, the measure is in line with a greater and better Public Participation;
- Finally, through an electronic process and an improvement of the efficiency in the management of the processes, the use of ICT is guaranteed and a reinforcement of the Digital Inclusion.
Additional information Measure #42 of the SIMPLEX+2018 program
Milestone Activity with a verifiable deliverable Start Date: End Date:
Technological development of the Platform December 2018 March 2019
Launching of the Consulta.Lex webportal April 2019 April 2019
Contact information
Name of responsible person from implementing agency Gonçalo Fabião
Title, Department Advisor in the Cabinet of the Secretary of State of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers
Email and Phone goncalo.fabiao@pcm.gov.pt
91 018 43 64Other Actors Involved State actors involved CEGER – Entity for Information and Communication Technology

CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups

IRM Midterm Status Summary

6. Consulta.Lex

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan: [36]

“The commitment aims to counteract the current withdrawal of citizens from their participation in the legislative process and in decision-making.

Creation of a portal for legislative public consultations, accessible to all, allowing citizens to participate in the legislative process, through the consultation of legal diplomas and formulation of suggestions, and to accompany the evolution of particular legal diplomas until the final approval phase.

This commitment will allow citizens to be more closely involved in decision-making through a single location, accessible to all, where the legal diplomas in preparation or in consultation will be made available. The citizen can create a profile, being notified of all legal diplomas that are placed in public consultation in their areas of interest, and will be able to follow all the respective procedure of preparation and approval in its various phases. In this way, citizens can send their contributions, and become part of the normative procedure, receiving information on changes to the legal diploma, as well as on the assessment of the contributions they have made. Even after the legal diploma has been approved, there is still the possibility for the citizen to have access to relevant information about the contributions sent, receiving feedback on which were welcomed or not.”

Milestones:

6.1. Technological development of the Platform

6.2. Launching of the Consulta.Lex webportal

Start Date: January 2019

End Date: 2nd semester of 2019

Context and Objectives

According to academic research, Portugal stands out in Europe as a country with low levels of participation in the political process. [37] This commitment aims to improve this situation by developing a new online portal (Consulta.Lex) dedicated to public consultations for government-initiated legislation. This commitment was originally developed as part of SIMPLEX+2018, the government’s program for the modernization of public services, and was proposed by the representative of the Ministry of the Presidency and of Administrative Modernization (MPMA). The Administrative Modernization Agency (AMA) recognized that the project was already at an advanced stage when it was included in the action plan, not leaving much room for new contributions. Still, the MSF unanimously decided that the initiative was relevant and fitted with the goals of the OGP process. [38] Additionally, it should be noted that the initiative SIMPLEX+2018 itself was also subject to public consultation. [39] Hence, Consulta.Lex received public input even before it was included in the action plan.

By providing a series of additional features for citizens and civil society to engage in the policy-making process, the initiative expects to increase public participation. Currently, the only mechanism available for citizens to share their inputs on ongoing government legislation is a single government-managed email address. Engaged citizens are not given specific guidelines about each individual consultation. The new platform Consulta.Lex intends to improve the experience of participants, as described by MPMA representatives. [40] First, by allowing citizens to identify specific policy areas of interest, users can receive tailored notifications for new participation opportunities in these particular areas. Second, it can allow citizens to stay informed regarding the development of laws after the consultation stage. Third, it can provide a wider range of opportunities for public entities to design the consultation process, for instance through questionnaires rather than open-ended questions. Finally, it could create the opportunity for feedback, although this would not be mandatory. Through the platform, public entities that initiated a consultation process may decide to send a report to users with participation statistics and specific details regarding which suggestions were integrated in the final diploma, and why. Also, according to MPMA representatives, these features are informed by best practices in other public consultation platforms (e.g., participa.pt, from the Environmental Ministry) and by behavioral research, including rewarding systems through social media. [41] Analyzing the commitment against OGP values, the initiative promotes civic participation and the use of technology and innovation for transparency.

The commitment is specific enough to be verifiable. However, its potential breadth and expected impact are not fully captured in the milestones described. For example, the intermediary outputs do not fully capture how the initiative will address the key issue of politically disaffected citizens, although this information is provided elsewhere in the commitment description.

CSOs contacted about this commitment unanimously recognized the merits of Consulta.Lex. TI representatives noted that, if properly implemented, this commitment could significantly increase civic participation in public consultation processes and would like to see the initiative extend to all legislative output in the public sector. [42] In turn, Luis Vidigal, from the Platform of Civil Society Associations, described the commitment as a “qualitative leap in transparency in the legislative process.” [43]

Overall, from the information gathered from different organizations and the text of the commitment, the IRM researcher sees the proposed features included in the new platform for public consultations as innovative, ambitious, and well-adjusted to promote civic participation. The full materialization of the commitment’s goals is contingent on a broad and continuous dissemination effort that is currently missing in the description of the commitment. However, if fully implemented and properly disseminated, Consulta.Lex has the potential to transform ‘business as usual’ in the area of public consultations and contribute meaningfully to combat civic disengagement with the policy-making process.

Next steps

On the basis of the analysis above, the IRM researcher recommends the following steps, considering that the commitment is currently in its final stages of implementation:

  • Consider making some version of the feedback mechanisms available in the new platform mandatory. Any advances on this front would represent a meaningful step in the direction of more public accountability. This step could be particularly effective at boosting public engagement, since it would provide citizens with a sense that their opinions do matter. This suggestion could be implemented either in the current action plan or prioritized in the following action plan.
  • In order to promote better accessibility to legislation, future versions of Consulta.Lex could guarantee a better integration with the website DRE.pt, where all legislation is ultimately published.
  • In the development of future milestones, the government could focus on the targeted behavior change that is expected from the commitment’s implementation, rather than stating intermediary outputs.
  • In future commitments promoting civic participation, consider creating a mechanism to promote public input and public testing during the development of the initiative. This would help guarantee that the new forms of engagement are aligned with the priorities of the relevant publics.
  • Devote additional efforts to implement an effective dissemination of the new platform, both among the general public and among public entities that will use the platform.
[37] Pedro C. Magalhães, Disaffected democrats: Political attitudes and political action in Portugal, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01402380500310626
[38] Cláudia Barroso and Tiago Mendonça, Administrative Modernization Agency, 22 April 2019.
[40] Afonso Brás and Gonçalo Fabião, Ministry of the Presidency and of Administrative Modernization, interview with IRM researcher, 16 April 2019.
[41] Ibid.
[42] Karina Carvalho, Transparency and Integrity, 17 April 2019.
[43] Luis Vidigal, Platform of Civic Society Associations – House of Citizenship, 16 April 2019.