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Scotland, United Kingdom

Public Service Accountability (SCO0009)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Scotland Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: DG Economy, Scottish Government will work collaboratively with scrutiny bodies, regulators, Citizens Advice Scotland and other civil society organisations

Support Institution(s): Other Actors Involved State actors involved For Part 1 • Audit Scotland • Cosla • Scottish Care Commission • Scottish Government • Scottish Information Commissioner • Scottish Public Services Ombudsman • [Others, including for Part 2, to be added as we engage further] CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups For Part 1 • Citizens Advice Service Network • Scottish OGP network • [Others, including for Part 2, to be added as we engage further]

Policy Areas

Legislation & Regulation, Open Regulations, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery, Social Accountability Measures & Feedback Loops, Subnational

IRM Review

IRM Report: Scotland Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation , Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Commitment 4: Improving the accountability of public services – the citizen’s journey
October 2018 - 2020 Lead implementing agency/actor DG Economy, Scottish Government will work collaboratively with scrutiny bodies, regulators, Citizens Advice Scotland and other civil society organisations Commitment description What is the public problem that the commitment will address? How public services are held to account in Scotland is complex. It can be challenging for people to know how to navigate this landscape whether to share their views, resolve a problem or hold public services to account at an individual, organisational, sectoral or national level. From the public consultation, we heard that people wanted to know: • how to make their voices heard; • how they can have a say in, and contribute to, public sector improvement and accountability; and • who makes decisions about public service design and delivery, how and under what authority. A lack of understanding and certainty around how public services are held to account can make individuals feel powerless, frustrated or disengaged.
What is the commitment? This commitment is split into two distinct parts: Part 1 is led by a collaboration of scrutiny bodies and regulators. Part 2 is led by the Scottish Government. Part 1 – Understanding accountability and improving citizens’ access We commit to work collaboratively within the current regulatory framework to improve the citizen’s understanding of and access to accountability mechanisms. This means improving people’s understanding of accountability and how Scottish public services are held to account; and how they can exercise their right to seek scrutiny of public services. We will work together to examine what accountability means to different groups of people. This will include mapping the current landscape of public service scrutiny and regulatory bodies, identifying what sort of decisions they take, what and how they scrutinise and regulate, how they drive improvement and how citizens can access this. Our approach will include the milestones under Part 1 below. Part 2 – A citizen-focused approach to public services Accountability isn’t just about reacting when things go wrong. It must be embedded throughout public service design – starting with policy and decision makers hearing people’s views and experiences, learning from past experience when designing new services, and tackling the issues that matter to people in a way that works for them. The Scottish Government is committed to working collaboratively to put these principles into practice by progressing a transformational approach that puts people at the heart of policy making. The Scottish Government will continue its work with a range of partners (taking account of the work of Part 1 of this commitment) to deliver the following milestones under Part 2 below. Consumer Scotland will establish an investigatory body to tackle issues where there is a high level of consumer detriment. It will provide an important vehicle to build trust and transparency in government by ensuring that those responsible for poor decisions and practices are held to account.
How will the commitment contribute to solving the public problem? The commitment will improve the citizen’s journey around public services accountability. It will empower and enable citizens’ participation and ability to hold public services to account. We envisage this commitment will deliver the following outcomes: • amplify the work of scrutiny bodies and regulators to hold public services to account and make it more visible to people • people know how they can hold public services to account and are supported to do this • scrutiny bodies, regulators, civil society and government work effectively together and share good practice Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values? In delivering this commitment we will: • enable greater transparency by increasing the accessibility, usability and quality of information on public service accountability for people • enhance and strengthen the citizen voice and citizens’ ability to inform public services by helping people navigate the scrutiny and regulatory landscape • promote people-focused scrutiny mechanisms that strengthen citizens’ ability to challenge how public services are delivered, including through complaints and appeals processes Additional information This work will aid the delivery of the: • Openness commitment within the National Performance Framework • Community Empowerment • The Duty of User Focus in Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 • Potential new Consumer Duty as consulted upon in the Consumer Scotland consultation in July 2018
Milestone Activity with a verifiable deliverable Start Date: End Date: Part 1 - Understanding accountability and improving citizens’ access • analysing relevant data to identify what public services people seek advice on and the root causes of their concerns; • working with regulators and scrutiny bodies to identify and share information about their remits, links and perceived challenges; • holding conversations between citizens, regulators, scrutiny bodies and government to identify how citizens would like to exercise their rights to complain, appeal or seek scrutiny of public bodies, and what the barriers are; • working with regulators and scrutiny bodies to understand how to share learning and good practice on ensuring citizens are able to help shape their services going forward; and • identifying ways to improve access to and strengthen citizens’ ability to hold public services to account within the current landscape, to amplify the impact of the scrutiny bodies and their distinct duties. Spring 2019 2020
Contact information Name of responsible person from implementing agency Doreen Grove Title, Department Doreen Grove, Head of Open Government, Ingage, Scottish Government This commitment is owned and led by the following actors: DG Economy, Scottish Government will work collaboratively with scrutiny bodies, regulators, Citizens Advice Scotland and other civil society organisations Email and Phone Doreen.grove@gov.scot 07767343230
Lead: Lorraine King lorraine.king@gov.scot Karen Dickson karen.dickson@gov.scot Other Actors Involved State actors involved For Part 1 • Audit Scotland • Cosla • Scottish Care Commission • Scottish Government • Scottish Information Commissioner • Scottish Public Services Ombudsman • [Others, including for Part 2, to be added as we engage further] CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups For Part 1 • Citizens Advice Service Network • Scottish OGP network • [Others, including for Part 2, to be added as we engage further]

IRM Midterm Status Summary

4 Improving the accountability of public services – the citizen’s journey

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan:

“This commitment is split into two distinct parts: Part 1 is led by a collaboration of scrutiny bodies and regulators. Part 2 is led by the Scottish Government.

Part 1 – Understanding accountability and improving citizens’ access:  We commit to work collaboratively within the current regulatory framework to improve the citizen’s understanding of and access to accountability mechanisms. This means improving people’s understanding of accountability and how Scottish public services are held to account; and how they can exercise their right to seek scrutiny of public services.

We will work together to examine what accountability means to different groups of people. This will include mapping the current landscape of public service scrutiny and regulatory bodies, identifying what sort of decisions they take, what and how they scrutinise and regulate, how they drive improvement and how citizens can access this.

Part 2 – A citizen-focused approach to public services: Accountability isn’t just about reacting when things go wrong. It must be embedded throughout public service design – starting with policy and decision makers hearing people’s views and experiences, learning from past experience when designing new services, and tackling the issues that matter to people in a way that works for them.   The Scottish Government is committed to working collaboratively to put these principles into practice by progressing a transformational approach that puts people at the heart of policy making. The Scottish Government will continue its work with a range of partners (taking account of the work of Part 1 of this commitment) to deliver the following milestones under Part 2 below.

Consumer Scotland will establish an investigatory body to tackle issues where there is a high level of consumer detriment. It will provide an important vehicle to build trust and transparency in government by ensuring that those responsible for poor decisions and practices are held to account.”

Activities

Part 1 - Understanding accountability and improving citizens’ access

  1. analysing relevant data to identify what public services people seek advice on and the root causes of their concerns;
  2. working with regulators and scrutiny bodies to identify and share information about their remits, links and perceived challenges; holding conversations between citizens, regulators, scrutiny bodies and government to identify how citizens would like to exercise their rights to complain, appeal or seek scrutiny of public bodies, and what the barriers are;
  3. working with regulators and scrutiny bodies to understand how to share learning and good practice on ensuring citizens are able to help shape their services going forward;
  4. identifying ways to improve access to and strengthen citizens’ ability to hold public services to account within the current landscape, to amplify the impact of the scrutiny bodies and their distinct duties.

Part 2 – A citizen-focused approach to public services

  1. Develop an approach to consider the impacts of public policy and decision making on people in a systematic and coherent way, and to recognise the importance of citizens in driving high quality public services;
    • Develop a new narrative on the importance of citizens in policy-making
    • Assess methods for representing the citizen voice in policy-making
    • Develop and trial different ways of supporting policy makers to consider citizens
  2. Review the provision of and access to advice services in a way that adopts the spirit and principles of the Open Government Partnership to uphold the rights of people in accessing advice;
  3. Develop and implement a statutory consumer body for Scotland - Consumer Scotland - in a way that adopts the spirit and principles of Open Government Partnership.
  4. Complete and publish impact assessments
  5. Consumer Scotland Bill laid in Scottish Parliament
  6. Establish delivery mechanisms for Consumer Scotland

Start Date: December 2018

End Date: December 2020

 

Context and Objectives

The way in which citizens can hold public services to account in Scotland, including via complaints and appeals processes, is complex. Participants at the public engagement events to develop the second action plan consistently raised this as a concern: namely the challenge of knowing how to navigate the different accountability mechanisms, how to make their voices heard, and how to have a say in, and contribute to, public sector improvement and accountability. This can make individuals feel powerless, frustrated or disengaged and reinforces the sense of a lack of trust in government decision-making. [31]

In order to address this challenge, this commitment is split into two sequential parts focusing on both the reactive and proactive faces of accountability: (1) a mapping of the accountability landscape and subsequent identification of improvements to complaints and appeals processes; and (2) the development of a citizen-centred approach to policy-making and advice and consumer services. The objective is to:

  • amplify the work of scrutiny bodies and regulators to hold public services to account and make this more visible to people
  • support citizens to know how they can hold public services to account
  • share good practice among scrutiny bodies, regulators, civil society and government

The commitment is relevant to the OGP value of public accountability as it aims to improve the public´s understanding of and access to existing accountability mechanisms and to develop new accountability approaches and mechanisms, including a new consumer protection body for Scotland (Consumer Scotland). It is also relevant to the value of civic participation to the extent that it aims to involve citizens in discussions about how they experience - and would like to improve - the mechanisms in place. Lastly, the commitment is relevant to access to information due to the publication of impact assessments for Consumer Scotland.

The IRM researcher considers some parts of this commitment to be specific enough to be verifiable, such as the plan to “complete and publish impact assessments”, or “Consumer Scotland Bill laid in Scottish Parliament”. However, other parts of the commitment are less specific. For part 1, much of the language refers to intentions rather than concrete activities with clear outputs. Examples of this include “analysing relevant data”, “identify and share information”, “understand how to share learning and good practice”, “identifying ways to improve access”. While this wording expresses what the commitment aims to achieve, it does not make it clear how it will be done, nor by whom. Part 2 is also vague in parts. It is not clear what “an approach to consider the impacts of public policy and decision making on people” or “different ways of supporting policymakers to consider citizens” means, what the output would be nor at what level this ambition lies. As with other commitments, the plan makes reference to the provision of services “in a way that adopts the spirit and principles of the Open Government Partnership”, but it does not explain how this will be achieved.

Nevertheless, the IRM researcher considers the potential impact of this commitment – in particular Part 2 - to be moderate. Some elements of the commitment have significant potential. For example, the establishment of Consumer Scotland as a new statutory body is a key deliverable in the 2018-2019 Programme for Government. [32] According to Saskia Kearns, the government lead for Commitment 4, Consumer Scotland could enable a much more strategic approach to consumer issues in Scotland, such as identifying specific recurring challenges which need to be addressed systematically. [33] For Kaela Scott from Involve, establishing this new body in the “spirit” of OGP means doing it in a way that is open, transparent and participatory, ensuring that citizens have been consulted early enough in the process and that information about decision making is made available to the public. [34] Moreover, the sequential nature of the commitment means that the lessons learned from the first year of the action plan regarding what scrutiny bodies are doing and what citizens would like to be different can be “lifted and shifted” into the design of Consumer Scotland. [35] According to Daren Fitzhenry, the Scottish Information Commissioner, the potential impact of this commitment is strengthened by the fact that it looks to go beyond central government to include a broader range of public sector bodies (including scrutiny and regulatory bodies). [36] This demonstrates an increased level of ambition and maturity in Scotland´s approach to open government.

However, the first part of the commitment is less ambitious as it focuses on understanding and identifying ways to improve access to existing mechanisms (but does not commit to implementing any measures to improve access at this stage). In the words of Lucy McTernan, scrutiny bodies “should be doing this anyway, it’s their job”. [37] Moreover, the potential impact of this commitment suffers as a result of the lack of clarity described above, especially with regards to Part 2. A number of stakeholders acknowledged this lack of clarity, but also challenged the need for more specificity, stating the desire to avoid pre-empting discussions among citizens, regulators and government. Thus, while certain individuals have more specific solutions in mind (such as digital tools or education pieces), these are not included in the detail of the plan at this stage. [38] To this end, Doreen Grove noted that the commitment will deliver a set of options in the form of a business plan for the future but that it is too early to be specific about what those outputs will be. [39]

Next steps

The IRM researcher notes that the introduction of a commitment focusing on public accountability responds to one of the key recommendations from the 2017 IRM Report. [40] It is also encouraging that this commitment endeavours to involve a broader range of public sector stakeholders (in this case, scrutiny and advice bodies) in the OGP process. The IRM researcher therefore recommends that any future action could build on this commitment. More specifically:

  • Given that this is Scotland´s first explicitly accountability-focused commitment, it is understandable that the first part of this commitment involves a mapping of the accountability landscape in order to understand the status quo. It will be important to ensure that any future action plan includes specific practical actions to implement the improvements which are identified as a result of this mapping exercise. Potentially, work on some of these improvements may even begin during the implementation of the current action plan, in which case more specific milestones could be included in the progress monitoring mechanism, as discussed under the next steps for Commitment 2.
  • During implementation, the OGP Steering Group is encouraged to clarify what is meant by “develop an approach to consider the impacts of public policy and decision making on people” and “review the provision of and access to advice services in a way that adopts the spirit and principles of Open Government Partnership”. This should include updating the progress monitoring mechanism with details on the specific steps and activities which are needed to achieve these objectives.
[31] Scotland's Open Government Action Plan 2018-2020: detailed commitments, https://www.gov.scot/publications/scotlands-open-government-action-plan-2018-20-detailed-commitments/; and interview with Mick Doyle, SCDC, 16 May 2019.
[32] Scottish Government, Delivery for today, investing for tomorrow: the government’s programme for Scotland 2018-2019, https://www.gov.scot/publications/delivering-today-investing-tomorrow-governments-programme-scotland-2018-19/
[33] Interview with Saskia Kearns, Scottish Government, and Alex Stobart, civil society member of the OGP Steering Group, 13 May 2019.
[34] Interview with Kaela Scott, civil society member of the OGP Steering Group, 15 May 2019.
[35] Interview with Saskia Kearns, Scottish Government, and Alex Stobart, civil society member of the OGP Steering Group, 13 May 2019.
[36] Interview with Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner, 14 May 2019.
[37] Interview with Lucy McTernan, civil society member of the OGP Steering Group, 13 May 2019.
[38] Interview with Saskia Kearns, Scottish Government, and Alex Stobart, civil society member of the OGP Steering Group, 13 May 2019; Interview with Daren Fitzhenry, Scottish Information Commissioner, 14 May 2019.
[39] Interview with Doreen Grove and Niamh Webster, Open Government Team, Scottish Government, 17 May 2019.
[40] See: Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Scotland Final Report 2017 https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/scotland-irm-report-2017/

Commitments

  1. Financial and Performance Transparency

    SCO0006, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  2. Open Policy Making and Participation in Service Delivery

    SCO0007, 2018, Capacity Building

  3. Improve Data Use

    SCO0008, 2018, Capacity Building

  4. Public Service Accountability

    SCO0009, 2018, Legislation & Regulation

  5. Transparency and Participation

    SCO0010, 2018, Citizenship & Immigration

  6. Financial Transparency

    SCO0001, 2017, Anti-Corruption

  7. Measuring Scotland’s Progress

    SCO0002, 2017, Capacity Building

  8. Deliver a Fairer Scotland

    SCO0003, 2017, Marginalized Communities

  9. Participatory Budgeting (Also Known as Community Choices in Scotland)

    SCO0004, 2017, Capacity Building

  10. Increasing Participation

    SCO0005, 2017, Capacity Building

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