Reports

Czech Republic Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

Country : Czech Republic
Dates Under Review : July 2016–October 2017
Report publication year : 2018

Overview - Czech Republic Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

The priorities of the Czech Republic’s third action plan continue from previous action plans, with a heavy focus on open data and professionalization of public administration. The Government Anti-Corruption Council serves as the multistakeholder forum, and the action plan is closely linked to the anti-corruption agenda. Future action plans could benefit from broadening civil society involvement in the consultative forum and designing more ambitious commitments with clear objectives and measurable activities.

Process 

OGP is not well known in the public administration and civil society. Awareness-raising for stakeholders and the general public is virtually non-existent through all phases of national OGP process. The multi-stakeholder forum consists of the members of the Anti-Corruption Council and its committees. CSOs participate in discussions on priorities but have a very limited role in implementation oversight. 

Czech Republic did not act contrary to OGP process

A country is considered to have acted contrary to process if one or more of the following occurs:

  • The National Action Plan was developed with neither online or offline engagements with citizens and civil society
  • The government fails to engage with the IRM researchers in charge of the country’s Year 1 and Year 2 reports

The IRM report establishes that there was no progress made on implementing any of the commitments in the country’s action plan

Level of Input by Stakeholders

During Action Plan Development
Y1
No Consultation
Inform
Consult
Involve
Collaborate
Who was involved? 
Civil Society Involvement
Beyond "governance" civil society
Mostly "governance" civil society X
No/little civil society
Narrow / little government consultation Primarily agencies that serve other agencies Significant involvement of line ministries and agencies
Government Involvement

OGP is coordinated by the Anti-Corruption Unit of the Regulatory Impact Assessment Department of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, the central body of the state administration. The Government Anti-Corruption Council served as the multistakeholder forum and membership consisted of 17 people representing seven government institutions, four associations and chambers, one member from academia and five civil society organizations. Five line ministries raised substantial comments on the draft plan, as well as one regional government and four agencies. 

OGP Co-Creation Requirements Followed 

Commitment Performance 

The Czech Republic’s third action plan contains six commitments across three topics: (i) implementing the adopted Civil Service Act to carry out the depoliticization, professionalization and stabilization of public administration; (ii) improving access to data and information; and (iii) creating safer communities. These priorities were carried over from previous action plans, but implementation is limited with only one commitment complete and one substantially complete.

Commitment Completion 

Current Plan
Year 1: 17%
2014-2016
Year 1: 33%
2012-2013
Year 1: 0%

Commitment Ambition 

Current Plan
Year 1: 0%
2014-2016
Year 1: 22%
2012-2013
Year 1: 50%

Starred commitments 

Current Plan
Year 1: 0%
2014-2016
Year 1: 0%
2012-2013
Year 1: 0%

IRM Recommendations 

  1. Improve the multistakeholder approach and action plan implementation oversight
  2. Improve formulation of the commitments
  3. Manage the EU GDPR concerns within open data
  4. Enhance transparency of the beneficial ownership register
  5. Improve open contracting

Commitments Overview

Commitment Title Well-designed (Year 1)* Starred (Year 1) Overview
4.1.1 Implementing the Civil Service Act No No Implementation of the Civil Service Act is substantial with the issuance of a decree defining a service badge; the establishment of a selection process for service posts and department directors and deputies; and the ongoing production of reports on Civil Service Act implementation.
4.2.1. Opening Priority Data Sets of Public Administration No No The commitment aims at further opening public administration data by establishing a list of priority data sets. Implementation is limited as a majority of priority data sets are outside the competence of the lead implementing agency.
4.2.2 Czech Republic’s Open Data Ecosystem No No Completion is limited but ongoing in line with implementing the EU-funded Open Data II project to develop methods that engage public administration bodies in adopting open data standards.
4.2.3 National Open Access to Scientific Information Strategy for 2017-2020 No No Implementation of this commitment was completed with the adoption of the National Open Access to Scientific Information Strategy 2017–2020 on 14 July 2017 for open access to publicly funded scientific information.
4.3.1 Supporting Volunteering No No The objective of the commitment is to submit the new draft law on volunteering to the government and to design the Concept of the Development of Volunteering. However, as written, its relevance to OGP values is unclear.
4.3.2 Improving Local Level Safety No No Activities for centralizing local-level crime statistics through the “Maps of the Future II” project are vague and have limited completion as three of the four were postponed due to a delay in implementation of the project.

*Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as specific, relevant, and has a transformative potential impact

IRM Report - Czech Republic Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)


I. Introduction 
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The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international multistakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP provides an international forum for dialogue and sharing among governments, civil society organizations, and the private sector, all of which contribute to a common pursuit of open government.

The Czech Republic began its formal participation in OGP in September 2011, when Karolina Peake, Deputy Prime Minister, declared the country’s intention to participate in the initiative.[Note1: Link to letter: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/czech-republic-letter-of-intent-join-ogp.]

In order to participate in OGP, governments must exhibit a demonstrated commitment to open government by meeting a set of (minimum) performance criteria. Objective, third-party indicators are used to determine the extent of country progress on each of the criteria: fiscal transparency, public official’s asset disclosure, citizen engagement, and access to information. See Section VII: Eligibility Requirements for more details.

All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that elaborate concrete commitments with the aim of changing practice beyond the status quo over a two-year period. The commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate action in an entirely new area.

The Czech Republic developed its third national action plan from February 2016 to June 2016. The official implementation period for the action plan was 1 July 2016 through 30 June 2018. This year one report covers the action plan development process and the first year of implementation, from July 2016 to October 2017. Beginning in 2015, the IRM started publishing end-of-term reports on the final status of progress at the end of the action plan’s two-year period. Any activities or progress occurring after the first year of implementation (October 2017) will be assessed in the end-of-term report. The government published its self-assessment in October 2017.[Note2: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation, "Mid-Term Self-Assessment Open Government Partnership Action Plan Report of the Czech Republic for 2016-2018“ (Prague, Nov. 2017), http://www.korupce.cz/assets/dokumenty/tiskove-zpravy/Prubezna-sebehodnotici-zprava-Akcniho-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018---verejne-konzultace.pdf. The Czech version is available at: http://www.korupce.cz/assets/dokumenty/tiskove-zpravy/Prubezna-sebehodnotici-zprava-Akcniho-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018---verejne-konzultace.pdf. ]

In order to meet OGP requirements, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of OGP has partnered with Vera Pachta, independent researcher, who carried out this evaluation of the development and implementation of the Czech Republic’s third action plan. To gather the voices of multiple stakeholders, the IRM researcher held interviews in Prague and Brussels. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around development and implementation of future commitments. Methods and sources are dealt with in Section VI of this report (Methodology and Sources).


II. Context 
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Czech Republic is a consolidated democracy with a strong civil society but with persistent challenges in enforcing anticorruption legislation. Commitments of this action plan mostly build upon existing government initiatives. While the action plan helps advance the open data agenda, it falls short of addressing shortcoming in the access to information legislation and practice, an area where the county lags behind other EU members.

2.1 Background

Czech Republic is a consolidated democracy,[Note3: Lubomir Kopecek, "Nations in Transit 2018, Czech Republic" (Freedom House, 2018), https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/2018/czech-republic. ] with an environment generally free for political parties, media, and civil society. Freedom of speech and press are guaranteed by the Constitution and are respected by the government. According to Freedom House, the media is considered “free,”[Note4: Freedom House, Freedom of the Press report 2017, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2017. ] although there have been cases of politicians using hostile rhetoric against media outlets and there are concerns over ownership concentration among a small group of wealthy businessmen including the prime minister.[Note5: Freedom House, Freedom of the Press report 2016, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2016.]

Civil society is well-developed with a large number of organizations, including CSOs focusing on areas such as corruption, city planning, LGBT rights, food safety, and participatory budgeting on the local level.[Note6: Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI 2018 Country Report – Czech Republic (Guetersloh: Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2018), http://www.bti-project.org/fileadmin/files/BTI/Downloads/Reports/2018/pdf/BTI_2018_Czech_Republic.pdf. ] CSOs play an important role in monitoring government performance and regularly advocate for transparency and anti-corruption reforms.[Note7: Freedom House, Nations in Transit report 2017, https://freedomhouse.org/report/nations-transit/nations-transit-2017.] For example, with support from national businesses and international donors, more than 20 CSOs launched an anti-corruption campaign named the “Reconstruction of the State.[Note8: Bertelsmann Stiftung, BTI 2018 Country Report, http://www.bti-project.org/fileadmin/files/BTI/Downloads/Reports/2018/pdf/BTI_2018_Czech_Republic.pdf .] During the run-up to general elections, the CSO-coalition used this project[Note9: "5 anti-corruption bills in 3 years? Here is how we did it..." (Rekonstrukce statu, 2017), http://www.rekonstrukcestatu.cz/en.] to request that members of parliament and senators pledge support to the nine proposals of anti-corruption laws and held them accountable against their pledge based on their work in the Parliament. While vibrant and diverse, the Czech non-governmental sector suffers from a lack of funding and is largely dependent on public funding and EU grants. However, contributions from individual private donors have been on the raise and companies are starting to promote volunteering with charities.[Note10: USAID and the Association of Public Benefit Organizations - Czech Republic, Index Udrzitelneho Rozvoje Obcanskeho Sektoru v Ceske Republice za Rok 2015 (June, 2016), https://www.avpo.cz/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Zpráva-ROZVOJ-OBČANSKÉHO-SEKTORU-V-ČR-ZA-ROK-2015.pdf.]

Freedom of Information is guaranteed under the law, however CSOs have reported difficulties with and reluctance among public officials to release information related to the salaries of public officials, public tender, and other uses of public finances.[Note11: Mgr. Lenka Frankova, Pristup k informacim (Oziveni, 2014), https://www.oziveni.cz/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/oziveni_analyza_cz_04.pdf; Adam Rut, "Informace o platech uredniku? Nejprve poslete slohovou praci!" (Nadacni fond proti korupci, 21 May 2018), http://www.nfpk.cz/glosy/adam-rut/5355; “Right to Information” (Otevrena spolecnost) http://www.otevrenaspolecnost.cz/pravo-na-informace.]

According to the Open Budget Index, the Czech Republic provides the public with substantial budget information and scored 61 out of a possible 100 points on budget transparency.[Note12: International Budget Partnership, “Open Budget Index 2017 – Czech Republic” (2017), https://www.internationalbudget.org/open-budget-survey/results-by-country/country-info/?country=cz#participation.] While the legislature and the Supreme Audit Office provide adequate oversight of the budget, there are few opportunities for public engagement in the budget process. The report recommends the government create opportunities for public participation during both the formation of the national budget and the monitoring of its implementation.

Legislators, members of the cabinet, and public officials are required by the Conflict of Interests Act of 2006 (Act No. 159/2006 Coll.[Note13: http://www.psp.cz/en/docs/laws/2006/159.html.]) to annually declare their assets. Amendment No. 14/2017 Coll. to the Act on Conflict of Interest, effective 1 September 2017, introduced a public online registry to directly access asset declarations of political figures and other enumerated officials without any request needed, though the provided information often lacks sufficient detail.

Czech Republic has strong anti-corruption legislation in place. The country has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention Against Bribery. The Criminal Code criminalizes attempted corruption, extortionactive and passive bribery, bribery of foreign officials, and money laundering. There are strong penalties in place for officials committing bribery and abusing power, including up to 12 years in prison and forfeiture of property. However, anti-corruption laws are not always effectively enforced. The OECD has noted that there is an absence of prosecutions for foreign bribery, despite the high risk of bribery in sectors such as export of machinery and defense materials.[Note14: OECD, Implementing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention Phase 4 Report: Czech Republic, 2017, http://www.oecd.org/corruption/anti-bribery/Czech-Republic-Phase-4-Report-ENG.pdf] According to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2017, the Czech Republic improved its score to 57 points out of 100 but still significantly lags behind the EU average.[Note15: "CR ziskala v Indexu vnimani korupce za rok 2017 o dva body vice nez loni. Do evropskeho prumeru ma vsak stale daleko a celi velkym rizikum“ (2017), https://www.transparency.cz/cpi2017/.]

Public procurement is an area perceived to be particularly susceptible to corruption risks. In Czech Republic, businesses consider corruption to be widespread in national and local public procurement.[Note16: European Commission, EU Anti-corruption Report, February 2014, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/e-library/documents/policies/organized-crime-and-human-trafficking/corruption/docs/acr_2014_en.pdf.] According to the law, tenders are required for acquiring services and supplies exceeding CZK 2 million and construction work exceeding CZK 6 million. In 2014, a fifth of contracts were granted without a call for tender and another fifth were awarded in tenders with only a single bidder.[Note17: OECD, OECD Economic Survey, Overview, Czech Republic, 2016, https://www.oecd.org/eco/surveys/Czech-Republic-2016-overview.pdf] Among the main corruption risks are customized criteria for certain bidders, manipulation of tender conditions to favor particular bidders, and the abuse of emergency grounds to justify the use of non-competitive procedures.[Note18: European Commission, EU Anti-corruption Report , Annex Czech Republic, February 2014, https://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/sites/homeaffairs/files/what-we-do/policies/organized-crime-and-human-trafficking/corruption/anti-corruption-report/docs/2014_acr_czech_republic_chapter_en.pdf] According to research by the NGO zIndex, donors of political parties received contracts worth USD 19.5 billion, and companies owned by political donors acquired 40 to 60 percent more public contracts than companies owned by non-donors.[Note19: Jiri Skuhrovec, Vitezslav Titl, Miroslav Palansky, "Analysis of Czech Political Party Donations” (zIndex 2015), http://cae.zindex.cz/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2015-01-12-Analysis-of-Czech-Political-Party-Donations.pdf]

Political Developments

Implementation of the third action plan took place during several political developments. Two scheduled elections occurred: regional and Senate elections in October 2016 and general elections for the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament in October 2017. Both elections confirmed the ANO party of Andrej Babiš taking the position as the major political force in the country. The leader of the party faced accusations of possible conflicts of interests when serving as the finance minister given his ownership of major media outlets.[Note20: Freedom of the media in the Czech Republic was, for example, on the agenda of the plenary of the European Parliament in June 2016. European Parliament, "Czech media freedom: Let citizens decide fate of media-abusing politicians," http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20170529IPR76231/czech-media-freedom-let-citizens-decide-fate-of-media-abusing-politicians.] Furthermore, his ownership of Agrofert, a major Czech agricultural and food group,[Note21: Adam Drda, "Andrej Babis – Czech oligarch" (Politico, 25 Jan. 2016), https://www.politico.eu/article/andrej-babis-czech-oligarch/.] and investigation of irregularities in obtaining EU funds for building his private farm complex “Stork nest”[Note22: Jennifer Rankin, "EU antifraud office finds 'irregularities' in payments allegedly obtained by Czech PM" (The Guardian, 5 Jan. 2018), https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/05/eu-antifraud-office-finds-irregularities-in-payments-allegedly-obtained-by-czech-pm.] posed further questions about his public role and fitness to rule. In response, the Chamber of Deputies adopted amendments to the conflicts of interest act prohibiting media ownership by government ministers, and preventing firms in which ministers hold more than 25 percent from winning public contracts and discretionary subsidies.

Recently, the Czech political scene has been exposed to an increasing number of attempts to influence elections through fake news and false information undermining pro-European and pro-Western political orientation.[Note23: James Shotter, “Czechs fear Russian fake news in presidential election,” Financial Times, https://www.ft.com/content/c2b36cf0-e715-11e7-8b99-0191e45377ec.] According to the Security Information Service 2016 Annual Report,[Note24: Security Information Service (BIS), “Annual Report of the Security Information Service 2016,” https://www.bis.cz/vyrocni-zpravaEN16e1.html?ArticleID=1136.] Russian and Chinese political and economic influence has been gradually growing in the Czech Republic as of 1 January 2017. New legislation regulating political party finance is in place,[Note25: Filip Mazel, "Financovani politickych stran" (Frank Bold, 1 Jan. 2018), http://frankbold.org/poradna/kategorie/korupce-a-jednani-uredniku/rada/financovani-politickych-stran] creating a new office to oversee these financial activities. However, there remain major concerns over foreign funding of the Czech political parties linked to particular interests.[Note26: Doug Bolton, "US to investigate Russian funding of European political parties amidst fears of 'new Cold War'" (Independent, 17 Jan. 2016), https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-funding-europe-political-parties-new-cold-war-a6818236.html.]

Legal Developments

The legislative branch of the government has worked on major reforms mostly regarding beneficial ownership and whistle-blower protection. By the end of 2016, the government transposed the fourth EU anti-money laundering and terrorism financing directive into Czech legislation.[Note27: European Parliament and The Council of the European Union, "Directive (EU) 2015/849 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 May 2015" L 141/73 (Official Journal of the European Union, 5 Jun. 2015), http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:JOL_2015_141_R_0003&from=ES.] In force as of 1 January 2018, the new law (Act No. 368/2016 Coll.) establishes a central beneficial ownership register for domestic and foreign companies and trusts doing business in the Czech Republic.[Note28: The directive does not specify who will have access to the register beyond " persons who are able to demonstrate a legitimate interest.” Id., 76.] However, the law follows  a narrow interpretation of the EU directive that limits access to this information to people with a “legitimate interest” in cases where there already exists reasonable grounds to suspect money laundering and financing of terrorists.[Note29: “Under the Shell, Ending Money Laundering in Europe,” Transparency International, 2017, p.11, https://www.transparency.cz/wp-content/uploads/UNDER-THE-SHELL-Ending-Money-Laundering-in-Europe-2017.pdf] While the law introduces no sanctions for companies or beneficial users that fail to report to the register, the register itself is a tool for efficient enforcement of other legal rules that do apply sanctions, e.g., the Public Procurement Act.

At the same time, in February 2017, the Chamber of Deputies attempted to limit and amend the law on registering public contracts, introducing exceptions for state-owned companies and municipal companies. The Senate prevented this step, which would seriously limit financial transparency and access to information. In addition, in March 2016, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled CEZ, the state-owned energy company, to be a publicly liable entity, consequently bound by the law on free access to information. However, in July 2017, the Constitutional Court overruled this decision,[Note30: “Obchodni spolecnost CEZ neni povinnym subjektem podle zakona o svobodnem pristupu k informacim,” (Czech Constitutional Court, 18 Jul. 2017), https://www.usoud.cz/aktualne/obchodni-spolecnost-cez-neni-povinnym-subjektem-podle-zakona-o-svobodnem-pristupu-k-informa/.] claiming that CEZ is primarily a business entity with its data and information protected by trade secret and company law. 

In February 2017, the government adopted a draft whistle-blower protection bill which systematizes the protective measures already codified in Czech legislation and strengthens the legal position of whistleblowers. However, the Chamber of Deputies postponed the reading of the draft bill to May 2017 and no further steps were taken until the general elections in October 2017.

Furthermore, the government also started some major reforms on free access to information in the country. In September 2016, Act No. 106/1999 Coll. on Access to Information was amended by the definition of the term “open data,” establishing the National Open Data Portal,[Note31: https://opendata.gov.cz/.] which will be explained later in this report. This amendment facilitates the implementation of the open data policy across the public administration, municipalities, and other public bodies. The law came into effect on 1 January 2017.

2.2 Scope of Action Plan in Relation to National Context

The process of developing commitments and milestones for the national action plan lacks an overall strategic approach. In the current plan, the majority of the commitments reflect tasks and goals that the public administration has to deliver under pre-existing international or domestic frameworks or those that are already part of a ministry’s legislative plan. OGP is largely seen as additional support for these goals. While internal accountability by these public bodies has intrinsic value, it doesn’t affect the goal envisaged by OGP, i.e. opening the administration to the citizens. A change of approach to OGP would most likely require a structural change and additional powers entrusted to the coordination body similar to the neighboring Slovak Republic, where the coordination and distribution of tasks is managed by the Plenipotentiary of Slovak Government for the Development of Civil Society who is endowed with enhanced authority over the line ministries.

Compared to other European Union (EU) countries, the Czech Republic lags behind in the area of access to information. In the 2017 Global Right to Information Ranking,[Note32: Access Info Europe and Centre for Law and Democracy, “Global Right to Information Ranking, Year 2017,” http://www.rti-rating.org/year-2017/.] the Czech Republic scored 81 out of 111 reviewed countries. There should be a further debate about amending Act No. 106/1999 Coll. On Free Access to Information. Representatives from both civil society and the public administration have stated that administrative procedures regarding access to information were burdensome and that there are cases of misuse. The concerns of both sides—those advocating for access to information and the public administration, which requires the capacity to retain sensitive information—should be reflected.


III. Leadership and Multistakeholder Process 
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OGP is not well-known across public administration and civil society according to those interviewed by the IRM researcher. Awareness-raising among stakeholders and the general public is virtually non-existent across all phases of the national OGP process. The multistakeholder forum consists of members of the Anti-Corruption Council and its committees. While the powers of the government's coordination unit are limited to managing the process, CSOs participate in discussions about priorities but have a very limited role in implementation oversight.

3.1 Leadership

This subsection describes the OGP leadership and institutional context for OGP in the Czech Republic. Table 3.1 summarizes this structure while the narrative section (below) provides additional detail.

Table 3.1: OGP Leadership

1. Structure

Yes

No

Is there a clearly designated Point of Contact for OGP (individual)?

 

 

Shared

Single

Is there a single lead agency on OGP efforts?

 

 

Yes

No

Is the head of government leading the OGP initiative?

 

X

2. Legal Mandate

Yes

No

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through an official, publicly released mandate?

 

Is the government’s commitment to OGP established through a legally binding mandate?

 

X

3. Continuity and Instability

Yes

No

Was there a change in the organization(s) leading or involved with the OGP initiatives during the action plan implementation cycle?

 

X

Was there a change in the executive leader during the duration of the OGP action plan cycle?

 

 

OGP in the Czech Republic has been closely intertwined with the government´s anti-corruption agenda but without prominence and political ownership. There lacks a political declaration of the importance of OGP-related activities and the initiative is relatively poorly known among uninvolved stakeholders from public administration, politics, and civil society. OGP is coordinated by the Anti-Corruption Unit of the Regulatory Impact Assessment Department of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (the Unit). The Office of Government is the central body of the state administration. Within the reported period, responsibility for this agenda transferred to the Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation.[Note33: The situation changed after the general elections in October 2017 when this responsibility was taken over by the Minister of Justice.  ]

The Unit coordinates preparation and monitoring of the OGP action plan but has no enforcement power over the implementing agencies and their respective commitments. Two staff members are assigned for the preparation and coordination of the action plan. There is no specific budget allocated for implementation of OGP-related activities. All OGP materials are accessible and published at the korupce.cz website. The government Rules of Procedure, particularly those of the Anti-Corruption Council, set certain limits on the plan’s preparation and monitoring. The lead implementing agencies, most often the line ministries, are responsible for implementing and reporting on the commitments directly to the Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation.

3.2 Intragovernmental Participation

This subsection describes which government institutions were involved at various stages in OGP. The next section will describe which nongovernmental organizations were involved in OGP.

Table 3.2 Participation in OGP by Government Institutions

How did institutions participate?

Ministries, Departments, and Agencies

Legislative

Judiciary (including quasi-judicial agencies)

Other (including constitutional independent or autonomous bodies)

Subnational Governments

Consult: These institutions observed or were invited to observe the action plan but may not be responsible for commitments in the action plan.

36[Note34: In line with the Rules of Procedure of the Government, the draft OGP action plan was submitted to the official comment procedure. All state institutions and bodies on the mandatory list were addressed. For a full list, please see: http://www.korupce.cz/assets/partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti/Vyporadani-pripominek-k-Akcnimu-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018.pdf. ]

2

5

24

14

Propose: These institutions proposed commitments for inclusion in the action plan.

3[Note35: See the Annex to the Action Plan, http://www.korupce.cz/assets/partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti/Priloha-Akcniho-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018.pdf.]

0

0

0

0

Implement:  These institutions are responsible for implementing commitments in the action plan whether or not they proposed the commitments.

2

0

0

0

0

 

The process for developing the new 2016–2018 commitments began 10 February 2016. The members of the Government Anti-Corruption Council, considered the relevant multistakeholder forum for OGP purposes,[Note36: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation “Czech Republic 2017, Mid-Term Self-Assessment Open Government Partnership Action Plan Report of the Czech Republic for 2016–2018” (Aug. 2017), http://www.korupce.cz/assets/dokumenty/tiskove-zpravy/Prubezna-sebehodnotici-zprava-Akcniho-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018---verejne-konzultace.pdf.] were explicitly invited to draft the OGP commitments. The working committees of the Council were also included. The Council consists of 17 people representing seven government institutions, four associations and chambers, one member from academia and five civil society organizations.[Note37: A full list of members can be found here: http://www.korupce.cz/assets/rada-vlady/Seznam-clenu-Rady-vlady-pro-koordinaci-boje-s-korupci.pdf.] Additionally, proposals from a CSO not represented in the Council or its committees were also heard. Based on the input from the stakeholders, the draft commitments were prepared and grouped according to the main challenges facing OGP success. The number of commitments was not fixed or deliberated in advance.[Note38: Recommendations from the previous action plan assessment served as one of the guiding principles for deliberations on the new commitments.] Commitments already represented within other frameworks or ministerial legislative plans were included also.

On 29 February 2016, the Unit organized a workshop where the draft commitments were discussed with 39 attendees,[Note39: The researcher has not seen the signed attendance sheet. The protocol is an annex to the Action Plan, “Priloha Akcniho planu Ceske republiky Partnerstvi pro otevrene vladnuti na obdobi let 2016 az 2018,” http://www.korupce.cz/assets/partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti/Priloha-Akcniho-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018.pdf] 27 of whom represented government institutions. According to the minutes of the workshop,[Note40: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation, “Priloha Akcniho planu Ceske republiky Partnerstvi pro otevrene vladnuti na obdobi let 2016 az 2018,” http://www.korupce.cz/assets/partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti/Priloha-Akcniho-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018.pdf.] the government representatives commented on proposals of the civil society representatives. However, it is unclear whether the lead agencies had drafted commitments by this meeting; therefore, it is unknown if civil society representatives had an opportunity to comment on agency proposals. The moderator explicitly stated during the workshop that the new action plan should include the non-finalized commitments from previous years and incorporate the recommendations of the IRM report.

After the workshop, the Unit conducted a series of bilateral consultations with lead implementing agencies. Government institutions responsible for implementation have veto power over the commitments.

The draft action plan was submitted for official comment in early March and finalized later that month, in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Government. All state institutions and bodies on the mandatory list for inclusion in the consultation process were informed. At the same time, the draft action plan was submitted for public comment. This process ended 16 May 2016. All comments submitted during the official comment period were addressed in writing during the second workshop on 1 June 2016.[Note41: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation, “Vyporadani Pripominek k Materialu s Nazvem: Akcni plan Ceske Republiky Partnerstvi pro otevrene vladnuti na obdobi let 2016 az 2018,” http://www.korupce.cz/assets/partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti/Vyporadani-pripominek-k-Akcnimu-planu-Ceske-republiky-Partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti-na-obdobi-let-2016-az-2018.pdf.] Of the government institutions, five line ministries had substantial comments (Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Industry and Trade, and Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs), as well as one regional government and four agencies (Czech Statistical Office, Czech Telecommunication Office, the Office for Personal Data Protection, and the Office for Government Representation in Property Affairs). The final draft of the action plan was discussed and approved at the Government Anti-Corruption Council meeting on 9 June 2016[Note42: The minutes are available here: http://www.korupce.cz/assets/rada-vlady/zapisy-ze-zasedani/Zaznam-z-11--jednani-RV-konaneho-dne-09-06-2016.pdf.] before its submission to the government. The government approved the Action Plan of the Czech Republic, Open Government Partnership for 2016–2018 on 22 June 2016.[Note43: The Office of the Government, Government Resolution no. 566, “Usneseni Vlady Ceske Republiky ze dne 22. cervna 2016 c. 566 o Akcnim planu Ceske republiky Partnerstvi pro otevrene vladnuti na obdobi let 2016 az 2018,” https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/RCIAABBJACSX.]

According to one civil servant, communication between current implementing agencies has improved over the 2014–2016 plan implementation. Responsible employees now have a better understanding of what is expected from the implementation process. 

3.3 Civil Society Engagement

Despite efforts from the Unit to engage more CSOs in action plan consultations and implementation, the group remains rather limited to the members of the Government Anti-Corruption Council and its working committees. The Unit tried to engage other individual CSOs based on personal relations but managed to involve only one new organization (EDUin, an education organization).

Several civil society representatives interviewed for this report see the consultation process as a formalistic exercise. The Government Anti-Corruption Council, considered the OGP multistakeholder forum, is composed of both civil society and government representatives. However, government representatives outnumber civil society representatives and, as decisions are adopted by simple majority with each member having veto authority, the ultimate decision-making power rests with the government institutions. One civil society representative stated that the Council’s work is not well-reflected in legal initiatives or implementation and the whole process serves as a box-ticking exercise, proving the multistakeholder approach. Another civil society representative noted that the prestige and influence of government councils has been gradually decreasing over the years, suggesting limited influence of the Council.

On the other hand, another CSO representative suggested that the government is doing the “maximum possible” in terms of consultations, given the coordination Unit is bound by the Rules of Procedure and therefore inflexible during intragovernmental consultations. The same civil society representative noted that ultimate responsibility for the plan’s implementation and its required resources rests with government institutions; civil society should adopt a more cooperative attitude toward the public administration. To the IRM researcher, the current structure lacks any substantial CSO involvement or impact. For a more collaborative multistakeholder forum, the government must adopt a more inclusive format that allows for further discussion on matters pertaining to open government. This change will require a show of clear political will. 

Generally, the consultation rules and timetable were communicated well in advance via standard communication channels, i.e., the council’s website and mailing list. Consultation participation was not formalized; rather the pre-existing Government Anti-Corruption Council and its working committees served this purpose. Representation of regional stakeholders was weak as the capital is the general hub of country-wide meetings. There were no additional publication efforts, such as print or broadcast media, or regional events.

The consultation process has three steps and is comprehensive within the limits of the Rules of Procedure. It seems only government stakeholders had a limited possibility to influence the final selection of the commitments. Debate was not restricted to specific topics. However, it is evident from the minutes of the workshops and the background material summarizing the proposals and comments that the overwhelming majority of the proposals submitted by civil society were not reflected in the final action plan. For example, the plan doesn’t include proposals for institutional reform of access to information assembled by the nonprofit Otevrena Spolecnost, or the proposal related to registering contracts put forward by the law firm, Frank Bold.

Countries participating in OGP follow a set of requirements for consultation during development, implementation, and review of their OGP action plan. Table 3.3 summarizes the performance of Czech Republic during the 20162018 action plan.

Table 3.3: National OGP Process

Key Steps Followed: 6 of 7

Before

1. Timeline Process & Availability

2. Advance Notice

Timeline and process available online prior to consultation

Yes

No

Advance notice of consultation

No

Yes

 

 

3. Awareness Raising

4. Multiple Channels

Government carried out awareness-raising activities

Yes

No

4a. Online consultations:     

Yes

No

 

X

 

4b. In-person consultations:

Yes

No

 

5. Documentation & Feedback

Summary of comments provided

Yes

No

 

During

6. Regular Multistakeholder Forum

6a. Did a forum exist?

Yes

No

6b. Did it meet regularly?          

Yes

No

 

 

After

7. Government Self-Assessment Report

7a. Annual self-assessment report published?         

Yes

No

7b. Report available in English and administrative language?

Yes

No

 

 

7c. Two-week public comment period on report?

Yes

No

7d. Report responds to key IRM recommendations?

Yes

No

 

 

                 

 

Table 3.4: Level of Public Influence

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.[Note44: iap2, “IAP2's Public Participation Spectrum,” (2014), http://c.ymcdn.com/sites/www.iap2.org/resource/resmgr/foundations_course/IAP2_P2_Spectrum_FINAL.pdf.] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

 

Level of public influence
During development of action plan
During implementation of action plan
Empower

The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.

 

 

Collaborate

There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.

 

 

Involve

The government gave feedback on how public inputs were considered.

Consult

The public could give inputs.

 

 

Inform

The government provided the public with information on the action plan.

 

 

No Consultation

No consultation

 

 

 

3.4 Consultation During Implementation

As part of their participation in OGP, governments commit to identify a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation. This can be an existing entity or a new one. This section summarizes that information.

The Government Anti-Corruption Council is the official consultation body established by the government and acts as the OGP multistakeholder forum for the plan’s implementation. The Council’s rules of procedure and statute were amended in January 2017[Note45: https://apps.odok.cz/attachment/-/down/RCIAAHVB5WIZ.] and went into effect on 1 February 2017. The focus of its work is the anticorruption agenda with OGP as only one of its priorities. The Minister of Justice currently chairs the Council,[Note46: In the previous government, this was held by the Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation.] with the Ministers of Finance and Interior both acting as deputy chairs. Out of 17 possible nongovernmental participants, five representatives of civil society, one academic and four representatives of chambers and associations take part in the Council deliberations.

The official list of members is not gender neutral with thirteen men compared to four women, however, replacements are frequent and this balance may change. The government appoints council members and the meetings are by invitation only and rarely attended by ministers beyond the Council Chairman. Full members of the Council can influence and vote on the Council’s actions. Actions are usually adopted by acclamation but can be adopted by voting as well. In this case, simple majority is needed. These actions or statements are not legally binding for the government.[Note47: “Stanoviska Rady vlady pro koordinaci boje s korupci,” http://www.korupce.cz/cz/rada-vlady/stanoviska_rady/stanoviska-rady-143139/.] During the period covered in this report (July 2016–October 2017), the Council met six times but OGP-related issues were not always on the agenda. According to the Council’s rules, the Council has to meet at least twice per year but is convened more often as the need arises. The chair of the Council can invite guests to the meetings. At its 19 September 2017 meeting, the Council approved the Midterm Self-Assessment Report of the 2016–2018 OGP Action Plan after a presentation of the coordination Unit and without a discussion.[Note48: Office of the Government of the Czech Republic Minister for Human Rights, Equal Opportunities and Legislation, “Zaznam z 16. jednani Rady vlady pro koordinaci boje s korupci konaneho dne 19. zari 2017,”  http://www.korupce.cz/assets/rada-vlady/zapisy-ze-zasedani/Zaznam-z-16--jednani-Rady-vlady-konaneho-dne-19--zari-2017.pdf (meeting minutes).]

In July 2016, the government decided the lead implementing agencies must report progress on the action plan implementation directly to the Minister of Justice, who is also the chair of the Council.[Note49: Government Resolution no. 566. ] The reporting deadline was three months before the required delivery of the midterm self-assessment report.

Implementation progress is tracked by the Council’s working committee on transparency of public administration. According to the rules of procedure, the Council can establish working committees and invite experts to participate. In the reported period, there were six working committees (economic management of government’s property, transparency of public administration, whistleblowing, conflict of interest, lobbying, and a conceptual committee). Civil society, academia and the interested public may participate in each working committee with guests allowed to take part in the meetings. The process of participation is still rather formalized.

At its meeting on 27 March 2017, the committee on transparency of public administration discussed the state of implementation of the national action plan. Representatives of the leading implementing agencies presented progress on five out of six commitments. (The last commitment was presented by the coordination unit based on information provided by the lead implementing agency.) It is unclear from the minutes of the meeting whether there was any debate on the implementation progress.[Note50: Urad vlady Ceske republiky Oddeleni boje s korupci, “Zaznam z 11. jednani pracovni komise predsedy Rady vlady pro koordinaci boje s korupci k transparentnosti statni spravy konane v pondeli dne 27. brezna 2017,” http://www.korupce.cz/assets/rada-vlady/pracovni-komise/Komise_k_transparentnosti_statni_spravy/Zaznam-z-11--jednani-pracovni-komise-k-TSS_2017-03-27.pdf (meeting minutes).] The preparation and adoption of the Midterm Self-Assessment OGP Action Plan Report was also mentioned during two meetings of the conceptual committee on 8 September 2017 and 13 October 2017,[Note51: Urad vlady Ceske republiky Oddeleni boje s korupci, “Zaznam z 16. jednani Koncepcni komise predsedy Rady vlady pro koordinaci boje s korupci konane dne 8. zari 2017,” http://www.korupce.cz/assets/rada-vlady/pracovni-komise/Koncepcni_komise/Zaznam-z-16--jednani-Koncepcni-komise_08-09-2017.pdf. See also http://www.korupce.cz/assets/rada-vlady/pracovni-komise/Koncepcni_komise/Zaznam-z-17--jednani-Koncepcni-komise_13-10-2017.pdf (meeting minutes).] but there was no debate or elaboration on the implementation progress.

3.5 Self-Assessment

The OGP Articles of Governance require that participating countries publish a self-assessment report three months after the end of the first year of implementation. The self-assessment report must be made available for public comments for a two-week period. This section assesses compliance with these requirements and the quality of the report.

The Midterm Self-Assessment Report of the Czech Republic 2016–2018 was published following the government’s approval via the korupce.cz website on 11 October 2017.[Note52: “Czech Mid-Term Self-Assessment.”] The English version of the report became available 22 November 2017.[Note53: See http://www.korupce.cz/assets/partnerstvi-pro-otevrene-vladnuti/Mid-Term-Self-Assessment-Open-Government-Partnership-Action-Plan-Report-of-the-Czech-Republic-2016-2018.pdf.]

The report mentions a two-week, public consultation period on its content.[Note54: The public consultation notice was published on the Government Anti-Corruption Council website (http://www.korupce.cz/cz/dokumenty/tiskove-zpravy/dvoutydenni-verejne-konzultace-k-prubezne-sebehodnotici-zprave-ogp-158982/) and the website of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic (http://www.vlada.cz/cz/clenove-vlady/pri-uradu-vlady/jan_chvojka/aktualne/dvoutydenni-verejne-konzultace-k-prubezne-sebehodnotici-zprave-ogp-158997/).] The coordination unit sent an official email invitation for consultation and feedback between 15 and 29 August 2017. Thirteen central administration bodies, fifteen professional associations or chambers, six CSOs, five representatives of academia, two regional/municipal associations, and one trade union received this email. The unit received no feedback by the deadline; therefore, there are no minutes from this procedure. 

The self-assessment report covers the consultation process during the development of the action plan, commitments, and milestones. It summarizes the progress, constraints, and delays in implementation. However, the report lacks comprehensive evidence supporting its conclusion of completion. For example, while the report mentions workshops, conferences, and public events, it lacks references to websites for the agendas, participant lists, or photos. In section 7.3, the report suggests a working mechanism for consultations with civil society and general public during the plan’s implementation; however, this remains to be put in practice.

3.6 Response to Previous IRM Recommendations

Table 3.5: Previous IRM Report Key Recommendations

Recommendation
Addressed?
Integrated into Next Action Plan?

1

All future updates of the action plan should be made in consultation with the public in a timely manner.

2

The action plan should promote (1) the independence of any top authority ensuring implementation of the Act on Civil Service (e.g., the Section for Civil Service) and (2) apolitical compositions of committees for appointing candidates to senior civil service positions.

X

X

3

The action plan should include a commitment related to finalizing the legal environment for publishing data in open formats.

4

If current commitments are finalized, the next action plan should include a commitment concerning the misuse of public resources and enhancing transparency of planning and financing of public investments.

X

X

5

Preparation of a new action plan could serve as a model for the establishment of public participation standards. The action plan should include measures with public-facing elements, such as citizen audits of performance and the inclusion of citizens in oversight mechanisms to guarantee the openness of government in the implementation of the action plan commitments.

X

X

 

Of the five recommendations, the government addressed four in their self-assessment report. Two recommendations target the multistakeholder consultation process and public participation. The coordination unit addressed Recommendation 1 and improved the communication, timetable, and management of the action plan preparations. Recommendation 5 sought to use the OGP process as model for public participation but this has not occurred. There remains no public monitoring of the plan’s implementation.

Recommendation 3 was addressed in September 2016 by adopting amendments to Act no. 106/1999 Coll. on Access to Information, which defines “Open Data” and establishes a National Open Data Portal. The law came into effect on 1 January 2017. Though the wording and commitment structure were different, the recommendation’s intent was implemented through Commitment 4.2.1.

Recommendation 2 was not reflected in the action plan as it is no longer necessary. The Deputy Minister of Interior and the leader of the Section for Civil Service are appointed according to the Civil Service Act 234/2014 for six years, which provides stability and independence from political interference. The mechanisms for setting up the committees for appointing candidates to various levels of senior civil service positions are stipulated in the government Rules of Procedure and published on the Civil Service Information System (ISoSS) and its OSYS module.[Note55: The OSYS module shows the system of civil service authorities and work posts. https://portal.isoss.cz/irj/portal/anonymous/dokument?cd=home. ]

Recommendation 4 was not reflected and might be incorporated into future next action plans.


IV. Commitments 
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All OGP-participating governments develop OGP action plans that include concrete commitments over a two-year period. Governments begin their OGP action plans by sharing existing efforts related to open government, including specific strategies and ongoing programs.

Commitments should be appropriate to each country’s unique circumstances and challenges. OGP commitments should also be relevant to OGP values laid out in the OGP Articles of Governance and Open Government Declaration signed by all OGP-participating countries.[Note56: Open Government Partnership: Articles of Governance, June 2012 (Updated March 2014 and April 2015), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/attachments/OGP_Articles-Gov_Apr-21-2015.pdf.]

What Makes a Good Commitment?

Recognizing that achieving open government commitments often involves a multiyear process, governments should attach time frames and benchmarks to their commitments that indicate what is to be accomplished each year, whenever possible. This report details each of the commitments the country included in its action plan and analyzes the first year of their implementation.

The indicators used by the IRM to evaluate commitments are as follows:

·       Specificity: This variable assesses the level of specificity and measurability of each commitment. The options are:

o   High: Commitment language provides clear, verifiable activities and measurable deliverables for achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Medium: Commitment language describes activity that is objectively verifiable and includes deliverables, but these deliverables are not clearly measurable or relevant to the achievement of the commitment’s objective.

o   Low: Commitment language describes activity that can be construed as verifiable but requires some interpretation on the part of the reader to identify what the activity sets out to do and determine what the deliverables would be.

o   None: Commitment language contains any measurable activity, deliverables, or milestones.

·       Relevance: This variable evaluates the commitment’s relevance to OGP values. Based on a close reading of the commitment text as stated in the action plan, the guiding questions to determine the relevance are:

o   Access to Information: Will the government disclose more information or improve the quality of the information disclosed to the public?

o   Civic Participation: Will the government create or improve opportunities or capabilities for the public to inform or influence decisions?

o   Public Accountability: Will the government create or improve opportunities to hold officials answerable for their actions?

o   Technology & Innovation for Transparency and Accountability: Will technological innovation be used in conjunction with one of the other three OGP values to advance either transparency or accountability?[Note57: IRM Procedures Manual. Available at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/IRM-Procedures-Manual-v3_July-2016.docx.]

·       Potential impact: This variable assesses the potential impact of the commitment, if completed as written. The IRM researcher uses the text from the action plan to:

o   Identify the social, economic, political, or environmental problem;

o   Establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan; and

o   Assess the degree to which the commitment, if implemented, would impact performance and tackle the problem.

Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. In order to receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

  • Starred commitments will have “medium” or “high” specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgement about its potential impact.
  • The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.
  • The commitment would have a "transformative" potential impact if completely implemented.[Note58: The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/node/5919.]
  • The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of "substantial" or "complete" implementation.

Based on these criteria, Czech Republic’s action plan contained no starred commitments.

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its progress reporting process. For the full dataset for Czech Republic and all OGP-participating countries, see the OGP Explorer.[Note59: OGP Explorer: bit.ly/1KE2Wil.]

General Overview of the Commitments

The action plan focuses on three topics: (i) implementing the adopted Civil Service Act, putting depoliticization, professionalization, and stabilization of public administration into practice; (ii) improving access to data and information; and (iii) creating safer communities.

The first and second topics mostly continue actions undertaken during the previous two action plans. There is a new commitment for opening scientific publications and data resulting from state-funded projects addressing the second topic (data access). The third topic of creating safer communities is new, including its two commitments focusing on volunteering and improving local safety. The report does not identify any milestone that could be transformed into a self-standing commitment. 


V. General Recommendations 
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Awareness of OGP remains limited across the Czech public administration, civil society, and political elite. The spirit of open government is rarely translated into the design of the commitments. The multistakeholder process exists but often does not go beyond the “business as usual” approach of the members. Significant progress has been made regarding open data, a long-term priority of the Czech Republic.   

This section aims to inform development of the next action plan and guide completion of the current action plan. It is divided into two sections: 1) those civil society and government priorities identified while elaborating this report and 2) the recommendations of the IRM.

5.1 Stakeholder Priorities

OGP in the Czech Republic has been always closely intertwined with the government´s anti-corruption agenda but lacks the same level of prominence and political ownership. The priorities of the action plan are mostly carried over from previous action plans with a focus on open data and the stabilization and professionalization of the public administration.  

Civil society stakeholders, involved mainly in anti-corruption and open data efforts, perceive OGP as an additional international framework with the potential to inspire change and push the government to deliver substantive actions for its citizens. However, civil society has a limited impact on the formation and implementation of the commitments. In addition to improvements in the Act on Free Access to Information, civil society would like to see commitments related to comprehensive protection of whistleblowers and further measures increasing transparency in public procurement. Increased regard for OGP would most likely require a structural change brought about by political demand. Also needed are increased powers for the coordination body, similar to the Slovak Republic, where the coordination and distribution of tasks is managed by Plenipotentiary of Slovak Government for the Development of Civil Society who has stronger authority over the line ministries.

5.2 IRM Recommendations

1. Improve the multistakeholder approach and action plan implementation oversight

Despite improvements in the consultation process and efforts of the coordination unit, the government could take a more proactive approach to include a wider group of stakeholders and CSOs in the multistakeholder consultative forum when developing the next action plan. Such a step would increase the visibility of the initiative and consequently contribute to increased public participation. The government should focus especially on the implementation phase where the multistakeholder approach is lacking.

·       At the government level, it would be beneficial to increase the number of lead implementing agencies and involvement of other public administration bodies as co-lead agencies for individual commitments. This could increase OGP ownership across the public administration. This promotion of co-ownership would need to be reflected at the drafting stage of the action plan.

·       Establishing a standing OGP-working committee under the Government Anti-Corruption Council with equal representation from public administration, civil society, academia, and other stakeholders can support the action plan’s preparation and monitor its implementation on an ongoing basis. The Rules of Procedure for the Government Anti-Corruption Council would probably need to be adjusted in order to accommodate an even number of stakeholders from various groups. The working committee would be responsible for active outreach to a wider public for further input. Engagement of high-profile members would be an asset.

·       The current multistakeholder process often does not go beyond the “business as usual” approach. The tools for gathering input are workshops, consultations as stipulated by the Rules of Procedure, and online consultations via a website with a very limited pool of recipients informed by email. The “burden” of organizing the multistakeholder forum could be shared with interested CSOs; existing CSO networks and platforms like “Rekonstrukce statu” could be invited to organize regular workshops or consultations with wider outreach via innovative online tools. The government stakeholders would be involved but the informal format could facilitate a larger exchange of ideas. 

2. Improve formulation of the commitments

The government could revise the wording of the commitments in order to clearly state the problem being tackled, the actions proposed, and specific intended changes.

·       OGP commitments should be decoupled from EU- or state-funded projects, and implemented by the lead implementing agencies if they did not sufficiently reflect OGP values.

·       The implementation timeline of commitments is often vague, covering the overall period of the action plan. This is understandable since many milestones refer to the legislative process or the implementation of projects. However, the completion of such commitments and milestones are not easily verified.

·       A workshop on OGP values and challenges can be organized for potential lead implementing agencies before final versions of the commitments are drafted. It can be implemented within the multistakeholder forum

3. Manage EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) concerns within open data

Open data is an increasingly progressive area that empowers civil society, involves private companies, and encourages cooperation with public administration. This is supported by rotating elites between civil society and public administration. A change of mindset toward open data is under way but there are still many stakeholders that need to be involved. Implementation of GDPR can serve as another pretext for blocking the process of opening data. 

·       The next action plan should include a commitment on managing GDPR concerns, including active communication with stakeholders and the public. Joint ownership of this commitment by civil society, business, and public administration would be an asset.

·       Under GDPR, every public body including small municipalities and bigger private companies have to appoint data protection officers. The data protection officers should be trained so that they protect data effectively but do not hinder the open data process. 

4. Enhance transparency of the beneficial ownership register

The next action plan could include a commitment to enhance beneficial ownership transparency. By the end of 2016, the government transposed the fourth EU anti-money laundering and terrorism financing directive into the Czech legislation. Civil society stakeholders suggested the state follow a narrow interpretation of the directive. In force as of 1 January 2018, the new law (Act No. 368/2016 Coll.) establishes a central beneficial ownership register for domestic and foreign companies and trusts doing business in the Czech Republic. Access to the register is restricted to people with a legitimate interest. Access for CSOs and journalists is not specified. The law imposes no sanctions for companies or beneficial users who fail to report to the register.

·       The legislation should be amended to open access to citizens and introduce sanctions for companies or beneficial users who fail to report to the register.

5. Improve open contracting

The Czech Republic adopted legislation establishing a register of contracts with strong provisions for transparency and legal consequences for non-disclosure. The Act no. 340/2015 Coll. took effect 1 July 2016, with the exception of the provisions for legal consequences of non-disclosure, which took effect 1 July 2017. (At the same time, amendments extending exemptions for public institutions and state-owned companies, such as Budweiser Budvar, that were established for industrial or commercial needs or performing R&D activities, were adopted in Parliament and went into effect in August 2017 (Act no. 249/2017 Coll.).) The legislation was adopted due to effective cooperation by political actors and civil society, namely the “Rekonstrukce statu” coalition, which suggested mandatory publication of public subsidies and grant contracts as a next step. XX[Note137: Vaclav Zeman, "Jaka fakta senatori stezujici si na neustavnost zakona o registru smluv nezminuji?" (Rekonstrukce statu, 8 Nov. 2017), http://www.rekonstrukcestatu.cz/cs/archiv-novinek/11877-jaka-fakta-senatori-stezujici-si-na-neustavnost-zakona-o-registru-smluv-nezminuji-.]XX

6. Improve access to information legislation

Compared to other EU countries, the Czech Republic is lagging in the area of access to information. In the 2017 Global Right to Information Ranking, XX[Note138: Access Info Europe and Centre for Law and Democracy, “Global Right to Information Ranking, Year 2017,”  http://www.rti-rating.org/year-2017/.]XX the Czech Republic scored 81 out of 111 reviewed countries. There should be further debate about amending Act No. 106/1999 Coll. On Free Access to Information. Both civil society and public administration representatives stated that the administrative practice is heavy-handed and there are cases of misuse. The concerns of both sides—those defending the right to information and those afraid that the public administration will lose control over sensitive information—must be reflected. In order to start closing the gap with other EU countries, the Czech Republic should:

·       Reform access to information legislation to encourage the open data process;

·       Introduce an oversight body or information commissioner as part of this reform;

·       Amend the legislation to codify the information order issued by the superior administrative body. This would de-burden the courts and improve enforcement of the legislation, which is critical for an effective register of contracts;

·       Improve the collection of relevant statistics so that it can serve as a source for developing recommendations and best practices. Public bodies required to provide information collect individual statistics on the number of demands for access to information but these statistics are not centralized or processed.

Table 5.1: Five Key Recommendations

1

Improve the multistakeholder approach and action plan implementation oversight

Raise the OGP profile by establishing a standing working committee on OGP under the Government Anti-Corruption Council with equal representation from public administration, civil society, academia, and other stakeholders.

2

Improve commitment formation

Revise the government's logic when approaching OGP commitments in order to verify a clear relation between the objectives and goals within the OGP initiative, and the results and activities defined in the written commitments.

3

Manage GDPR concerns within open data

Respond to GDPR concerns and reflect these concerns in the commitment on open data in the next action plan.

4

Improve open contracting

Require mandatory publication of the public subsidies and grant contracts in the register of contracts.

5

Improve access to information legislation

Introduce an oversight body or information commissioner as part of the reform and amend the legislation to codify the information order issued by the superior administrative body


VI. Methodology and Sources 
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The IRM progress report is written by researchers based in each OGP-participating country. All IRM reports undergo a process of quality control to ensure that the highest standards of research and due diligence have been applied.

Analysis of progress on OGP action plans is a combination of interviews, desk research, and feedback from nongovernmental stakeholder meetings. The IRM report builds on the findings of the government’s own self-assessment report and any other assessments of progress put out by civil society, the private sector, or international organizations.

Each IRM researcher carries out stakeholder meetings to ensure an accurate portrayal of events. Given budgetary and calendar constraints, the IRM cannot consult all interested or affected parties. Consequently, the IRM strives for methodological transparency and therefore, where possible, makes public the process of stakeholder engagement in research (detailed later in this section.) Some contexts require anonymity of interviewees and the IRM reviews the right to remove personal identifying information of these participants. Due to the necessary limitations of the method, the IRM strongly encourages commentary on public drafts of each report.

Each report undergoes a four-step review and quality-control process:

1.     Staff review: IRM staff reviews the report for grammar, readability, content, and adherence to IRM methodology.

2.     International Experts Panel (IEP) review: IEP reviews the content of the report for rigorous evidence to support findings, evaluates the extent to which the action plan applies OGP values, and provides technical recommendations for improving the implementation of commitments and realization of OGP values through the action plan as a whole. (See below for IEP membership.)

3.     Prepublication review: Government and select civil society organizations are invited to provide comments on content of the draft IRM report.

4.     Public comment period: The public is invited to provide comments on the content of the draft IRM report.

This review process, including the procedure for incorporating comments received, is outlined in greater detail in Section III of the Procedures Manual.[Note139: IRM Procedures Manual, V.3 : https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/irm-procedures-manual.]

Interviews and Focus Groups

Each IRM researcher is required to hold at least one public information-gathering event. Researchers should make a genuine effort to invite stakeholders outside of the “usual suspects” list of invitees already participating in existing processes. Supplementary means may be needed to gather the inputs of stakeholders in a more meaningful way (e.g., online surveys, written responses, follow-up interviews). Additionally, researchers perform specific interviews with responsible agencies when the commitments require more information than is provided in the self-assessment or is accessible online.

For the purpose of this report, 23 experts and stakeholders were contacted. The list of stakeholders and experts that provided substantial input is below.

1.     Michal Barborik (Director of the Department of Crime Prevention and Internal Security, Ministry of the Interior), meeting on 1 December 2017 in Prague, about supporting volunteering and local level safety;

2.     Jan Cibulka (Czech Radio, journalist), interview via email on 27 November 2017 about local level safety and open data;

3.     Ivana Dufkova (Transparency International, CSO), meeting on 30 November 2017 in Prague about Civil Service Act implementation;

4.     Michal Kuban (National Open Data Coordinator, Ministry of the Interior), meeting on 1 December 2017 in Prague about Supporting the Development of the Public Administration of the Czech Republic’s Open Data Ecosystem and Opening Priority Data Sets of Public Administration and Supplementing Them Based on Public Consultations;

5.     Frantisek Kucera (Czech OGP Focal Point, Office of the Government of the Czech Republic), meeting on 6 October 2017 and follow-up emails on 12 and 14 February 2018 about action plan preparation and consultation;

6.     Janusz Konieczny, Nadacni Fond proti Korupci (Anticorruption Endowment CSO), meeting on 30 November 2017 in Prague about Civil Service Act implementation;

7.     Jiri Kotoucek (Technology Center Czech Academy of Science), meeting on 30 November 2017 in Prague about forming the National Open Access to Scientific Information Strategy for 2017-2020;

8.     Adam Rut, Otevrena spolecnost (Open Society CSO), meeting on 1 December 2017 and a follow-up phone interview on 26 February 2018 about open data and the criminality map;

9.     Jan Trantina (Czech Youth Council CSO), meeting on 22 February 2018 in Brussels about supporting volunteering;

10.  Petra Solska (Government Counsellor, Office of Government), interview via email on 23 November 2017 about forming the National Open Access to Scientific Information Strategy for 2017–2020; and

11.  Katerina Vojtova (Senior Ministerial Counsellor, the Section for the Civil Service, Ministry of the Interior), interview via email and phone on 12 and 13 February 2018 about Civil Service Act implementation.

About the Independent Reporting Mechanism

The IRM is a key means by which government, civil society, and the private sector can track government development and implementation of OGP action plans on an annual basis. The design of research and quality control of such reports is carried out by the International Experts Panel, comprised of experts in transparency, participation, accountability, and social science research methods.

The current membership of the International Experts Panel is

·       César Cruz-Rubio

·       Hazel Feigenblatt

·       Mary Francoli

·       Brendan Halloran

·       Hille Hinsberg

·       Anuradha Joshi

·       Jeff Lovitt

·       Fredline M’Cormack-Hale

·       Showers Mawowa

·       Ernesto Velasco

A small staff based in Washington, DC, shepherds reports through the IRM process in close coordination with the researchers. Questions and comments about this report can be directed to the staff at irm@opengovpartnership.org