Reports

United Kingdom Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

Country : United Kingdom
Dates Under Review : July 2016 – June 2017
Report publication year : 2018
Researcher : Ben Worthy

Overview - United Kingdom Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)

Commitments in the United Kingdom’s third action plan have lowered ambition in relation to previous action plans. Institutional and political changes in the country have impacted its level of completion.

Process 

The third action plan was implemented amid considerable upheaval in British politics following the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union in June 2016. The UK government and devolved governments continued their relatively successful process of consultation with regular and detailed meetings and publications, and frequent updates. 

The United Kingdom 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

While eight government agencies were consulted, four proposed commitments for inclusion in the action plan. The CSO steering group (elected by the Open Government Network) regularly asked for input from their networks before each meeting and when updates were published. However, all CSO steering group members are governance-focused organizations. 

OGP Co-Creation Requirements Followed 

Commitment Performance 

The UK received two starred commitments (commitments 8 and 9 from Wales). While Wales’ commitments are (bar one) substantially complete or fully complete, the other commitments still require significant effort. 

Commitment Completion 

Current Plan
Year 1: 7%
2013-2015
Year 1: 14%
Year 2: 29%
2011-2013
Year 1: 41%

Commitment Ambition 

Current Plan
Year 1: 11%
2013-2015
Year 1: 19%

Starred commitments 

Current Plan
Year 1: 7%
2013-2015
Year 1: 19%
Year 2: 19%

IRM Recommendations 

  • A Parliamentary committee (and respective other devolved equivalents) to oversee transparency policies.
  • High Profile Intervention or an event in support of the OGP process.
  • A focus on more information and data on the impact of Brexit on everyday life.
  • Continue to experiment with new ways of engaging CSOs.
  • High profile cross-cutting ‘signature’ reforms that are cross-cutting and high-profile (of a kind seen in the third action plan such as Beneficial ownership).

Commitments Overview

Commitment Title Well-designed? * Complete (Year 1) Overview
1. Beneficial ownership No No This commitment aims to introduce legislation to create a public register of beneficial ownership for foreign companies who own or buy property in the UK or who bid on UK central government contracts. The registry is expected to be in place by 2021.
2. Natural resources transparency No No This commitment seeks to increase company disclosure regarding payments to government for the sale of oil, gas and minerals. The UK’s involvement in the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was called into question when twenty CSOs withdrew, citing government interference.
3. Anti-Corruption Strategy No No This Strategy will provide a long-term vision, priorities and objective for anti-corruption activities across government. However, the proposed scrutiny mechanism is not well defined and implementation is behind schedule.
4. Anti-Corruption Innovation Hub No No This commitment seeks to create collaboration between social innovators, technology experts, data scientists, law enforcement, businesses and civil society on innovative approaches to anti-corruption. Procedural and legal issues have delayed its operationalisation.
5. Open contracting No Yes This commitment updated an existing contract portal, and implemented the Open Contracting Data Standards. However, CSOs hoped that the contracting data would link to the newly published Beneficial Ownership information on the Person with Significant Control register.
6. Grants data No No This commitment seeks to improve the quality and quantity of data available on grant making by different governmental departments. The complexity of the process and asymmetry of available data has limited its completion.
7. Elections data No No This commitment seeks to create a standard procedure for collecting election data. Changes in local governments and funding constraints have impacted its implementation.
8. Enhanced transparency requirements and revised FOI Act Code of Practice No No The government plans to address the recommendations of an independent inquiry on the FOI Act. Guidance for the FOI Act has been updated for the first time since the law came into force. However, the new code was published 16 months behind schedule.
9. Identifying and publishing core data assets No No This commitment looks to improve the open data infrastructure. It is on schedule, although the open address register, long sought-after by campaigners and activists, has seen limited progress.
10. Involving data users in shaping the future of open data No No This commitment aims to inform data management, use and availability through citizen engagement. It is unclear how the government will use citizen input to create change in practice.
11. Better use of data assets No No This commitment seeks to strengthen institutional capacity to improve data availability and its use for policy making. Legislation on better access to data across government departments and levels has been passed, but implementation of the law is still pending.
12. GOV.UK No No This commitment seeks to improve accessibility and navigation of the GOV.UK website. Better communication of results is required, given the internal nature of the process.
13. Ongoing collaborative approach to open government reform No No This commitment pursues government collaboration with CSOs and other stakeholders on an ongoing basis. While dialogue and engagement activities took place, there was limited progress on updating existing commitments and publishing new ones.
Scotland (For a full report on these commitments, see https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/United-Kingdom_Mid-Term_Report_2016-2018.pdf)
1. Effective open government for governments at all levels No No Scotland plans to improve collaboration among actors across the UK involved in the OGP process by holding a summit in April 2018.
Northern Ireland (For a full report on these commitments, see https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/United-Kingdom_Mid-Term_Report_2016-2018.pdf)
1. Develop & trial effective open policy making and public engagement methods No No This commitment would allow the government and civil society to experiment with new approaches to participation. Delays on the pilot co-design process have impacted completion of the subsequent milestones.
2. Promote greater levels of public sector innovation No No This commitment looks to address major societal and environmental challenges by supporting innovation through a new fund, using data analytics among other initiatives. However, the activities are not well specified. 
3. To investigate implementation of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) No No This commitment seeks to enable the public to visualize all of the Northern Irish government’s contracting arrangements, under the global standard. Currently, all contracts meet the requirements for 1-star data, meaning they are available on the internet under an open license. The government is exploring the feasibility of achieving higher ratings.
4. Open up government for greater accountability, to improve public services and building a more prosperous and equal society No No This commitment aims to continue engagement with partners, while promoting a culture of data being open by default. Many of the commitment’s activities had begun prior to the action plan.
Wales  (For a full report on these commitments, see https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/United-Kingdom_Mid-Term_Report_2016-2018.pdf)
1. Open data plan No No This commitment focuses on implementation of an existing Open Data Plan. It is unclear if activities other than data publication will be implemented. 
2. Open data service No No This commitment seeks to improve public services through open data. Development of the Open Data Catalogue has been limited due to lack of resources. These activities resemble a small component of the broader Welsh Government open data plan.
3. StatsWales No No This commitment improves users’ ability to connect data available on StatsWales to other databases. The government has developed training materials for the public. Future steps could include data visualisation and applications that appeal to a broader audience.
4. Administrative Data Research Centre Wales No No This commitment seeks to make sensitive data available for academic and public sector research. Even though data access is limited to researchers, the resulting work addresses issues of public interest. A pilot programme on techniques to provide data is yet to be completed.
5. Government Social Research Publication Protocol No No This commitment is based on an ongoing initiative by the Welsh government to standardise the publication of research. The concrete steps the government will take are not clear. 
6. Gov.Wales No No This commitment seeks to build a new version of the Gov.Wales website, to centralise information and ensure consistency. The timetable for this commitment (June 2019) runs outside of the action plan. So far, the government has only launched a series of consultations in experimental format.
7. Code of practice for ethical employment in supply chains No No This commitment seeks to develop a code for ethical supply chain behavior. While it has significant potential to change business and organisational practice, the commitment is focused on external entities rather than on the government.
✪8. Well-being of Future Generations Act – national indicators for Wales Yes No This commitment aims to involve civil society and other bodies in publishing indicators and goals on the 2015 Well-being of Future Generations Act, which includes key social, economic, environmental and cultural goals. The Welsh government held an extensive national conversation with the public, published the indicators, and prepared a report on progress.
✪9. Well-being duty on specified public bodies in Wales Yes Yes This commitment sought implementation of the Well-being of Future Generations Act at the local level. All 19 public services boards, which include CSO representation, have set and published well-being objectives. They have also conducted assessments of well-being in their respective areas.

* Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as specific, relevant, and has a transformative potential impact
✪ Commitment is evaluated by the IRM as being specific, relevant, potentially transformative, and substantially or fully implemented

IRM Report - United Kingdom Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 (Year 1)


I. Introduction 
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The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international multi-stakeholder 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 organisations, and the private sector, all of which contribute to a common pursuit of open government.

The United Kingdom (UK) began its formal participation in 2011, when Prime Minister David Cameron declared his country’s intention to participate in the initiative as one of the founding members.

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 UK developed its third national action plan from July 2015 to April 2016. The official implementation period for the action plan was 1 May 2016 through 1 May 2018. This year one report covers the action plan development process and first year of implementation, from May 2016 until October 2017. However, it is important to note that the devolved government’s commitments only became part of the UK OGP plan in December 2016. 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 and consulted on its draft self-assessment in November 2017 before publishing it in December 2017.

In order to meet OGP requirements, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of OGP has partnered with Ben Worthy of Birkbeck College, University of London, who carried out this evaluation of the development and implementation of the UK’s third action plan. To gather the voices of multiple stakeholders, the IRM researcher held a series of interviews and created an online survey. 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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The third action plan was implemented amid considerable upheaval in British politics following the UK’s referendum to leave the European Union (EU) in June 2016. The UK government and devolved governments did, however, work closely with civil society in developing the strategy and implementation of the action plan.

2.1 Background

The UK ranked 35th out of 111 countries in Freedom of Information Law in the latest Access/CLD rating,[Note1: Access Info/CLD ‘Global Right to Information Rating’ RTI Rating website, http://www.rti-rating.org/country-data/ ] joint second with Australia in the Global Open Data Index of 2016[Note2: Open Knowledge Foundation (2016) Global Open Data Index, https://index.okfn.org/place/ ] and 10th out of 176 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.[Note3: Transparency International (2016) ‘United Kingdom’, https://www.transparency.org/country/GBR ] The UK decreased slightly in the International Budget Partnership’s Open Budget Survey, from a score of 75/100 in 2015, to 74/100 in 2017.[Note4: International Budget Partnership (2016) ‘United Kingdom: December Update’, https://www.internationalbudget.org/opening-budgets/open-budget-initiative/open-budget-survey/country-info/?country=gb ]

The UK underwent considerable political upheaval and uncertainty following the referendum to leave the EU in June 2016 (‘Brexit’). The referendum resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron in June 2016 a General Election in June 2017 that led to a hung parliament (where no party has an overall majority) and the beginning of the exit negotiations in June to July 2017.[Note5: Hung Parliaments, Worthy, Ben ‘What is a Hung Parliament and How Long Will It Last?’ (blog post 12 June 2017), http://10-gower-street.com/2017/06/12/what-is-a-hung-parliament-and-how-long-will-it-last/, and Brexit Huffington Post ‘What A Hung Parliament Means’, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/alexandra-runswick/what-a-hung-parliament-me_b_17179186.html, and BBC ‘Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887  ]

There was considerable discussion and disagreement between parts of the UK in the wake of the referendum, including in Northern Ireland and Scotland, both of which largely voted ‘Remain’. In Scotland, a new independence referendum was proposed and discussed. In Northern Ireland, political disagreement between the main parties after the Northern Ireland Assembly elections of March 2017 led to the collapse and suspension of the Assembly. As of January 2018, the Assembly remains suspended amid wider political uncertainty, including complex negotiations around the status of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as the UK government negotiates Brexit.[Note6: For background, NI Open Government Network Blog (2018) Have you noticed that we don’t have a Government?, https://www.opengovernment.org.uk/2018/02/02/ni-open-government-network-blog-have-you-noticed-that-we-dont-have-a-government/ ]

Nevertheless, a series of open government related reforms took place outside of OGP as part of the new Prime Minister’s corporate governance reforms. In terms of pushing further openness, the new government of Theresa May continued to champion mandatory reporting of gender pay gaps, meaning all businesses with more than 250 employees must publish details between April 2017 and April 2018. There were recommendations over opening up Executive (CEO) pay and publishing pay ratios between the lowest and highest paid in companies.[Note7: Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service and Government Equalities Office Guidance: Gender pay gap reporting: overview, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/gender-pay-gap-reporting-overview, and provisional analysis by the author, Worthy, Ben ‘Gender Pay Gap Transparency: Will It Work?’,   https://opendatastudy.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/gender-pay-gap-transparency-will-it-work/ ]

The UK also proposed a new audit on racial disparity across government, which was published towards the end of 2017.[Note8: Corporate governance reforms including pay transparency. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy: Consultation outcome Corporate governance reform, https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/corporate-governance-reform ] In July 2017, a controversy over the salaries of TV presenters occurred when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC, the UK taxpayer subsidized broadcaster) published salary details for the first time.[Note9: Coverage of the BBC ‘BBC pay: How much do its stars earn?’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40653861 ] The policies, though not part of OGP, reflect open government values of fiscal transparency and access to information.

There were also attempts to limit government openness. A Law Commission consultation examined the possibility of strengthening the Official Secrets Act, which would make whistleblowing more difficult, according to campaigners.[Note10: Information and Law Policy Centre ‘Submissions to the Law Commission’s consultation on ‘Official Data Protection’: Open Rights Group’, https://infolawcentre.blogs.sas.ac.uk/2017/05/31/submissions-to-the-law-commissions-consultation-on-official-data-protection-open-rights-group/, and Campaign For Freedom of Information ‘Whistleblowers and journalists face prison for revealing information that could be obtained under FOI’ , https://www.cfoi.org.uk/2017/05/whistleblowers-and-journalists-face-prison-for-revealing-information-that-could-be-obtained-under-foi/] The government proposed floating fees for the second tier of appeals for Freedom of Information (FOI), though a ruling on a related issue over access to justice from the Supreme Court in July 2017 put this policy in doubt.[Note11: Campaign For Freedom of Information  ‘FOI implications of the Justice Committee’s report on Courts and Tribunals Fees’, https://www.cfoi.org.uk/2016/07/foi-implications-of-the-justice-committees-report-on-courts-and-tribunals-fees/ ]

Perhaps most significantly, the government passed the Investigatory Powers Act in 2016 that gave legal right to bulk data collection by intelligence agencies and, as one newspaper put it, ‘legalises a range of tools for snooping and hacking by the security services’.[Note12: Guardian ‘Extreme surveillance' becomes UK law with barely a whimper’, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/19/extreme-surveillance-becomes-uk-law-with-barely-a-whimper ] Although there were independent judicial checks built into the Act, there was widespread national and international concern at the potentially wide ranging powers it gave intelligence agencies.[Note13: Analysis of the new law, Legislation.gov.uk ‘Investigatory Powers Act 2016’, https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=investigatory+powers+act+2016&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-ab&gfe_rd=cr&dcr=0&ei=OK-yWY2UHMP38AemsYygBw, and Matt Burgess ‘What is the IP Act and how will it affect you?’, http://www.wired.co.uk/article/ip-bill-law-details-passed ] In early 2018, the Act was struck down at the Court of Appeal over its lack of safeguards.[Note14: Guardian (2018) UK mass digital surveillance regime ruled unlawful, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jan/30/uk-mass-digital-surveillance-regime-ruled-unlawful-appeal-ruling-snoopers-charter]

In 2017, there were calls for a future discussion in Scotland around its separate FOI Act. In June 2017, the Scottish Government committed to publish all FOI responses online.[Note15: Scottish Government (2017) Boost to open government (news item 20 Jun 2017) https://beta.gov.scot/news/boost-to-open-government/ ] This came amid calls for wholesale review of government practices following an open letter from a group of Scottish journalists who were ‘increasingly concerned about the way in which the legislation is being interpreted and implemented’.[Note16: BBC ‘Scottish journalists voice fears over freedom of information requests’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40120002, BBC ‘MSPs condemn government over freedom of information system’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-40356988] By the end of 2017 both the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Information Commissioner were proposing separate investigations[Note17: For more detail see Andy McDevitt (2017) Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Scotland Final Report 2017].

In a further development, in September 2017, 10 organisations, including Oxfam, Global Witness and Transparency International, withdrew from the UK Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) following what they called a ‘decision to give special status to one civil society organisation over its peers’, which the organisations felt goes against EITI’s founding principles.[Note18: Global Witness (2017) Joint statement: Civil Society Network withdraws from UK Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/joint-statement-civil-society-network-withdraws-uk-extractive-industries-transparency-initiative-eiti/ ]

2.2 Scope of Action Plan in Relation to National Context

The UK government could move towards greater openness around the Brexit process, as well as in other areas where changes happened outside the OGP process but influence openness and the values around OGP.

As interviewed stakeholders acknowledged to the IRM researcher, the repercussions of Brexit meant that less attention was paid to implementation, and time and energy was often focused elsewhere.[Note19: Across interviews with CSOs and government the effects of Brexit on the process was discussed. Worthy, Ben, Brexit and Open Government in the UK: 11 Months of May, https://ssrn.com/abstract=2988952 ] Both groups recognised that progress on the commitments was slower as a result and some fell behind schedule or, in a few cases, took a different form. In addition, the hung parliament after June 2017 meant there was less space in the parliamentary timetable and so primary legislation would be less likely to happen.

The highest priority theme would be for greater openness around Brexit. The European Commission’s approach has been to publish a range of timelines and position papers setting out how the Brexit process will occur and the sequencing and the position of the EU on certain important areas such as citizen rights and a potential financial settlement.[Note20: EU Commission ‘EU Position Papers on the Article 50 negotiations’,  https://ec.europa.eu/commission/publications/eu-position-papers-article-50-negotiations_en ] Both the EU and UK are committed to engaging and informing their respective parliaments, though the exact level of openness is unclear.[Note21: EU Commission (2017) ‘The European Commission's approach to transparency in the Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom’, https://ec.europa.eu/commission/brexit-negotiations/european-commissions-approach-transparency-article-50-negotiations-united-kingdom_en and IFG (2017) ‘In Brexit, transparency is a tool – and Europe is using it’,

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/brexit-transparency-tool-and-europe-using-it ]

So far, the UK government has been criticised for its reticence around the process, publishing fewer position papers and seeking to keep its positions confidential.[Note22: IFG (2017) ‘In Brexit, transparency is a tool – and Europe is using it’,

https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/brexit-transparency-tool-and-europe-using-it ] It has, however, published a White Paper and a major Prime Ministerial speech but these have been seen as lacking in detail.[Note23: Guardian ‘The White Paper on Brexit: A Wish List Disguised as a Strategy’, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/02/the-white-paper-on-brexit-a-wish-list-disguised-as-a-strategy, and EU law analysis ‘As Bad as It Gets: The White Paper on Brexit‘, http://eulawanalysis.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/as-bad-as-it-gets-white-paper-on-brexit.html ] Details on the legal reforms for the UK when leaving the EU have also been vague.[Note24: Public Law For Everyone ‘the Government’s White Paper On the Repeal Bill: Some Preliminary Thoughts’, https://publiclawforeveryone.com/2017/03/30/the-governments-white-paper-on-the-great-repeal-bill-some-preliminary-thoughts/ ] While there may be certain logic to this position as part of the negotiations, any benefits have been undermined by continual leaking and disagreement.[Note25: Worthy, Ben (2017) ‘How Parliament’s campaign of attrition forced the government to open up about Brexit ‘, https://opendatastudy.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/how-parliaments-campaign-of-attrition-forced-the-government-to-open-up-about-brexit/] This was symbolized in December 2017 when, following FOI requests and select committee pressure for the 58 studies of the impact of Brexit, the government admitted that they did not exist as ‘assessments’.[Note26: UK Parliament (2017) EU Exit - Sectoral Analysis: Written statement - HCWS231, http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-11-07/HCWS231/  ]

Given their importance, the UK government could improve transparency around the Brexit negotiations in two ways. First, the government already publishes its proposals and regularly provides updates to Parliament and the public on the progress of the negotiations (at set times such as after each negotiation round, via the Liaison committee with the Prime Minister and through other select committee appearances). The government should, where possible, supplement these updates with data about the impact and changes Brexit may bring to the public. It could also ensure all plans, positions, and speeches are published online. Second, given the division and uncertainty across the UK, the government could involve the public in more deliberative forums and discussions. This would help reduce uncertainty among groups likely to be affected and strengthen the position of the UK government.

The issues of surveillance and lobbying remain important areas and could be subject to some analysis, especially following the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act of 2014 (on lobbying) and Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 (on surveillance powers). Both laws were passed outside of the OGP process but could carry profound consequences for civil rights. These laws could be subject to scrutiny by a joint select committee of both Houses of Parliament to see how they have functioned since being passed and how they could, if necessary, be reformed.

Finally, some of the open government activities outside of OGP could be incorporated into future action plans to give extra international profile and momentum. The reporting of gender pay gaps, in particular, would benefit from the extra publicity and scrutiny being placed in a future action plan would bring, given the comparatively slow uptake by private companies.


III. Leadership and Multistakeholder Process 
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The UK government continued its relatively successful process of consultation with regular and detailed meetings and publications, and frequent updates. 

3.1 Leadership

This subsection describes the OGP leadership and institutional context for OGP in the UK. Table 3.1 summarises 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)?

X

 

 

Shared

Single

Is there a single lead agency on OGP efforts?

X

 

 

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?

X

 

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?

X

 

 

The Cabinet Office is responsible for coordinating OGP activities in the UK. The Cabinet Office is well placed to push the OGP agenda as it serves the Prime Minister and is the corporate lead for the UK government that is also responsible for important policies. It worked in consultation with government departments and other bodies responsible, particularly devolved governments that each led on their commitments. Some of the non-government bodies and the devolved governments decided separately on their own commitments and what was to be done.

The Cabinet Office had a dedicated team of two staff (one part-time member and one working 75 percent of a full-time equivalent), plus commitment points of contact for the departments responsible for OGP commitments. There is funding of £100k per year from the Minister for Cabinet Office for funding starting FY 2015/16 and ending 2018/19. The Cabinet office’s role as lead coordinator for the third action plan was similar to its approach of the second action plan. For the third action plan, as with the previous plan, the Cabinet Office and CSOs held regular meetings (Section 3.3 describes these activities).

The government’s commitment to OGP does not have a specific legal mandate. The UK has a relatively centralised political system with strong control over local government, though the last few decades have seen increasing power given to the UK’s constituent nations. The devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have considerable autonomy and, in the case of the third action plan, independently developed and implemented separate proposals.

During the period of the third action plan, four important events took place. On 23 June 2016, the UK voted to leave the EU in a country-wide referendum.[Note27: BBC, ‘Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU’, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887 ] Prime Minister David Cameron resigned the day after the referendum and was replaced by Theresa May, causing considerable political upheaval in the following months and year. In June 2017, Theresa May called for a General Election that led to a hung Parliament. In addition, in Northern Ireland, which has four OGP commitments, the Executive was suspended between 2 March 2017 and the summer of 2017 until the end of the time period for this report.

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 were invited to or observed the action plan, but may not be responsible for commitments in the action plan

8

0

0

2

3

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

4

0

0

1

3

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

8

0

0

2

3

 

Participation in OGP involved a wide range of government bodies coordinated by the Cabinet Office. This included six central government departments, a representative body of local government, two arms-length bodies and two non-government agencies. Table 3.2 above details the number of institutions that were involved in OGP process.[Note28: The lead bodies were as follows Central Departments: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial strategy, HM Treasury, Department for International Development, Home Office, Cabinet Office and Government Digital Service. Executive agency (linked to the Cabinet Office) Crown Commercial Service. Arm’s length/Independent Regulator: Financial Conduct Authority, Office of National Statistics. Outside Bodies/Associations: Local Government Association, Involve. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland participated through their Executive Offices.]

The process was pursued through a series of joint working groups and meetings between CSOs and the central and devolved governments. Drawing on previous action plan assessments, including the previous IRM report, the government and CSOs developed a series of key themes for the third action plan.[Note29: Cabinet Office (2016) Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18 TSO: London (commitment update for July 2016).] The government took the 28 ideas from the crowdsourced Open Government Network (OGN) manifesto as thematic starting points and held a series of discussions around the country, as well as meetings between area experts in the government and civil society. The commitments were then created by consensus. In parallel, the government and civil society worked with devolved governments and the open government CSO networks in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The process was built around a series of meetings held every three months, with the lead bodies and the CSO stakeholders’ steering committee to discuss progress on the commitments and issues. Minutes and agendas of the meetings were published online. According to both CSOs and government, the meetings were regularly held and well attended, with regular representation from both government commitment leads and CSO representatives. Interviewed CSO representatives viewed these high level, regular meetings as important in pushing forward the implementation, especially as contact with individual commitment leads could be variable.[Note30: Interview with Tim Hughes, Involve, 20 July 2017.]

Commitment 13 of the third action plan addressed feedback from CSOs and a recommendation from the IRM progress report for the previous action plan by pledging to work more closely with devolved governments. In December 2016, four open government commitments by the Northern Irish Executive, one by the Scottish government and nine by the Welsh government, covering openness policies of the government of their respective countries, were incorporated into the broader plan.[Note31: Cabinet Office ‘Commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive’, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/commitments-from-the-northern-ireland-executive, and Cabinet Office ‘Commitments from the Welsh Government’, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/resource/2016-18-uk-open-government-action-plan-commitment-from-the-welsh-government/ ] The Scottish government’s commitments are being assessed separately as part of the OGP’s Subnational Government Pilot Program.[Note32: Opengovernment.org.uk ‘Scotland’s 2017 Subnational Action Plan’, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/scotlands-2017-subnational-action-plan/ ] These were developed in a similar collaborative process between the individual country CSOs and devolved administrations, though both the UK government and OGN provided help and advice.

3.3 Civil Society Engagement

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 the UK during the 2016-2018 action plan.

Table 3.3: National OGP Process

Key Steps Followed: 7 of 7

Before

1. Timeline Process & Availability

2. Advanced Notice

Timeline and process available online prior to consultation

Yes

No

Advance notice of consultation

Yes

No

 

 

3. Awareness raising

4. Multiple Channels

Government carried out awareness raising activities

Yes

No

4a. Online consultations:

Yes

No

 

 

4b. In-person consultations:

Yes

No

 

5. Documentation & Feedback

Summary of comments provided

Yes

No

 

During

6. Regular Multi-Stakeholder 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

 

7b. Report available in English and administrative language?

Yes

 

 

 

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

Yes

 

7d. Report responds to key IRM recommendations?

Yes

No

 

 

                 

 

As with the second action plan, the UK government worked closely with a range of CSO. The public participation CSO Involve coordinated the civil society network. CSOs themselves began consulting and developing ideas in advance of the formal development of the action plan through a series of quarterly meetings in London. An online forum generated 79 possible commitments for the action plan, which was launched as an open government manifesto in October 2015.[Note33: OGP blog, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/stories/co-creation-uk and the manifesto, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/2015/10/01/open-government-manifesto-launched/ ] At the CSO stage, all events were open invitation.

According to the government’s self-assessment report, the government began working with the Open Government Network (OGN) in July 2015 to identify the overarching narrative and priority themes for the third action plan, including working with CSOs within OGN.[Note34: Cabinet Office ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication. ] The government argued that ‘having robust discussions early on enabled us to include ambitious commitments in the areas of anti-corruption, open contracting, and freedom of information’. This meant that by December 2015, five priority themes at the UK level were established to help frame the development of the action plan: access to information; anti-corruption; civic participation; open data; and public accountability, with evolved issues developing more organically.[Note35: Cabinet Office ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication. ]

There were then a series of events and workshops, including four in February 2016. In April 2016, the Cabinet Office and OGN hosted three additional workshops in Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle to discuss progress on the action plan and to gather ideas for future commitments.[Note36: Cabinet Office ‘Open Government Partnership National Action Plan 2016-18:

Mid-term Self Assessment Report’ (UK government report September 2017) passed to author pre-publication. ]

There were quarterly meetings between the CSO steering group and government leads, as well as engagement on an individual level.[Note37: Opengovernment.org.uk  ‘About’ (CSO network website 2017) http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/networks/uk/ the steering group are:

    Andy Williamson, Democratise

    Colm Burns, NI Open Government Network

    Gavin Freeguard, Institute for Government

    Jess Blair, ERS Wales & Welsh Open Government Network

                Lucy McTernan, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) & Scotland Open 

    Government Network

    Martin Tisne, The Omidyar Network

    Michelle Brook, The Democratic Society

    Rachel Davies, Transparency International UK

    Tim Davies, Practical Participation] There was also continued interaction between CSO and government leads for each commitment, though this decreased in some places. Meetings were open and regular and online consultations were publicised. The government publicised different OGP commitments on blogs and press releases.

There was a wide breadth of consultation lead by the CSO steering group -elected by the OGN- who regularly asked for input from their networks before each meeting and when updates were published. The CSO steering committee shared feedback from their wider networks with the government via a Google document (where members could add comments, questions, and thoughts).[Note38: The Google document was shared with the author July 2017: Meeting between CSO and government (telephone conference call July 2017).] This was shared mostly online through the forum and email. The minutes and notes of the meetings were also published online, as were drafts of government updates. The main problem was navigation on the government website (gov.uk), so material was later placed on the UK open government network site, where it was easier to find and more accessible to CSOs.[Note39: Tim Hughes, Involve.]

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.[Note40: For more information on the IAP2 spectrum see, 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 input
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 summarises that information.

The stakeholders and CSO network was built on the OGN developed during the first and second action plans. By the third plan, the OGN had more than 2000 members, including CSOs and other interested people such as developers, academics, journalists and citizens.

The stakeholders and CSO groups were regularly consulted during implementation. The government-CSO meetings were well attended and included updates on progress and discussions of future issues and obstacles. CSOs also raised questions from the wider group.[Note41: Meeting between CSO and government, telephone conference call, July 2017. ] The CSO steering group met in person every quarter, in addition to a series of meet-ups and events, and shared updates through the online discussion forum.[Note42: Opengovernment.org.uk ‘2016-18 Open Government Action Plan implementation meeting | 27 July 2017 | Meeting note ‘, http://www.opengovernment.org.uk/2017/08/02/2016-18-open-government-action-plan-implementation-meeting-27-july-2017-meeting-note/ ] The UK OGN network, which was open to all, used its forum and social media to discuss ongoing issues and to reach more people.

A survey by the Cabinet Office found more than half of respondents (made up of CSOs and government officials) felt CSOs were involved to a moderate or large extent in the process, with 67 percent feeling CSOs were involved in individual commitments.[Note43: Tables from Cabinet Office Self-assessment online survey - summary of results (online survey September 2017)] Sixty percent felt that the ‘strength of the partnership between key government officials and civil society organizations was ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’.

Though the forum was held in London, the online forum was open to all and there were also sub-networks for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The sub-network included CSOs and interested people from across the Open Data and FOI community. Given the membership, it is unclear what the gender balance was.

Notes and minutes of all the meetings were posted online and various drafts of letters were also circulated for comment.[Note44: Open Government Network (2016) Information on third action plan commitments engagement activities, https://www.opengovernment.org.uk/resource/information-on-nap3-commitments-engagement-activities/] The government updates were also circulated through the forum as a Google document, allowing members to publicly add ideas and comments that then went back to the government.

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 UK government published its draft self-assessment on 17 November 2017.[Note45: Open Government Network (2017), ‘For public comment: UK Open Government National Action Plan 2016-] The draft was open for public comment until 1 December 2017 and feedback could be left on a Google document or through email. The draft self-assessment covered all parts of the commitments, as well as discussions of the consultation process. It also included a detailed survey of officials and CSOs and their views on implementation and involvement in the process. Some of the commitment updates contained links to evidence, while most were included updated progress. The UK self-assessment was published alongside separate draft documents covering the Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish commitments in the same period with the same comment period. It was publicised via the OGN website and via email to members of the OGN.

3.6 Response to Previous IRM Recommendations

Table 3.5: Previous IRM Report Key Recommendations

Recommendation
Addressed?
Integrated into Next Action Plan?

1

Achieve deeper engagement between government and CSOs throughout the process of the development and implementation of the next action plan, with frequent meetings and keeping of personnel changes to a minimum (where possible). This needs to be sustained throughout the implementation process.

2

Promote wider engagement with a more varied group of CSOs. Although some proposals are by their nature technical and niche, an overall strategic vision may allow for a greater appeal to more organizations.

3

Promote wider engagement with numerous governmental bodies across the UK, particularly the devolved assemblies and local government, who should be co-authors of the next report.

4

Focus on key gaps in the second action plan, particularly on how innovations can link to public participation and accountability.

8

5

Focus on some vital emerging issues, particularly government surveillance and lobbying.

8

8

 

The UK government and CSOs incorporated four of the recommendations from the second action plan into the third action plan. CSOs such as Involve worked to extend and expand the range of people and government bodies involved in OGP through regional meetings, the creation of separate networks across the UK and growth of the forum. The need to have greater participation was partly met by the open-ended commitment in the third action plan to ‘Involve data users in shaping the future of open data’.

In response to the previous action plan’s lack of devolved involvement in the second action plan for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Commitment 13 of the third plan committed to an ‘ongoing collaborative approach to open government reform’. This led to the inclusion of commitments from the Welsh and Northern Irish devolved governments in the third plan, with a series of meetings and communication with their separate CSO networks and governments also taking place. 

The fifth recommendation was not addressed, in part because of the prioritisation of other policies following consultation. It may also have been because a major piece of legislation, the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, came into force on surveillance. However, given the questions surrounding this law, there should be regular examination by a select committee given its potential effect on civil rights.


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.[Note46: 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 timeframes 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 no 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?[Note47: 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.[Note48: The international Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information visit: http://www.opengovernmentpartnership.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, UK’s action plan contained two starred commitments: commitments 8 and 9 from Wales:

·       Well-being of Future Generations Act – National Indicators for Wales

·       Well-being duty on specified public bodies in Wales

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 the UK and all OGP-participating countries, see the OGP Explorer.[Note49: OGP Explorer: bit.ly/1KE2WIl ]

General Overview of the Commitments

The UK’s third national action plan covered a broad range of domestic and international issues. It included many areas, from local elections data and grant spending to natural resources openness. The third action plan built on the previous plan in two ways. First, many of its themes overlapped. Notably, an emphasis on anti-corruption emerged from the May 2016 London Anti-Corruption conference, and four commitments focused on this theme. Second, a number of the policies and commitments continued or expanded on commitments from the second plan, such as extending beneficial ownership or filling gaps in the UK’s participation in the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

One key difference, following recommendations from the previous IRM report, is that the action plan covers all four nations of the UK. Although the plan initially covered 13 UK-wide commitments, in December 2016 a further nine were added specifically for Wales, four for Northern Ireland and one for Scotland. These brought the total number of commitments to 27.

Editorial Note: commitment texts presented in this report have been shortened for brevity. Full texts are available on the action plan: http://bit.ly/2EfHnFt.


V. General Recommendations 
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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.

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.

As the research process took place between July and September 2017, when many people were away due to vacation period in the country, the IRM researcher conducted interviews via telephone and collected feedback through an online survey. The interviews included consultations with government officers, CSOs and other actors involved in the action plan, as follows:

-        Tim Adams, Local Government Association

-        Wasim Akthar, Cabinet Office

-        Rachel Anderson, Cabinet Office

-        Rhona Birchall, Department of International Development

-        Andrew Bowen, Crown Commercial

-        Michelle Brook, The Democratic Society

-        Colm Burns, Northern Ireland Open Government Network

-        Rhiannon Caunt, Welsh Government

-        Andrew Clark, Omidyar Network

-        Nick Cochrane, Department of Finance, Northern Ireland Executive

-        Time Davies, Open Data Services

-        Rachel Davies-Teka, Transparency International

-        Maurice Frankel, Campaign for Freedom of Information

-        Gavin Freeguard, Institute for Government

-        Jetske Germming, Welsh Council Voluntary Organizations

-        Doreen Grove, Scottish Government

-        Emma Harvey, Scottish Government

-        Lawrence Hopper, Cabinet Office

-        Ruba Ishak, One

-        William Gerry, Cabinet Office

-        Ingrid Koehler, Local Government Information Unit

-        Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay

-        David McBurney, Northern Ireland Open Government Network

-        Alice Moore, Cabinet Office

-        Rachel Owens, Global Witness

-        Alice Pilia, Cabinet Office,

-        Rachel Rank, 360 Giving

-        Ruchir Shah, Scottish Council Voluntary Organizations

-        Antonia Simmons, Cabinet Office

-        Lois Taylor, Cabinet Office

-        Martin Tisne, Omidyar Network

-        Thom Townsend, Cabinet Office

-        Peter Wells, Open Data Institute

-        Joseph Williams, Natural Resource Governance Institute

The IRM researcher also followed up with emails and requested feedback through an online survey.

The IRM researcher carried out a short survey via the Bristol Online survey system between July and September 2017. This survey only received five full responses. During the same time the Cabinet Office sent out a survey to all stakeholders involved in OGP. This survey asked stakeholders about involvement on the action plan development and implementation process; perceptions of collaboration between government and CSOs; perceived level of influence from CSOs in the development of commitments and implementation; and assessment of the country’s performance in the implementation process.

The IRM researcher used the feedback received in this survey to complement his desk research and interview findings.  

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

·       Jeff Lovitt

·       Fredline M’Cormack-Hale

·       Showers Mawowa

·       Juanita Olaya

·       Quentin Reed

·       Rick Snell

·       Jean-Patrick Villeneuve

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


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.

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.

As the research process took place between July and September 2017, when many people were away due to vacation period in the country, the IRM researcher conducted interviews via telephone and collected feedback through an online survey. The interviews included consultations with government officers, CSOs and other actors involved in the action plan, as follows:

  • Tim Adams, Local Government Association
  • Wasim Akthar, Cabinet Office
  • Rachel Anderson, Cabinet Office
  • Rhona Birchall, Department of International Development

 

  • Andrew Bowen, Crown Commercial
  • Michelle Brook, The Democratic Society
  • Colm Burns, Northern Ireland Open Government Network
  • Rhiannon Caunt, Welsh Government
  • Andrew Clark, Omidyar Network
  • Nick Cochrane, Department of Finance, Northern Ireland Executive
  • Time Davies, Open Data Services
  • Rachel Davies-Teka, Transparency International
  • Maurice Frankel, Campaign for Freedom of Information
  • Gavin Freeguard, Institute for Government
  • Jetske Germming, Welsh Council Voluntary Organizations
  • Doreen Grove, Scottish Government
  • Emma Harvey, Scottish Government
  • Lawrence Hopper, Cabinet Office
  • Ruba Ishak, One
  • William Gerry, Cabinet Office
  • Ingrid Koehler, Local Government Information Unit
  • Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay
  • David McBurney, Northern Ireland Open Government Network
  • Alice Moore, Cabinet Office
  • Rachel Owens, Global Witness
  • Alice Pilia, Cabinet Office,
  • Rachel Rank, 360 Giving
  • Ruchir Shah, Scottish Council Voluntary Organizations
  • Antonia Simmons, Cabinet Office
  • Lois Taylor, Cabinet Office
  • Martin Tisne, Omidyar Network
  • Thom Townsend, Cabinet Office
  • Peter Wells, Open Data Institute
  • Joseph Williams, Natural Resource Governance Institute

 

The IRM researcher also followed up with emails and requested feedback through an online survey.

The IRM researcher carried out a short survey via the Bristol Online survey system between July and September 2017. This survey only received five full responses. During the same time the Cabinet Office sent out a survey to all stakeholders involved in OGP. This survey asked stakeholders about involvement on the action plan development and implementation process; perceptions of collaboration between government and CSOs; perceived level of influence from CSOs in the development of commitments and implementation; and assessment of the country’s performance in the implementation process.

The IRM researcher used the feedback received in this survey to complement his desk research and interview findings.

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
  • Jeff Lovitt
  • Fredline M’Cormack-Hale
  • Showers Mawowa
  • Juanita Olaya
  • Quentin Reed
  • Rick Snell
  • Jean-Patrick Villeneuve

 

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

 

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