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Symposium 2012

Proposal - Fostering Open Government Initiatives in Public Services

The Challenge

The provision of effective and efficient public services—such as health care, education and criminal justice—is a key task for government. In recent years, the financial crisis, digital technolo ...

The provision of effective and efficient public services—such as health care, education and criminal justice—is a key task for government. In recent years, the financial crisis, digital technologies and other big trends have complicated efforts in these areas and intensified calls for large-scale reform.

 

Summary of Policy Alternatives

  1. Strengthen the evidence base on how effective open government measures are in practice;
  2. Harness the potential of ICTs to drive open government;
  3. Use open government strategies to prevent corruption and promote budget and fiscal transparency;
  4. Use OECD expertise to assess national open government policies by drawing on OECD’s peer review methodology.

 

Policy Implication 1: Strengthen the evidence base on how effective open government measures are in practice

  • An open government helps build trust in government and creates a level playing field for business, thereby contributing to economic performance. OECD Ministers and their counterparts from Brazil, Egypt, Estonia, Morocco, Russia, South Africa and Ukraine called for a more open, innovative and inclusive government in order to restore trust between citizens, the business community and government
  • This is particularly relevant in the current context of economic crisis where citizens’ confidence in markets and government has been seriously weakened. Economic recovery involves tough policy choices. These policies can only be successfully implemented and bear fruit in terms of economic outcomes if major parts of society are involved. Trust in government is a prerequisite for building the support needed for decisive political action. The launching of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) reflects recognition of the link between economic prosperity and increased trust, and demonstrates the commitments of the international community to promoting open government and integrity.
  • Although the concept of Open Government is widely supported, there is little evidence on which policies actually have an impact on achieving greater openness. There is a possibility that in some cases legislation is on the books but in practice works in a way that is contrary to open government. In response OECD has been developing indicators that can measure both the letter and the spirit of open government policies and legislation.
  • For example, OECD data shows that most countries have freedom of information or access to information laws. As such, at first glance, governments have opened up. At the same time, other OECD data exploring “ease of filing requests for information” suggest that in some cases citizens would face an uphill battle to actually get the information. Similarly there are large variations in disclosure requirements for public officials. Cabinet members and legislators tend to be required to publish their assets and salaries are in the public domain. For the judiciary, however, disclosure requirements are less strict and in the majority of countries judges are not expected to disclose assets.
  • This data collection is painstaking to compile, but can have an important influence on guiding policy to close up loopholes, remove anomalies and ensure that regulations and legislation function in a way that supports open government objectives.
  • Similar attention should be paid to how governments act to protect personal data and commercially sensitive information and freedom of expression.

The OECD will continue to collect comparative data and developing indicators based on the conceptual foundations of open government and good practices standards, including the OECD Principles on Open And Inclusive Policy-Making (2008).

 

Policy Implication 2: Harness the potential of ICTs to drive open government

  • Earlier this year OECD E-Leaders met in Mexico. Decision-makers agreed issues that must be tackled along three lines:
    1. Take steps to defragment government. Public sectors are mostly structured historically to solve domain specific problems; ICTs and better information flow across organisational boundaries can help improve co-ordination and collaboration to achieve better results.
    2. Improve government agility to meet expectations. The OECD is working on a report (forthcoming end 2012) that will identify the opportunities and challenges of adoption of technology trends to improve what we call “public sector ‘agility’ - such as cloud computing, social media, mobile government and open data.
    3. Promote Open Data to open government and improve public service delivery. Open Government Data is a critical foundation for increased transparency, inclusion and empowerment of stakeholders. It also helps build a better evidence base for policy making. But to meet public expectations and capture the potential impact of OGD it will be crucial for governments to ensure that data are really open and relevant to the citizens. The OECD is conducting a comparative analysis of existing Open Government Data Initiatives to be able to identify the prerequisites that make these initiatives work.
  • We are working on a report on “Open Government Data Practices and Initiatives in OECD countries” that contributes to providing decision-makers with policy support and capacity building activities to assist governments in improving the impact of their policies and practices, and in joining the Open Government Partnership. The aim is to assess the public value created by making public data available both on economic and social terms; and to develop a framework and select indicators to measure country’s progress with their Open Government Action plans and to help evaluating their results.
  • OECD Ministers adopted the Seoul Declaration at their meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy which highlighted the importance of an open Internet to help bolster the free flow of information, freedom of expression and protection of individual liberties. We also emphasized the need for governments to ensure that public sector information is made widely available. OECD governments have adopted a Recommendation on Public Sector Information which provides policy guidelines designed to improve access and increase use of public sector information through greater transparency, enhanced competition and more competitive pricing. When public sector information is not provided free of charge, pricing public sector information transparently and consistently within and, as far as possible, across different public sector organisations so that it facilitates access and re-use and ensures competition. Ensuring that pricing strategies take into account considerations of unfair competition in situations where both public and business users provide value added services.

 

Policy Implication 3: Use open government strategies to prevent corruption and promote budget and fiscal transparency

  • The OECD has developed instruments to ensure that openness translates into concrete improvements in public decision making processes. Instruments such as the Principles for Enhancing Integrity in Public Procurement (2008), the Good Practices for Budget Transparency (2002), the Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying (2010) and the Guidelines for Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service (2003) -- not only help mitigate corruption risks but also improve efficiency and ultimately contribute to public trust.
  • The Anti-Bribery Convention also promotes integrity and trust in the business community. It establishes legally binding standards to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions and provides for a host of related measures that make this effective.
  • We are also working with partner developing countries to set up web-based reporting systems on corruption at country level. For example, our just released progress report on OECD members’ performance with respect to their commitments on Stolen Asset Recovery (Stolen Assets are the proceeds of corruption:  money, properties, or other assets, amassed through corrupt acts). These include bribery, embezzlement, misappropriation of property or funds, trading in influence, and abuse of functions in the public sector. Asset Recovery is the process by which the proceeds of corruption are recovered and returned to the country of origin) shows clearly how much funding has been repatriated, how much has been frozen and highlights areas for improvement in this effort. We have also produced guidelines to help governments fight bid-rigging and other types of collusion.
  • In the light of the recent economic crisis, public demand for transparent governance of public resources is on the rise. The OECD has been working on improving public financial management for a decade through its network of Senior Budget Officials. The 2002 OECD Best Practices for Budget Transparency provide a critical reference tool for countries to increase their budget transparency – the full disclosure of all relevant fiscal information in a timely and systematic manner. Rather than a formal “standard” for budget transparency, these best practices – based on OECD members’ countries experiences – are meant to be adapted to countries’ specific reporting regimes. The OECD will build on these best practice guidelines by developing OECD Principles for Budget Transparency in 2013.

 

Policy Implication 4: Use OECD expertise to assess national open government policies by drawing on OECD’s peer review methodology.

  • Countries need to asses where they stand with regards to open government and integrity (see proposal in Annex 1 on the OECD contribution to the OGP submitted to the Steering Committee of the OGP).  Undersecretary Maria Otero will visit the OECD on 19 October to discuss contribution of OECD and develop strategic partnership between the OECD and OGP  (e.g. formalise this strategic partnership through an MoU).
  • We support countries efforts in promoting open government through a wide range of instruments and guiding principles, systemic analytical frameworks, solid implementation assessments through peer reviews and comparative, country driven, output and outcome oriented indicators. Furthermore, the OECD provides systemic approach across the policy cycle (from design, to implementation, to assessing effectiveness).
  • The OECD also developed a framework to asses open government policies (2012) as well as a framework to assess specific open government policies such as open data initiatives (2012).
  • The OECD is also supporting members and non-member countries to draft and implement open government reforms and to join the OGP by meeting the eligibility criteria on fiscal transparency, access to information, disclosures by public official and citizen engagement. For example, upon the demand of the G8 and Partner countries as expressed in the framework of the Deauville Partnership (DP) with Arab Countries in Transition, we are assessing the eligibility of Middle East and North African (MENA) countries to the Open Government Partnership to help them improve in those areas where they score below minimum requirements. We are also assisting those who are already members in their efforts to successfully implement their commitments.
  • Integrity assessments were also developed to support countries in developing integrity policies including in areas such as conflict of interest and disclosure of public officials, public procurement, whistleblower protection, etc. the OECD also launched the CLEANGOVBIZ initiative to support countries in assessing integrity in the public and the private sector (e.g. Tunisia).

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