Multi-stakeholder oversight body to monitor open government pledges

By Stephen Easton

Tuesday May 2, 2017

Australian officials secured membership of the international Open Government Partnership with the publication of the requisite National Action Plan right on deadline in December, but the process doesn’t end there.

The next step is the creation of a permanent multi-stakeholder forum to monitor progress towards implementation. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s OGP team describes it as “a group that will allow government and the community to work closely together to make sure we realise the promise of our commitments” and confirms it will be established by the end of June.

The Australian Open Government National Action Plan contains 15 commitments, in a range of areas like strengthening whistleblower protections, fighting white-collar crime and transnational tax avoidance, and increasing public trust in government.

Some are couched in rather equivocal terms, like the pledge to “consider and consult on options” to make the Freedom of Information frameworks more open, having been watered down slightly by the government representatives in the interim working group that hammered out the first plan. Others are extremely worthwhile goals but will be very challenging to achieve, especially the pledge that: “Australia will build public trust around data sharing and release.”

A proposal for how the multi-stakeholder forum could work was published on the PM&C website yesterday, containing questions to get the conversation going about how it should work. There are three ways for anyone to have a say in the forum’s development:

  1. Twitter Q&A on Star Wars Day (May the Fourth…): join the interim working group’s co-chairs, Law Council of Australia president Fiona Mcleod and PM&C deputy secretary Steven Kennedy, for a live Twitter Q&A at 6-7pm AEST, Thursday, May 4. Submit questions on Twitter in the lead up, or during the hour, using the #OGPchat hashtag.
  2. Have a say on the proposed multi-stakeholder forum: respond to the questions in the proposal by leaving a comment on the OGP Australia website, or on Twitter using the hashtag #OGPAU by Wednesday 17 May.
  3. Attend the public workshop, if you’re in Melbourne: the OGP interim working group is holding a public workshop in Melbourne from 1-5pm on Wednesday, May 17.  Register via Eventbrite by May 12.

As Kennedy and McLeod observed in a joint blog point from last month:

“Open government is the idea – simple and transformative – that governments should be transparent, accountable, and engaging.

“Government decision-making should be open to scrutiny, because governments work better when that happens. And because better decisions are made when everyone can contribute, governments should invite and facilitate citizen participation, and open up their troves of useful data for public use.”

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