Read out from a civil society and government meeting in December 2023

Hi all

I hope you are well.

Will look to provide a number of updates on this forum in the coming days.

Firstly I just wanted to make sure you have seen the readout of a meeting before Christmas between government and civil society. The meeting was to update on progress (or not) relating to the current National Action Plan for Open Government.

The readout is copied below and the link is here.

A further meeting has also taken place (just awaiting the readout from government) so will also post on here also when received.

Best wishes,

Kevin Keith
Chair | UK Open Government Network

Aim of the meeting

The aim of the meeting is to briefly take stock of progress on the current National Action Plan, discuss the challenges and opportunities in the future, and agree the way forward for the operation of the UK’s MSF.

Attendees

There were a total of 32 attendees, of which 22 were government representatives and 10 from civil society.
There were a further 13 apologies received, 8 governmental and 5 civil society.
The meeting was chaired by Kevin Keith of the UK Open Government Network (UK OGN).

New UK government minister and point-of-contact for OGP

Minister Alex Burghart MP is the new Parliamentary Secretary for the Cabinet Office.

The new Open Data and Transparency Lead at the Central Digital and Data Office (CDDO) is Dr. Matt Donnelly. Matt’s role includes Open Government, Open Data and Transparency in a broader sense, as well as the specific mechanism of the Open Government Partnership which sits within this wider remit.

Matt offered some initial reflections on the role since assuming the post at the beginning of October:

  • It has been a pleasure to engage with civil society and government colleagues, and honest discussions have helped to highlight both positive progress and concerns
  • Some NAP5 commitments appear to be progressing very strongly, others are being picked up by new governmental leads in a positive manner
  • Positive progress appears to being made on progressing the Open Government agenda, both inside and outside of NAP commitments
  • There is an opportunity to widen the scope of Open Government related progress in future if we can create the right conditions and structures to enable this, and learn from the experiences of previous NAP co-creation
  • There is a challenge for both the UK government and UK OGN to improve coordination and representation to make the process more effective.

UK Status in OGP

A recent meeting of the OGP Criteria & Standards committee decided not to recommend that the UK be made inactive, although the UK remains under procedural review. For reference, recent communications from OGP, UK OGN and the relevant minister are:

A formal resolution is being drafted by the OGP Criteria & Standards committee which will be sent to the OGP Steering Committee. A response to the minister’s letter is expected from OGP in the near future. In addition to the recent formal communications, recent positive steps were noted.

Commitment updates

Commitment 1: Open contracting

Substantial progress has been made on primary legislation, having passed the Lords and now with the Commons, whilst secondary legislation is being developed. A steering group meeting planned for September has been postponed, but this is important to support further implementation and development of tools and their uptake.

Commitment 2: Open justice

Good progress is being made across all commitments, including improved data collection and access, ALPHA service for publishing judgements, a BETA service for the Court and Tribunal Hearing Service, and exceeding commitment on remote access to hearings to include in-person hearings. This progress was contrasted by civil society against concern about the reality in the courts. A follow-up meeting with a steering group is needed to review current progress and future aspirations.

Commitment 3: Algorithmic transparency and accountability

The first version of Algorithmic Transparency Reporting Standard (ATRS) was published in November 2021. It has since been developed and iterated following feedback. The Standard was developed collaboratively by working with civil society groups and external experts. It is also informed by a public engagement study run by the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) and Britain Thinks. Feedback has been incorporated into a second version. as well as a set of accompanying guidance, both of which are available on GitHub for the public and civil society to comment on. The latest version has received endorsement from the Data Standards Authority (DSA), and an ATRS repository is being developed. Legislative aspects were not included in the Data Reform Bill, as the ATRS needs to mature before being included.

Commitment 4: Health

Substantial progress is being made across these commitments along with the broader data strategy for health and care, Data Saves Lives. This includes focus groups, public engagement, data standards, and the creation of a National Data Advisory Group to enable the feedback of comment and challenge, as committed to in the data strategy. A draft standards and interoperability strategy has been published and there is now work on compliance and monitoring, moving towards mandatory standards and the further development of a BETA standards directory. For clinical trials of investigational medicinal products and combined trials of an investigational medicinal product and an investigational medical device, automatic registration of studies on the ISRCTN registry has started. These trials are automatically registered unless a deferral has been agreed or where the study will be registered on ClinicalTrials.gov. Work is progressing on metrics regarding sponsor performance. More work is needed to promote these efforts amongst health charities.

Commitment 5: Anti-corruption and international illicit finance

Implementation is ongoing and good progress is being made, with further civil society engagement planned in the near future on strategy development. The implications of the recent Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgement on public beneficial ownership registers in the EU is also being examined, regarding the wider international approach to beneficial ownership.

Commitment 6: Aid transparency

This is a new commitment added in August 2022. Implementation is on-track, with plans to exceed milestones in some areas. Quarterly civil society meetings are in-progress, a government community of practice on aid transparency is in operation.

Commitment 7: Diversity and inclusion

This is a new commitment added in August 2022. CDDO is engaging with Civil Service HR in the Cabinet Office and UK OGN representatives to shape how this commitment is pursued. The start of a D&I working group is the next step in this process.

Commitment 8: Freedom of Information

This is a new commitment added in August 2022. A Freedom of Information user rights group is being formed, with Terms of Reference going through final agreement, and the group will progress from there to agree further milestones for NAP5 and input into NAP6 co-creation.

Local Transparency

CDDO is engaging with DLUHC and local government representatives to discuss how to progress this commitment with the aim of convening a working group of partners in 2023.

Public Standards

Although no specific commitment was made in NAP5, CDDO have been in touch with the relevant contact in the Cabinet Office Propriety and Ethics Teams ahead of preparation for NAP6. This is at a very early stage as effort in advance of this Pre-MSF meeting has been focused on existing commitments

Looking to the future

A review of the coming year is covered:

  • Immediate focus is on NAP5 implementation and monitoring up to the end of 2023;
  • The next MSF will be on Wednesday 18th January 2023 – this will be a non-ministerial meeting co-chaired by Kevin Keith (UK OGN) and Sue Bateman (CDDO);
  • Provisional dates for the MSFs during the rest of 2023 have been set, subject to ministerial availability;
  • We also need to prepare for NAP6 development from April 2023 onwards, with a due date of the end of 2023. See the OGP Action Plan Cycle webpage for more details.
  • We need to have the capacity and structures in place to drive this agenda forward both in government and civil society;
  • We need to make the most of existing civil society engagement and networks, tying those networks into OGP processes and MSFs rather than creating temporary and bespoke working groups. This approach should help to facilitate diverse representation during NAP6 co-creation;

The UK will receive a Co-Creation Brief in Q1 2023 from the IRM with advice and recommendations both on how to improve the co-creation process and commitment themes that have strong potential. For more information see the OGP IRM Co-creation Brief webpage.

Transparency International’s Annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) - UK and the UK Open Government National Action Plan 2021-23.

The omens are not good - the Open Government Partnership warned the government in Aug 22 concerning its Open Government National Action Plan: "that if a country [UK] acts contrary to process on numerous occasions and in different ways, the Criteria and Standards Subcommittee may, in consultation with the Support Unit, recommend that the country be designated as “inactive” in OGP. "

In it the government’s own words:
"We recognise that, according to the Open Government Partnership Articles of Governance, a participating government is considered to have acted ‘contrary to the process’ if it does not meet ‘involve’ on the International Association for Public Participation spectrum. In order to meet this criteria the government will amend and develop the initial commitment areas in NAP5 with civil society over the course of 2022.

Despite previous commitments and some progress, the UK public procurement landscape was fragmented even before the COVID-19 emergency. There were missed opportunities to:
manage spend
focus on performance and contract management
improve outcomes"

Key government milestones in the plan are:

  1. Achieve 95% of ‘above threshold’ tenders on Contracts Finder

  2. Publish 90% of ‘above threshold’ central government awards on Contracts Finder within 90 calendar days

  3. Report every year on publication of contract documents, and extent of redactions in central government contracts

  4. Cabinet Office to make available enhanced published data for download in OCDS

  5. Issue twice-yearly report on progress in meeting NAP5 Open Contracting milestones

Also, the Declaration on Government Reform - June 2021, Declaration on Government Reform - GOV.UK said that government proposes to:
“do better at making our data available to all so that we can be more effectively held to account”
“do better at monitoring and managing how we spend, encouraging new organisations to provide public services, holding those with whom we contract more rigorously to account, and minimising the risk of fraud, error and waste”
“ensure all data is as open as possible to public and third parties”

The government is failing the first test of Open Government by not being transparent to citizens about its progress in implementing its National Action Plan, missing an open goal for improving its TI transparency rating and the OGP ‘involve’ rating.

I suggest it publishes information about progress and twice-yearly reports on progress in meeting NAP5 Open Contracting milestones on GOV.UK or at least provides a link to Readout from the Pre Multi-stakeholder Forum meeting | 14th Dec 2022 – UK Open Government Network

The UK has an opportunity to improve its TI next rating by meeting or exceeding its commitments under its Open Government Partnership National Action Plan for 2021-23 and avoid being rated as ‘inactive’ by the Open Government Partnership but time is running out.

As a lay subscriber to this thread, I would like to add my support to Chris Smith’s observations, which I found to be a ray of real world illumination in an irritating sea of government pretence and obfuscation.
Clearly specific reporting against published targets and objectives, no matter how woolly, is a prerequisite to any meaningful engagement.

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Government is closing down piece by piece the idea of critique, never mind complaint. Protest and there is legislation drummed up so crudely its embarrassing to watch. Contrast that with government words. Words about the environment then shut down anyone exposing B.P. Shell et al. Theresa Coffeys recent statement on the environment would have sat well with a class of primary school pupils the level of insight was so basic… So its no wonder this government of all the previous Conservative governments runs away from public accountability presented through open scrutiny opportunities. They are now relying solely on the stolen votes from the last general election. Votes supplied by a trusting public that this government, or any before it, would act in the public interest and not their own personal shareholding interest. Legal protest has gone, legislated out of existence, complaint has effectively gone see HS2’s list of what cannot be complained about just as one example, and now more widely critique has been treated as a none event by this government. Where does this leave us and what is the public to do about their mounting grievances. Discuss.

As another lay person, the bigger the man the bigger the fiddle and the Government is a big man

The public is even bigger and challenges one, two, three or even 4 men with ease…