Sharing the Draft Action Plan on Open Government - we want to hear your views


(Niamh Webster) #1

Today we are sharing the draft of Scotland’s Second Open Government Action Plan to hear people’s views on it before it is published.

This Action Plan tells the story of Open Government in Scotland, the ambitions behind it and where it sits in wider context. The Action Plan has been produced in partnership by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Open Government Network.

We want to hear your views

We would welcome comments on this draft. Leave a comment on the Scottish Government blog site (link below), or email comments to the Scottish Government Open Government Team ingage@gov.scot by the end of Tuesday 27th November, when this period for public comment will close.

Thank you for your help, support and input in creating the draft Action Plan. Particular thanks to the Steering Group members for their time and effort on this over the last few weeks as this came together.

We look forward to receiveing your views and comments.

You can read the draft Action Plan or download it here on the Scottish Government blog:


(Ruchir Shah) #2

Well done @Niamh and @PaulBradley for getting the draft to this stage for public comment. Can i ask network members to please engage with this so we can get the secure the commitments possible for an open government over the next two years.


(Hera Hussain) #3

Hello everyone!

I’m Hera from Open Contracting Partnership. Scotland had a strong commitment in the last NAP: “The Scottish Government will develop an open contracting strategy to support the publication of procurement and commercial reporting information in a manner that is accessible to all, while taking advantage of developing data standards.”

The strategy can be seen here: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-procurement-open-contracting-strategy/

We have been working closely with the Scottish Government who are implementing the strategy. They are also looking at ways to connect tenders, contracts, spending and payments which is great.

It’s surprising that the Action Plan for 2018-2020 does not mention Scotland’s Open Contracting strategy. It’s a missed opportunity.

Procurement is only briefly mentioned under Commitment 2:

Providing a framework to support systemic change in Scottish Government to improve the way people are able to participate in open policy making and service delivery to:

“…explore how people are using procurement information, and test improved accessibility through a range of test sites”.

I believe the commitment could be made stronger by introducing the following elements:

1 - Advancing the implementation of the Open Connecting Data Standard by connecting spending, budgets and payments to contracting datasets through open, unique identifiers, creating a transparent public procurement market.

A recent article by the Herald shows that Government spending datasets are not updated regularly (https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/17238918.snp-ministers-missing-their-own-transparency-target/). Public oversight over government spending and contracts are critical for participatory budgeting, rebuilding trust and establishing a fair marketplace.

2 - Opening up implementation data as part of the procurement cycle under the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS).

This will allow the private sector and civil society to monitor the progress and impact of projects. It also creates more opportunity for innovation as more data is released into the public space. This is especially true for large, complex, multi-year public works.

3 - Creating a multi-stakeholder group with key private sector, public sector and civil society players to discuss and collaborate on public procurement targets and challenges.

If anyone has more ideas for how the Scottish Government can strengthen its NAP, please do respond as the deadline is tomorrow.


(Maureen McClair) #4

Hi Hera,

Thank you for your comments, the 2018-2020 Scotland’s Open Contracting strategy is as follows:

The Scottish Government will publish more information about its procurement-related spend. In line with the Scottish procurement: open contracting strategy we will also publish contract documents, starting with large, collaborative contracts and consult wider civil society on how best to make the procurement information we publish both useful and accessible.

Milestones will be -

Publish Scottish Government procurement-related spend information.
Publish Scottish Government contract documentation, starting with large collaborative frameworks
Consult with civil society on how best to make published procurement information useful and accessible to a wide audience.

This draft online version is being revised and these above commitments will be in the revised paper.


(Ruchir Shah) #5

This is brilliant Maureen. And very welcome.


(Ruchir Shah) #6

SCVO’s response to the Draft Action Plan is summarised as follows:

SCVO strongly welcomes the Draft Action Plan as it helps give Open Government a home within Scottish Government

But SCVO is aware of several parts of Government that appear prepared to be much more ambitious than this plan

Some commitment milestone sections appear to still be incomplete

Some Civil society partner organisations are named as delivery partners without explanation of why they have been picked by Government

Some commitments feel like internal capacity building initiatives for Scottish Government staff

Some of the Commitments have listed activities that do not appear to deliver on the Commitment objective

SCVO’s full response and details available at https://scvo.org.uk/post/2018/11/27/scottish-open-government-draft-action-plan-2018-20. Thanks again, Ruchir.


(Hannah Dickson) #7

Shared this on the SG page but thought i’d share it here too:

Niamh and colleagues,

Thanks for all your hard work on this – it’s been great to see collaboration done so well and openly. My comments are based on the summary doc only – I’ll try and read the full one before 27th!

The simplicity of the way each commitment is articulated i.e. what issue are we trying to address, what are we going to do and how will this activity address the issue is great. I know FOI is covered more in depth elsewhere but I think the document could be more overt about the important roles that FOI and the Local Governance Review and the Lobbying database play in Open Government; and specifically call for more explicit links/reference to be made in between all 4 ‘things’.

In addition to the financial decision making and accountability threads I’d really like to see a commitment on unpicking how decisions are made and identifying points of influence within the process and how to influence these.

Are there any measurements or indicators of impact/success? (apologies if these are only within the in depth document) A natural continuation of the what are we trying to address – what will we do – how would this address the issue is a 4th: ‘how will we know if we’ve succeeded’ and would round the work off neatly.

One final minor point is that the actions in Commitment 1 and ‘how will that solve the problem’ only link to the new powers / SNIB / Scottish Exchequer and don’t – I feel – adequately demonstrate what you’re going to do to address the first part of the commitment on giving more information to the public on how the Government uses public money.

Overall I think it’s really succinct and understandable…but a few things to tighten up, particularly the one about measuring impact/success.

Thanks.


(Hannah Dickson) #8

Thanks for sharing this. I’d agree with many of these points.

Hannah


(Niamh Webster) #9

Thanks for the responses everyone so far - we’ve had quite a few in email and on the blog too so will be working on responding to all of these over the next week or so. Thanks Hannah, Ruchir and Hera for helpful suggestions.

Hannah, a quick answer to one of your questions about impact: our progress is assessed in two ways, firstly and most importantly the Open Government Partnership appoints an independent reporter to assess progress in the plan. The report is then published on the OGPs international platform. There’s a report of our last Action Plan in 2017 too. In addition, there are self-assessments delivered to OGP a couple of times during the plan period to assess progress and this time around it is our intention to develop a way of this being done openly so it can be tracked throughout the period of the plan.

Also, milestones are detailed in the second document ‘Draft Commitments’ - this is quite lengthy and detailed but gives all the detail on specific actions for delivery and implementation, so do have a look if you’re interested.


(Tracey Gyateng) #10

I’m Tracey Gyateng, Data Science Manager at DataKind UK. We are a charity with a network of 2,000+ volunteer data scientists and we work with non-profits and local government to leverage the power of data science. To give you a flavour of our work, we recently partnered with Global Witness to analyse over 4 million records of company beneficial ownership data to hold companies to account: https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/groundbreaking-analysis-owners-uk-companies-uncovers-serious-money-laundering-risks/

We would like to echo Hera Hussain’s comments about the need for strong commitment to open contracting/spending. Central and local government spending is a strong driver within national and local economies, and opening up expenditure data will enable important questions and comparisons to be made, for example— do councils spend the same amount for similar services; or to explore the proportion of contracts provided to local organisations— all of which supports openness and transparency, and can lead to more effective and efficient government spending. We want to emphasise the importance of creating and sharing open, unique identifiers in contracting data (without them, data analysis is significantly hindered).

In highlighting Hera’s comments, it is important to note that these commitments should be accompanied with clear timelines so that civil society can support the Scottish government with this work.


(Chris Smith) #11

Hi, sharing my comments submitted to SG by email below:

Dear Niamh, thanks very much for the opportunity to comment on the draft Open Government Action Plan for 2018-2020.

The Scottish Government’s early adoption of eProcurement for public procurement is considered to be a great success and puts Scotland in a particularly good position to adopt Open Contracting, promoted by the Open Contracting Partnership www.open-contracting.org. Open Contracting not only delivers significant benefits in terms of improved transparency and accountability but also provides a toolkit and framework for improving machine readable procurement data quality through the adoption of the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) www.open-contracting.org/data-standard.

The UK government has recently completed similar public consultations for their 2018-2020 Open Government Action Plan and has included ambitious commitments https://goo.gl/SDp4y5 concerning the adoption of Open Contracting and OCDS with 2 of the 8 OGP commitments, dedicating 7 pages, to Open Contracting (Commitment 5 - Open Contracting: Local Engagement and Data Use Commitment 6: Open Contracting Data).

Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan for 2016-2017 contained the following commitment:“4. The Scottish Government will develop an open contracting strategy to support the publication of procurement and commercial reporting information in a manner that is accessible to all, while taking advantage of developing data standards”.

The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM):Scotland Final Report 2017 highlighted good progress in some areas of this action plan including the publication of the strategy and the Scottish Government has been working closely with the Open Contracting Partnership. As a result, Scotland is one of the first countries in Europe to publish procurement notice data in XML, JSON and Excel format in OCDS and provide APIs on the Public Contracts Scotland website: https://www.publiccontractsscotland.gov.uk/NoticeDownload/Download.aspx

The Scottish Government’s Report of Public Discussion Events and Engagement for the new strategy included consultations on the theme of: “financial transparency – understanding the flow of money, transparency around procurement processes, accessible and understandable explanation of budgets and expenditure…”

The report captured stakeholder feedback that:

“There is a need for more transparency on procurement processes for contracts.

With greater appreciation of impact on the supply chain and maximising opportunities for small to medium sized businesses.

There needs to be more awareness built of the Planning process and practical steps for citizen intervention in it.

Should be openness about why decisions on procurement and planning are made and about who benefits and who may not benefit from these”.

The draft Action Plan for 2018-2020 makes no mention of any of the above or Open Contracting and procurement is only mentioned once under Commitment 2 - Providing a framework to support systemic change in Scottish Government to improve the way people are able to participate in open policy making and service delivery to:

“…explore how people are using procurement information, and test improved accessibility through a range of test sites”.

Scottish Procurement published a comprehensive 14 page Open Contracting Strategy in September 2017 with a number of work streams around open contracting and OCDS and in particular commitments that ”Open data standards will be built into applicable systems including open APIs, allowing us to reach the 4 star level on the OCDS” and “Specifying, building and maintaining an Open Contracting portal”.

I would like to suggest that as Open Contracting can have such a transformative impact on Open Government and public procurement in Scotland going forward, the 2018-2020 plan should build on Scotland’s significant achievements to date and have a specific and challenging commitment to delivering much more Open Contracting and specifically to::

a. Implement the outstanding actions in the Open Contracting Strategy e.g.;

(i) Specifying, building and maintaining an Open Contracting portal;

(ii) Achieving the 4 star level on the OCDS (tender, award & contract data structured with unique identifiers & classifications in JSON).

b. Update the Open Contracting Strategy to cover the period of the action plan;

c. Publish each month on the Scottish Government website (and the new Open contracting portal when available) details of all contracts over £25,000 in PDF /CSV/XML format.

It would also seem to fit better under Commitment 1. Financial and Performance Transparency and would be good to also include a reference to the planned Open Contracting Portal and OCDS under Commitment 3. Improvements to the way information/data is used.

As the Scottish Government spends over £11 bn a year on public procurement I suggest it deserves an acknowledgement in the new OGP that improving accountability and transparency for public procurement through the adoption of Open Contracting is a key component of Scotland’s Open Government Action Plan. In view of its importance, it would be great if a separate commitment could be added to the existing 5 commitments to cover Open Contracting and implementation of the Open Contracting Strategy so that it receives similar prominence to other recently published draft OGP plans.

It would be a shame if Scotland’s next OGP Plan didn’t include ambitious, specific and measurable commitments concerning Open Contracting and OCDS. I’m afraid a single sentence doesn’t do it justice in view of the importance of transparent and accountable public procurement to Scotland’s:

  • Citizens – developing greater confidence in the government’s ability to spend their tax payers money wisely, fairly, efficiently and transparently;

  • Private sector – encouraging positive economic development by making it easier for Scottish firms to win more contracts;

  • Government - providing the basis for achieving significant savings by increasing collaboration between buyers as open contracting opens up information previously locked within government silos, spreadsheets etc, as well as publicly.

  • Embedding feedback loops within the public procurement environment so citizens, private sector, civil society and government departments can feedback and collaborate on challenges to drive value-based public procurement.

I also suggest including the Open Contracting Partnership in the list of CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups in the Commitment 1: Financial and Performance Transparency and Commitment 3: Improvements to the way information/data is used.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment and look forward to seeing the final version.

Kind regards

Chris Smith
e-Procurement and Procurement Consultant