News 20th June 2018

Openness in Wales: The Open Government Partnership

by Ben Worthy

Ben Worthy is the IRM for the Open Government Partnership and a Lecturer in Politics at Birkbeck College.

You can read the full IRM report here. You can also come along to hear Ben in conversation with his Australian equivalent in London on the 12th July.

This week my IRM report on the UK’s Third National Action Plan was published, covering the UK’s progress up until the end of last year. So where is Wales in terms of its OGP commitments?

Although it was part of the UK’s Third National Action plan, Wales began from a different point. Its commitments should be regarded not as part of this Third plan but also as the first action plan for Wales. Wales has had less time to build networks in civil society or develop original commitments in and outside of government. Like the rest of the UK, the Welsh government has also had elections and Brexit to contend with.

The Welsh government contributed 9 commitments of its own to the National Action Plan, covering issues such as open data, ethical supply chain openness to its new future well-being law. As can be seen in the table below, as of the end of last year, 7 of the 9 commitments were ‘substantially’ completed with one already finished (some of them are more open ended and cover different time frames than others).

COMMITMENT SHORT NAME

POTENTIAL IMPACT

LEVEL OF COMPLETION

NONE MINOR MODERATE TRANSFORMATIVE NOT STARTED LIMITED SUBSTANTIAL COMPLETE
1. Open data plan
2. Open data service
3. StatsWales
4. Administrative Data Research Centre Wales
5. Government Social Research Publication Protocol
6. Gov.Wales
7. Code of practice for ethical employment in supply chains
8. Well-being of Future Generations Act – National Indicators for Wales
9. Well-being duty on specified public bodies in Wales

In my report I argued that both the ethical supply chain transparency code (commitment 7) and the Well-Being Act 2015 (commitments 8 and 9) represent important openness policies, offering strong platforms for co-operation and ways of making transparency part of people’s everyday decisions. The Well-being Act law has been widely welcomed across the world, with the UN describing it as a ‘world leading’ approach.

There is a determination to aim in the future for original policies rather than ongoing work. In my report, I recommend starting a process of building greater awareness and support among government and CSOs around openness. This could be done in multiple ways but the new Well-being Act 2015 and Public Service Boards offer an important means to build networks and develop new ideas between different bodies and groups across Wales. There could also be regular forums for discussing openness and means of scrutiny and tracking progress, such as regular annual events or a series of workshops, perhaps drawing on networks of academics and the ODI Cardiff.

Political interest and pressure also helps move transparency forward. This would be helped via a committee in the National Assembly scrutinising openness. As with the UK more generally, high profile speeches by the First Minister and senior politicians would also help apply pressure and raise awareness.

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