Meeting notes 14th June 2018

UK Open Government Multistakeholder Forum | 11 June 2018 | Meeting Notes

by Andreas Pavlou


Co-chair: Tim Hughes, Involve
Andreas Pavlou, OGN
Tim Davies
Maria Stephens, CRAE
Giuseppe Sollazzo
Gavin Freeguard, IfG
Michael Birtwistle, NCVO
Jess Blair, ERS Wales
Lucy McTernan, OGN Scotland

Co-chair: Sue Bateman, DCMS
Nicola Oldham, DFID
Rhona Birchall, DFID
Joel Catchatoor, CO
Tom Leftwich, DCMS
Thom Townsend, DCMS
Katie Holder, DCMS
Eilidh Simpson, DFID


1) Presentation of Open Government Civil Society Manifesto 2018

   a) Update on final published version of the Manifesto

The OGN presented the Open Government Civil Society Manifesto 2018 to the Multistakeholder Forum. The Manifesto was published on 1 June 2018 after a crowdsourcing and consultation period with civil society, and builds upon progress from previous plans as well as introduce new ideas for open government reform in the UK.

The OGN outlined the four thematic areas of the Manifesto: ‘follow the money in government’ which focuses on transparency of government budgets, grants, contracts and spending; ‘Law, participation and policy’ which looks at developing open policy making processes, ‘strengthening accountability and anti-corruption efforts’ which includes new ideas and builds on previous commitments around aid, natural resources, and beneficial ownership transparency; and ‘building open data infrastructure for action’ that addresses at supporting good governance and innovation while protecting citizens’ rights and privacy.

   b) The Open Government NAP process in relation to civil society concerns regarding Brexit transparency

The OGN raised concerns, stemming from the crowdsourcing exercise, about the changes in government transparency, and in particular the process surrounding Brexit negotiations. The OGN noted recent stories in the media as well as the DExEU record on FOI compliance compared to other departments. The OGN also raised the findings of a recent report by the Institute for Government that also highlighted concerns with the ‘culture of secrecy’ in government concerning Brexit.

The OGN warned that this broader context could be perceived as damaging to the open government action plan process in the UK. The OGN mentioned that the broader context will be taken into account when it considers whether or not to sign off on the action plan.

Government officials acknowledged the concerns raised by civil society around challenging context in which the action plan process is taking place.

2) Finalising the Action Plan

   a) Plans for the consultation process; developing and approving the final plan; and launch

   b) Plans in devolved administrations

Government officials updated the Multistakeholder Forum on the current status of the action plan process. Government officials confirmed that the plan is due to launch before the OGP deadline at the end of August.

The OGN expressed in disappointment that the final action plan will not be ready for launch by the OGP Global Summit and asked for a more detailed timeline to be drawn up to help guide the process.

The OGN expressed concern about the development of commitments in Northern Ireland due to the lack of a functioning executive. Government officials recognised the difficulty for Northern Ireland to finalise commitments.

The OGN expressed serious concern that so far there is no confirmation of ministerial representation for the OGP Global Summit in Georgia and asked whether there was going to be a delegation from the UK government. Government officials confirmed there will be a strong UK delegation with a senior Government lead.

3) Consideration of the consultation draft

The OGN recognised the huge efforts made by civil servants in getting the draft pulled together in a relatively short period of time and challenging context.

The OGN expressed its concern about the lack of ministerial engagement in the action plan process. The OGN talked about the need for ministers to get involved in the action plan process to open the space for more ambitious commitments.

The OGN said that the current draft appears to lack flagship commitments with political backing, and overall did not appear as ambitious as hoped. The OGN mentioned the lack of commitments on issues such as extending FOI to contractors, data discoverability, or with local government. The OGN asked that commitments in the action plan overall be strengthened and have measurable indicators to enable monitoring of implementation.

Government officials recognised the concerns raised by the OGN.

The OGN gave the example of needing to confirm which processes would form part of the open policymaking commitment as something that could help strengthen that commitment. The OGN confirmed its willingness to work with officials to identify these policy issues.

The OGN expressed their wish to work with government officials to help strengthen the commitment on data infrastructure, such as identifying key datasets within the Open Data Charter’s Open Up Guide.

The grants data commitment was highlighted as being a commitment where there is a particularly good relationship between government and civil society.

Government officials confirmed that a public consultation will be launched soon, on the draft action plan. The OGN welcomed this.

4) Role of MSF in scrutinising action plan implementation and engaging wider civil society

The OGN expressed its eagerness to ensure collaboration is constructive.