UK warned it could be declared ‘inactive’ by Open Government Partnership.
- International ‘good government’ body reveals UK could be declared ‘inactive.
- Transparency and accountability plan fails for 3rd successive time.
- Civil society concern after public standards commitment rejected.
The UK government has been warned it could join Malta, Malawi and El Salvador in being declared ‘inactive’ by a global good government body.
This follows a third successive failure to meet the minimum standards set by the 77 country strong Open Government Partnership (OGP) when developing a national plan to improve accountability and transparency.
Now, in a letter to the UK government, the CEO of the OGP has said ‘it may recommend that the country be designated as inactive’ at their Europe Regional meeting in Rome in October. This would see the UK becoming one of just four countries to be declared inactive, and placed on what civil society are describing as a ‘list of shame.’
Kevin Keith, Chair of the UK Open Government Network (UK OGN) which coordinates civil society input into the UK National Action Plan for Open Government, says: “In 2011 the UK government was a founding member of the Open Government Partnership. It provided global leadership on how and why governments should be transparent, held to account, and involve the public in decision-making. Now, that very same Partnership may declare the UK government ‘inactive.’ It is a shameful fall from grace.”
The UK National Action Plan for Open Government is put together by civil society and government and included commitments on issues ranging from contracting and procurement to algorithmic transparency.
But an independent review commissioned by the OGP found the UK government did not provide civil society with the ‘reasoning behind why certain priorities, ideas or activities’ were not included in the plan. This included public standards, a longstanding request from civil society dating back to December 2020.
Susan Hawley, Executive Director from Spotlight on Corruption, said: “The UK’s reputation as a clean and reputable democracy is on the line. Civil society has consistently offered to engage in constructive dialogue to develop a plan for restoring public trust in government and politics, but has been repeatedly blanked. Meanwhile, most of the crucial recommendations for cleaning up standards in public life made over a year ago by bodies like the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and the government’s own independent review after Greensill by Nigel Boardman, remain unimplemented. The government needs to take urgent action to show that it takes integrity in public life seriously.”
The UK government was one of eight countries to form the OGP over a decade ago and is widely acknowledged to have led the world in areas such as beneficial ownership and open data. But there has been a steady period of decline which has impacted on its international reputation.
Rachel Davies, Advocacy Director from Transparency International UK, said: “The UK’s participation in the Open Government Partnership should be an opportunity to display the best of British democracy, yet serious shortfalls in the process now risk the opposite scenario. There has been welcome progress, such as new economic crime legislation, but this risks being undermined without concurrent action on standards reform.’’
Since the plan’s publication, the government has worked with civil society to add an additional three commitments: Diversity and Inclusion, Aid Transparency, and Freedom of Information.
Kevin Keith, Chair of the UK OGN, added: “Adding commitments to the plan is welcome. But further change is required to take the UK away from the brink of being declared inactive. The incoming prime minister must champion this process once more, prioritise transparency and accountability, empower reformers within government, and work with civil society to restore our international reputation.”
The OGP Criteria and Standards Subcommittee will review and discuss the UK’s participation status in OGP when it meets at the Europe Regional meeting in Rome in October 2022.