Anti-corruption, aid transparency, and public procurement headline UK’s 6th open government plan.
Civil society leaders have today [18/12/23] welcomed the publication of the UK’s 6th National Action Plan (NAP) for Open Government, but stressed ‘more must be done.’
The biennial plan seeks to make the government more ‘open’ by increasing transparency, accountability and public participation in policy-making.
It was created jointly by the government and civil society with input coordinated by the Central Data and Digital Office (part of the Cabinet Office) and the UK Open Government Civil Society Network through the UK Multi-Stakeholder Forum (MSF).
Co-creation of a NAP is a requirement for members of the 75 country Open Government Partnership which the UK helped form in 2011.
It contains four commitments:
- Open Contracting. To deliver the Procurement Act 2023 and strengthen implementation through a government Learning and Development Programme, enhanced digital platform, and supporting the development of the civil society procurement community. This was led by the Open Contracting Advisory Group made up of the Cabinet Office and civil society organisations.
- International Aid Transparency. To strengthen transparency and accountability of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) by improving data relating to how much aid is being spent where, why, when and how. This was led by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Bond Transparency Working Group.
- Engagement on anti-corruption. To formalise civil society engagement in the delivery of the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy. This was led by the Joint Anti-Corruption Unit, Home Office and the UK Anti-Corruption Coalition.
- UN Convention Against Corruption. To strengthen the delivery of outcomes from the global treaty on anti-corruption. This was led by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the UK Anti-Corruption Coalition.
The plan also commits to continuing dialogue with civil society in the areas of digital governance, freedom of information, beneficial ownership, open justice, government transparency returns, and collaboration across regions and nations.
Kevin Keith, Chair of the UK Open Government Network and Co-Chair of the MSF, said: “These four commitments will save taxpayers money, improve foreign aid delivery, and help tackle corruption. They demonstrate how involving civil society can improve policy outcomes. But crucially, they provide a template for building trust in government, essential for strengthening democracy. Now more must be done. That is why we will continue to work with the government to support civil society involvement in digital governance, including the impact of AI, freedom of information, open justice, and beneficial ownership, whilst continuing to pursue reforms in health, environment, political integrity and the protection of civic space.”
Rachel Davies, Co-Chair of the UK Anti-Corruption Coalition and Advocacy Director for Transparency International UK, said: “The first of two commitments enables consistent and regular engagement between government and civil society which is crucial to good anti-corruption policy. The second supports the UK’s global leadership in anti-corruption, by working to improve outcomes from the UN Convention against Corruption. Given these strides forward, it’s worth noting that the UK has been without an Anti-Corruption Champion for 560 days and counting. We urge the Government to appoint one at the earliest opportunity.”
Elma Jenkins, Publish What You Fund and Bond Transparency Group, said: “The Aid Transparency commitment builds on the previous NAP by including arms length bodies and other government departments. The FCDO are becoming a strong partner in championing aid transparency within the UK government by committing to improvements in external measures such as the Aid Transparency Index and focussing on data use and engagement.”
Ruairi Macdonald, University of Oxford Researcher, and civil society co-chair for Open Contracting, Advisory Group, said: “Transparency into the Billions spent through government contracts every year is fundamental to our democracy. Clearly, transparency and accountability in government contracting needs a serious refresh after COVID-19 and will be necessary to effectively address the growing emergency of climate change. Hopefully these open contracting commitments and new regulations expected under the brand new Procurement Act 2023 will help.”
For more information on civil society involvement the UK National Action Plan for Open Government visit www.opengovernment.org.uk/nap6