Open Government Partnership
Ireland became a full member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2014, reaffirming Ireland’s commitment to Governmental transparency and reform. Throughout 2015, work continued on implementing Ireland’s first OGP Action Plan. The Independent Review Mechanism of the OGP Plan reported positive findings in its review published in February 2016. In particular, the report found that of a total of 30 actions in the Plan, 23 have already been substantially advanced or fully completed at the mid-way point in the Plan’s implementation.
Open Data and Data Sharing
The Open Data initiative forms a core element of Ireland’s OGP Plan. The national portal www.data.gov.ie
provides a searchable website for Open Data, together with a number of reports supporting the Open Data Initiative. Best practice standards have been developed, in the form of a Technical Framework to underpin the publication of datasets on the Open Data portal, and are available on the portal. Significant progress is being made under the Open Data Initiative, with an increasing number of datasets – across 14 categories – being published that comply with the Technical Framework. Currently, 1,314 datasets from 85 public bodies are available on the portal.
The Open Data Governance Board was established in October 2015 and has been mandated by the Government to lead and drive implementation of Open Data in Ireland. The priority now is to increase the number of datasets on the portal and to ensure datasets are of high quality in line with the Technical Framework.
The General Scheme of a Bill on Data Sharing and Governance has been approved by Government and legal drafting of the Bill is expected to commence shortly.
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform transposed an amending Directive on Re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI), which reforms the regime on access to Public Sector Information in a number of respects.
Openness and Transparency
A key goal of the Freedom of Information Act, 2014 is to make information more accessible. To this end, following public consultation, a Model Publication Scheme was published in October 2015. Public bodies are required to put their own publication schemes in place by April 2016 in conformity with the Model Scheme, thus providing for a more proactive publication of information held by FOI bodies.
As new public bodies are established, they will automatically be subject to FOI unless they are specifically exempt by order made by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The Minister may also prescribe certain other types of entities, including private entities that receive public funding, as being wholly or partly subject to FOI. The FOI Act was extended to 66 new bodies in 2015.
In November 2014, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform issued new guidelines on State Board appointments, with a view to increasing openness in the overall process and transparency in the selection of appointees. Under these new arrangements, a total of 2016 appointments have been made on 53 State Boards since November 2014. As of the end of 2015, 45% of appointments under the process are women, thereby meeting a target set by Government as far back as 1993 (that 30% of applications came from women).
Ethics, transparency and oversight
The Public Sector Standards Bill, 2015 was published in December 2015. The purpose of the Bill is to enhance the existing framework for identifying, disclosing and managing conflicts of interest and minimising corruption risks across the public sector. In doing so, it will promote and support ethical conduct.
The Regulation of Lobbying Act, 2015 commenced on 1 September, 2015. The Act does not aim to prevent or inhibit lobbying but rather seeks to make the process more transparent. The Standards in Public Office Commission is responsible for maintaining the online register of lobbyists and it requires lobbying activities to be updated at regular intervals through each year.
The Statute Law Revision Act, 2015 was signed into law in July 2015. This Act revokes 5782 pre-independence Government Proclamations, Directions and Orders made prior to 1821. The Statute Law Revision Bill, 2016 was published on 25 January, 2016 and, once enacted, it will repeal spent and obsolete Public General Acts from between 1922-1950 (294 Acts in total). It is the sixth Statute Law Revision Act produced by the Statute Law Revision Programme, which has to date seen the review of 72,000 laws and the repeal of over 60,000.
Giving citizens a voiceThe National Strategy on Children and Young People’s Participation in Decision-making (2015-2020)
, the first Strategy of its kind, was published by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2015. This Strategy commits to children and young people having a voice in their individual and collective everyday lives. This cross-government strategy is guided and influenced by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and contains commitments by a wide range of Government Departments and agencies in the Action Plan which accompanies the Strategy. To inform the development of the Strategy, a broad ranging consultative and evidence-based approach took place, which included a national consultation with 66,700 children and young people.
Action 22 of the Civil Service Renewal Plan includes a commitment to develop more open approaches to policy-making by involving greater external participation and consultation in policy development. Departments hosted 21 Open Policy Debates in 2015 on a range of policy themes with participation from experts and other policy interests. For example, the Department of Defence convened an Open Policy Debate in advance of completion of the White Paper on Defence. The audience comprised representatives from the political system, from Government Departments, from Irish and international think tanks and academic institutions, international organisations including EU, UN, NATO and other interested parties.
Public Participation Networks (PPN) were established in each Local Government area in 2015. They are organised according to social, environmental or community interests and have a participative role at both County / City level and Municipal District level. Each PPN has representation on the Local Community and Development Committee, the Strategic Policy Committees of the local authority and other local bodies.