OGP Works on Processes, Faces Personnel Changes

8 June 2012

By Toby McIntosh

The Open Government Partnership is working to flesh out the Independent Review Mechanism through which national action plans will be evaluated, and is facing some significant personnel changes.

Julie McCarthy, the executive director, due to leave on maternity leave, will return as a part-time senior adviser, so the OGP plans to hire a replacement for her. Three other job postings also will appear.

In another development, Tim Kelsey, the OGP delegate from the United Kingdom, has taken a new government position and will no longer represent the UK on the OGP. The United Kingdom has just become a co-chair of the three co-chair organization and will host the next OGP conference in March. No replacement has been named.

A schedule for the founding OGP Steering Committee members to rotate off, and be replaced next year by elected representative, is still in process, FreedomInfo.org was told.

The OGP Steering Committee will convene July 1, but in the meantime, the governance subcommittee met in London in late May, primarily to develop recommendations on the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). The group also discussed OGP’s “brand,” a draft strategic plan (not released), staffing and  OGP’s “theory of change.” Twelve pages of minutes were posted June 8.

`Maximalist’ Option Chosen

The review of national action plans by independent experts has always been an integral part of the OGP program, and now more details are being developed about the process.

Plans are being made to form the expert panel that will hire and oversee the evaluators. The subcommittee added more definition to who the reviewers should be and what they should examine.

The International Expert Panel (IEP) will be selected by the OGP Steering Committee but operate independently to oversee the process. The IEP will contain a balance of people who are well known internationally as well as high quality academics or policy experts that can be expected to put in a substantial amount of work.  The panel will be made of no more than 10 people: 5 “technical experts” and 3-5 persons with international prestige who are known advocates for democracy, open government, human rights, etc. 

The subcommittee debated whether to have a “minimalist” IEP of high-level luminaries , or a “maximalist” IEP with both luminaries and paid technical experts before deciding on the later approach so that “the technical experts would be able to work, edit, and identify gaps in the report, in tandem with a smaller project management team.”

A call for nominations to the panel is expected in July.  The IEP will be supported by a project manager, a new position, to be housed in the OGP Support Unit, but reporting to the IEP.

The subcommittee also discussed what sort of person should be hired to examine the national plans of the 55 OGP member countries.  A list of core qualifications exists, with neutrality as a key requirement. The subcommittee agreed that those hired should be local and speak both a local language and English, but that exceptions could be made to these standards.

The evaluations will be released after the government does its own self-assessment and will be produced on a 12-24 month cycle, depending on the length of implementation outlined in each country action plan. IRM reports will be published within four months of each country’s 12-24 month implementation cycle.

Areas of Review Elaborated

The reviewers will examine three areas, and the subcommittee agreed, be permitted to make some recommendations (but limited to one page). “Participants agreed that recommendations should be technical in nature and only relate to the process for developing an action plan and the implementation of the action plan,” according to the minutes.

The IRM will provide feedback on country action plans in three categories:

    *   The extent to which the country action plan reflects the values and principles articulated in the OGP Declaration of Principles and stated values;

    *   The extent to which the development of the country action plan was consistent with the OGP road map/process (e.g. civil society consultation); and

    *   Progress on implementing commitments outlined in the country action plan.

The meeting summary states further:

In the spirit of supporting governments in the implementation and fulfillment of their plans, the IRM report will contain specific recommendations on the process for developing and implementing stated OGP commitments. The recommendations will not extend beyond the commitments articulated in the OGP action plan, the process that took place to develop them, and may address contextual factors impacting the achievement of specific commitments.

Strategy Session Held

The OGP branding and strategy discussion, which included a brainstorming session facilitated by an expert, is expected to continue at the July Steering Committee session.

“There was consensus that it needed to do more to support the core OGP proposition; helping countries develop and implement their action plans,” according to the minutes. “Participants also agreed that the next version of the strategy document should lay out a detailed plan for multi-lateral engagement and cooperation as well as a methodology to gather and produce case studies that support government innovators in their effort to bring greater transparency to their own governments.”

A working group was formed to further develop a two year strategic plan, to be finalized by the steering committee on July 1.

Staffing Needs, City Involvement Discussed

On staffing, the participants agreed that there is an immediate need to appoint a new full-time director, a project manager for the IRM, a person for communications and a person for digital web production. “In addition the 2-year strategy should also consider budget for a program assistant to support the IRM program manager, and possibly a program assistant for the Support Unit,” the minutes say.

Interest in the OGP by “numerous mayors and regional governments from around the World” was noted, but the subcommittee was divided about whether this represented a good opportunity for the OGP or whether it would dilute the OGP effort.

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