TI Rates UK Openness; Plans Reports on More Countries

2 April 2015

A new rating of open government in the United Kingdom is the vanguard of a much larger evaluative project planned by Transparency International.

The Berlin-based nongovernmental organization already has applied the new methodology to Ghana, Indonesia, Peru and Ukraine, with results to be released soon. Plans for much wider use of the tool are in the works.

The first glimpse of the effort came in the Open Governance Scorecard results for the UK, compiled by Transparency International UK.

The methodology addresses three “pillars of open governance: Transparency, Participation and Oversight.”

The scorecard is based on 35 open governance standards.

The legal environment is assessed using 129 indicators and the “in-practice” environment is evaluated using 93 other indicators.

In total, the scorecard is composed of 459 questions, according to the report and separate document on the methodology. This scorecard builds on the ‘in-law’ scorecard, published by TI-UK in March 2014, adding the ‘in-practice’ assessment.

Transparency is the largest section of the scorecard, with 18 standards, 60 in-law indicators and 143 in-practice subindicators. “The scorecard tests two types of transparency; the rights-based FOIA and mechanisms for proactive publication of information across the executive, parliament and judiciary.”

UK Results, Recommendations

After research, questionnaires and in-depth interviews, TI UK evaluated whether the indicator conditions were met (green), partially met (yellow) or not met (red).

Concerning the UK, the overall rating found that the open government conditions were met or partially met 51.6 percent of the time.

The UK research found:

In-practice transparency indicators show better performance compared to in-law transparency indicators. It scores 72 Green indicators (53.7 per cent), 34 Yellow indicators (25.4 per cent) and 28 Red indicators (20.9 per cent), compared to an in-law score of 18 Green (30.5 per cent), 21 Yellow (35.6 per cent) and 20 Red (33.9 per cent).

This in-practice performance is largely due to the scorecard tests around proactive publication. In the in-law assessment, six indicators test whether government departments are legally mandated to proactively disclose information on their administration, structure and spending, among other issues. The only legal requirement to proactively publish is s.19 of the FOIA which requires public bodies to have a publication scheme but stops short of prescribing exactly how it should work and what it must contain.

The report includes three “key recommendations:”

  1. Empower an open data authority to maintain standards of proactive disclosure across the public sector, with a mandate also covering public services that are outsourced to the private sector, and enable a monitoring and sanctions regime to deliver high and consistent standards.
  1. Reinstate a consistent code of consultation for public sector authorities, in particular providing a minimum time period for consultation.
  1. Seek to harmonise the multitude of ethical codes of conduct across the public sector and ensure that registers of interest and gifts and hospitality declarations are published as open data, enabling comparability and accountability.

More Ratings Planned

 Scorecards and reports for the next four countries — Ghana, Indonesia, Peru and Ukraine — should be online in the next couple of weeks, according to José Marin of Transparency International’s Public Sector Integrity team.

The same methodology has been used, though each country report may be tailored to the needs of national advocacy.

“As this is still a pilot, we have some more work to do in terms of defining the future of the tool.” Marin said.

He elaborated:

We are discussing when and how we can roll out this tool, however, I do see the scorecard being applied in many more countries in the future. As you will see from the TI UK scorecard, this information is very useful for national advocacy as we have spent a lot of time making sure the design is useful for this purpose. We don’t discount other uses and we’re still thinking about the many ways we can use the information from the scorecard at the regional and international level.

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