It is understandable that most large organisations have some inconsistencies in the way in which they express themselves and at times even demonstrate conflicting actions. I recall from a period of heavy snowfall a few years ago a story about two local government workers attempting to clear snow from a pavement. The first used their conventional shovel to scatter grit/salt on the snow and the second came up behind the first with a snow shovel, clearing the snow and grit/salt into the gutter. It took an eagle eyed senior police officer to ‘advise’ the two men that if they reversed their order the impact would be a great deal more effective. If that can happen in one small local authority area, the opportunity for much bigger problems to occur in our national Government is clearly huge. However there are some inconsistencies which seem hard to understand.
The coalition Government were founding partners in an International network called the Open Government Partnership which was formed in 2011 by ourselves and 7 other Governments including the USA. The objective is to make governments better by promoting transparency, empowering citizens, fighting corruption, and harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance.
The OGP is based around five OGP grand challenges. These are:
- Improving Public Services
- Increasing Public Integrity
- More Effectively Managing Public Resources
- Creating Safer Communities
- Increasing Corporate Accountability
There is also a website for Open Government Partnership UK. Writing in the Open Government Partnership UK National Action Plan 2013-15 Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General states
“Transparency, participation and accountability are not just lofty principles – they affect people’s lives on a daily basis. Together, they ensure that those with power are responsive to the views and interests of citizens. Openness is no longer a choice for governments. It is a necessity in order to stay relevant in a changing world. Social, economic and political transformations mean that the top-down, closed model of government is no longer able to meet the expectations and demands of citizens. Governments must adapt to a world in which:
- it no longer holds the monopoly on policy expertise
- citizens expect to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives
- wellbeing and prosperity requires action from many different actors.
This is a world in which governments cannot act alone, but must collaborate with and enable the action of others.”
Francis is attempting to be the man with the shovel filled with grit that is going to work its way into the frozen parts of a bureaucracy that can often prevent creativity, in the interests of being seen to keep everyone safe. However he is being frustrated in this effort by his own actions in voting for the Lobbying Bill and DRIP (I have written about both extensively in earlier blogs) removing any chance for his fine words of corporate challenge to be heard because along with his coalition colleagues he is completely ignoring the views of people who have pointed out that these Bills will be counter productive and are damaging the very important Civil Society that the Open Government Partnership claims to champion. In my view Francis and his colleagues have a choice. They can either act in a manner consistent with the words above, or they should shut up and leave the OGP. In doing so they will save money as well as limit their reputational damage, a bit. As things stand the principles of OGP and our Civil Society is being brushed into the gutter along with a lot of problems that this Government have created.
To misquote Andrew Lansley, we need Governments whose mantra is “no law about me, without me”. In the case of laws such as DRIP, Lobbying Bill part 2 and many other Bills this Government has shown it simply cannot hear us when we offer our expertise. What a sham!