From policy to implementation: The important role of the CoG for a successful open government policy cycle

The 2015 Public Governance Review of Costa Rica and other relevant OECD publications (see Box 3.1) provide a description of the OECD’s theoretical framework for the CoG. This chapter elaborates on the importance of CoG co-ordination and leadership for the Costa Rican open government policy cycle.

Open government policies are considered by OECD countries as critical for the achievement of a number of different policy outcomes in various areas of public sector administration (e.g. transparency, accountability, integrity, fighting against corruption, public sector reform and public service delivery). In order to strengthen and focus their open government efforts, all governments in the OECD have adopted specific policies and/or plans aimed at better co-ordinating the multiplicity of stakeholders involved in planning and implementing the various existing initiatives in these areas (OECD, forthcoming). The experience of OECD countries has shown that identifying an institution or an office within the CoG to be in charge of open government leadership and co-ordination is a pre-condition for the successful implementation of open government policies. The OECD Survey on Open Government and Citizen Participation in the Policy Cycle (“the OECD Survey”) shows that - like Costa Rica - most OECD countries have an office that is responsible for open government policy co-ordination (see Figure 3.1).

Figure 3.1. Is there an office responsible for horizontal co-ordination of open

government initiatives?

Source: OECD (forthcoming), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Situating the responsibility for open government within the CoG can be considered a good practice for several reasons:

• Open government policies and practices are both a strategic objective in themselves and a cluster of essential values and instruments that can effectively help the CoG to better advance its vision and achieve results together with citizens, civil society and the business community. In addition to specific policy actions, open government principles apply to the very functioning of the public sector as a whole. In particular, the implementation of reforms aimed at promoting more open and participatory policy making and service design and delivery have the potential to transform deeply the way in which public officials perform their duties in all the domains of the state. For instance, countries should promote the implementation of their open government initiatives through HRM policies. These ideas are also reflected in the concept of “Government as a Platform”, in which “government is a convener and an enabler rather than the first mover of civic action” and in which open government has a key role to play (O’Reilly, 2011).

Given its central position and its core responsibilities, the CoG is well placed to lead and co-ordinate countries’ open government transformation processes.

• The new role the CoG is playing across OECD countries and its increasing focus on delivery (in addition to oversight functions) matches the needs of multi-sector and multi-stakeholder open government policies. Policy making in OECD countries has become more complex, due to, among other things, the economic interdependency of countries, the recent economic and financial crisis, as well as more diverse and mobile societies (OECD, 2015a). Across the OECD, the CoG now plays a more prominent role during the entire policy cycle, from helping to shape the government’s guiding political vision to monitoring progress and working with departments to solve delivery problems (OECD, 2015b).

Box 3.1. Centre of Government: Delivering on complex agendas

At the 2015 meeting of the OECD Network of Senior Officials from Centres of Government, participants reflected on key aspects to further strengthen the CoG’s capacity to deliver on complex agendas:

  • • The importance of setting clear goals and objectives from the outset and welcoming the trend towards more focused government programmes structured around fewer but more strategic priorities.
  • • The relevance of efforts to reduce the number of participants around the table; while formal cabinet or government-wide deliberation and decision making remain important, priority initiatives can be more effectively driven by smaller ministerial teams.
  • • The common agenda should, where possible, be built around high-profile outcomes that offer tangible rewards in terms of business or citizen impact for participating ministries.
  • • Citizen input can be leveraged to generate momentum and overcome resistance either within government or from other vested interests; for that purpose, the CoG needs to better communicate to citizens the goals of priority initiatives, particularly those with longer-term impacts.
  • • Mastering knowledge and evidence is crucial to many different aspects of the CoG’s work; clear objectives need to be set at the planning stage, and without realistic and agreed objectives, targets are meaningless and can waste effort and drain enthusiasm.
  • • A particular challenge is related to the translation of data collected at national level into usable advice for subnational governments, which are often the principal providers of public services, and to maintaining evidence systems that provide the right data at the right time.

Box 3.1. Centre of Government - delivering on complex agendas (continued)

To be effective, the CoG needs to have a good understanding of the “organigram” of delivery - in other words, the relationships that have an impact on the delivery of policies and how the CoG supports these relationships - at the same time, the CoG needs to explore how to facilitate leadership by specialist line ministries so that the CoG is not the default option and to ensure that key policies are not “orphaned” or dumped at the CoG level.

Source: OECD (2015b), “Meeting summary - 2015 meeting in Helsinki (Finland) of the OECD Network of Senior Officials from Centres of Government on promoting inclusive growth: A new challenge for the Centre of Government”, www.oecd.org/gov/cog.htm.

• Being multi-sector and multi-stakeholder by definition, open government policies need a whole-of-government/whole-of-society approach to be effective and have the desired impact. This requires coherent steering and co-ordination within the policy cycle. CoG institutions are well placed to provide the leadership required for this kind of approach. Open government agendas benefit from an effective, dynamic and implementation-oriented CoG that ensures their overall internal coherence and their full alignment with national public sector reform objectives.

Figure 3.2. Focus of the Centre of Government: Primary focus of the Centre of

Government

Source: OECD (2014b), “Centre stage: Driving better policies from the centre of government”, GOV/PGC/MPM(2014)3/FINAL, OECD, Paris, www.oecd.org/g ov/Centre- Stage-Report. pdf.

Three elements are crucial for an efficient and effective CoG-led implementation of national open government agendas:

  • 1. In order for implementation to be successful and sustainable in the long term, the CoG must have the necessary institutions and mechanisms. This ensures that its qualities and functions are properly operationalised.
  • 2. The CoG institution(s) in charge of open government policies must have strong leadership and vision-setting capacities. This includes having the capacity to ensure the elaboration of a country’s distinctive vision of open government and its translation into policies and practices that are horizontally and vertically coherent, integrated and mutually supportive, with the ability to activate high- level political support and the capacity to mobilise the necessary human and financial resources.
  • 3. CoG institutions must further have the ability and be recognised as performing the related function of successfully co-ordinating whole-of-government (or whole-of-state) open government efforts horizontally and vertically (across levels of government), as well as outside of government (i.e. with civil society and the private sector). Open government policies and initiatives require and promote institutional collaboration, one of the core functions of the CoG across the OECD.

The following sections will take these three elements as a basis for the analysis of Costa Rica’s CoG framework for open government.

 
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