Institutional frameworks for open government in the Costa Rican CoG

The institutional and governance frameworks established to support the drafting and implementation of open government policies are the basis to secure leadership, co-ordination, the participation of all relevant stakeholders and ultimately successful impacts (OECD, 2014a). In order to guarantee the successful implementation of open government policies in the medium and long term and to create sustainability across political cycles, the institutions in charge of leading and co-ordinating a country’s open government agenda must be stable and have the necessary institutional capacity to carry out the agenda over time.

In order to support the implementation of open government policies, the following elements should be present:

  • a) a central government institution in charge of open government b) an Open Government Steering Committee comprising public officials as well as representatives of civil society
  • c) mechanisms of monitoring and evaluation.
  • a) A central government institution in charge of open government: the Deputy Ministry for Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue in the Ministry of the Presidency of Costa Rica

Governance models vary widely between countries, but OECD experience shows that having a central government body in charge of open government policy setting and co-ordination - supported by additional units if necessary - facilitates delivery of results (OECD, 2014a). As described above, institutionally situating this actor in the CoG can ensure high-level leadership and effective policy co-ordination.

The key CoG actor in charge of Costa Rica’s open government policies is the Deputy Ministry for Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue within the Presidency of the Republic (see Chapter 2 for a detailed description of its responsibilities). While the responsibility for open government has belonged to the Deputy Ministry for only less than two years, findings from the OECD Peer Review missions indicate that the Deputy Ministry has been quite successful in aligning the country’s open government efforts to its national development plan and building well-functioning working relations with other key players from the government and beyond.

The long-term sustainability and continuity of efforts are affected by the capacity in terms of the skills, human resources and financial means of the main office in charge of open government. In its responses to the OECD Survey, the Costa Rican government acknowledged that it faces capacity constraints in implementing its open government agenda, both financially and in terms skills and of human resources. While the Deputy Ministry’s staff has done an important job in mainstreaming open government in Costa Rica, considering the relevance that open government policies have for the country, the government should consider giving the Deputy Ministry more human and financial resources to accomplish its tasks even more successfully and to exploit the full potential of the high-level institutional anchorage of open government policies.

b) An Open Government Steering Committee comprising public officials as well as representatives of civil society: the National Open Government Commission

Through its various Open Government Reviews, the OECD has gathered evidence that specialised open government steering committees are the most effective way to bring together all relevant representatives from the CoG and the wider government (central and local), CSOs and the private sector and jointly work on a national open government agenda. However, for an open government committee to work effectively and efficiently, certain minimum conditions must be met:

  • • The committee should be attached to a CoG institution and have the right mandate.
  • • Sufficient human and financial resources should be foreseen and provided to ensure its functioning.
  • • All relevant stakeholders have to be included (from both the public sector and civil society).
  • • Transparent procedures as well as reporting and evaluation mechanisms must be established to ensure accountability on results.

The National Open Government Commission (CNGA), which has the mandate to co-ordinate and monitor the implementation of the country’s open government agenda, is Costa Rica’s Open Government Steering Committee. The composition of the Commission is in accordance with the compositions of similar commissions in other countries. However, as discussed in Chapter 2, the inclusiveness of Costa Rica’s CNGA could be further increased by including representatives from local governments, more civil society organisations and the leader of the country’s digital government agenda. Moreover, the government could consider creating an Open State Commission including the Legislature and the Judiciary to continue the path towards an open state.

As a Committee that meets only once a month, the CNGA’s capacity to implement the national open government agenda is limited. In the implementation of its initiatives, the CNGA is assisted by the Ministry of the Presidency, or more specifically, the Deputy Ministry for Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue (DMCD), which works as its Secretariat and is supposed to facilitate human resources for the adequate functioning of both the CNGA its sub-commissions (Art. 10 of Decree 38994) - a job it has fulfilled successfully over recent months despite having limited financial capacities and a small staff. As recommended above, Costa Rica should consider giving the DMCD more resources for it to handle its broad portfolio and adequately serve the CNGA.

While the President’s direct involvement in the CNGA and the inclusion of open government as a key pillar in the NDP are a testimony of the existing high-level political support for the country’s open government agenda, the fact that the National Open Government Commission has been established by decree makes it vulnerable to changes of government and related policy priorities. It is recommended that the government ensure continuity by creating a more stable legal framework for the CNGA. Box 3.2 provides an example of the implementation and composition of the Open Government Steering Committee in Tunisia.

Box 3.2. Tunisia’s Open Government Steering Committee

Tunisia’s Open Government Steering Committee (OGSC), which was replaced later by the Open Government Consultative Joint Committee, was established on 15 April 2013. The Steering Group was created to co-ordinate the Tunisian Open Government agenda and the cooperation with the OECD Open Government Project. The Steering Group’s membership comprises representatives of the Tunisian government, civil society and the Assembly.

After becoming an OGP member in early 2014, the primary task of Tunisia’s governing body for the OGP process - the Open Government Joint Advisory Committee - was the formulation of Tunisia’s OGP Action Plan over the coming months, including the organisation of active stakeholder consultations and the follow-up on its implementation. The Joint Advisory Committee is an advisory organism that gathers five members of civil society and five members of the government.

The following government representatives form part of the Commission:

  • • three representatives of the Presidency of the Government (the E-Government Unit, the legal advisory department and the General Directorate for administrative reforms)
  • • one representative of the Ministry of Finance
  • • one representative of the Ministry of Interior.

In addition, one members of each of the following civil society groups are represented in the Committee:

  • • the private sector
  • • education and scientific research
  • • the association “Touensa”
  • • the “Elbawsla”association
  • • the “Open Gov tn”. movement

Source: OECD. (2016), Open Government in Tunisia, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris,

c) Monitoring and evaluation of open government policies: the need to focus on outcomes

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a key function of CoG institutions. M&E is an essential feature of the open government policy cycle, as it can ensure accountability and continuous improvements of the policy process through feedback loops. Preliminary results from the OECD Survey show that more than 80% of OECD countries monitor the implementation of their open government initiatives through the OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), while only slightly more than 40% of member countries specifically evaluate the impact of their open government initiatives (see Figure 3.3). Hence, most OECD countries monitor outputs and outcomes but carry out little evaluation of impact and cost-benefit (OECD, forthcoming).

Figure 3.3. Does your government monitor the implementation of open government


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

Figure 3.4. Does your government specifically evaluate the impact of open government


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

Like most OECD countries, Costa Rica has not yet created a monitoring and evaluation system for its OGP Action Plans and the National Open Government Strategy. As of now, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) of the OGP performs this function. In the framework of the CNGA, the Ministry of Planning and Economic Policy (MIDEPLAN) has started cooperating with the Office of the Deputy Minister to elaborate an adequate monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the country’s open government efforts. This effort should be pursued. In elaborating the adequate M&E tools for open government, it would further be advisable to link the implementation of the OGP Action Plan to the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) and the well-institutionalised monitoring and evaluation of the NDP done by MIDEPLAN in order to exploit synergies. Box 3.3 offers an example of a successful system established in Colombia for monitoring and evaluating open government initiatives.

Box 3.3. SINERGIA in Colombia

Colombia has developed and refined a comprehensive system of information to monitor and evaluate the country’s progress towards reaching its main goals. This system, inspired by international experiences such as the Delivery Unit in the United Kingdom and the White House Dashboards in the United States, has allowed Colombia to discuss its priorities as well as identify its biggest challenges. Through it, Colombia has integrated all of the information from the different entities and sectors, with diverse indicators as well as clear guidelines and targets. Through a complete set of indicators, the country has developed user-friendly dashboards and traffic lights to display the information.

The Colombian Constitution requires that all public policies are monitored and evaluated, and SINERGIA is the national system responsible for these tasks. SINERGIA is led by the Direction of Public Policy Monitoring and Evaluation within the National Planning Department and the Presidency of the Republic. A system of monitoring and evaluation of development plans must be implemented by all subnational governments, with the aim of aligning municipal and departmental policy interventions and investment agendas with those of the National Development Plan (this monitoring component is called SINERGIA TERRITORIAL). SINERGIA measures the progress and goals of the projects included in the National Development Plan through three main tools:

  • 1. SINERGIA Seguimiento: a set of performance indicators that measures policy outputs and outcomes as identified by the National Development Plan. The system is built following a pyramidal structure with three main levels: strategic, sector and management. Strategic indicators are at the top and are related to the main government pillars as stated in the National Development Plan. These indicators are followed up on by the President and the Council of Ministers. Sector indicators describe sector-specific goals and are monitored by the President and each minister in bilateral meetings and within each ministry. Finally, management indicators are standard indicators that are measured for all of the entities to track institutional efficiency.
  • 2. SINERGIA Evaluations: a system to evaluate the outcomes of the main public policies and programmes implemented within the framework of the National Development Plan. Every year, the policies that will be evaluated are selected by a committee of the DNP and approved by the CONPES (National Council for Economic and Social Policy). Policies are evaluated by a recognised, experienced third party (consultancy) so as to guarantee objectivity and transparency in the process. SINGERGIA evaluations have increased significantly, reaching 102 evaluations contracted or sustained in 2013.
  • 3. Perception surveys: the National Development Plan Perception Surveys are conducted periodically so as to compare public perception and government results. The results of the polls are public and are found on the SISDEVAL website. Surveys measure the public perception of the way in which the government is achieving the goals it has set.

Box 3.3. SINERGIA in Colombia (continued)

  • — In the beginning, SINERGIA focused on central-government management only; in 2004, its scope was broadened to include technical assistance for monitoring and evaluating subnational governments’ development plans. It now provides information on the overall performance of the National Development Plan at all levels of government in Colombia. However, at the territorial level, performance- management implementation remains relatively underdeveloped. In 2011, methodological guidelines were approved focusing on performance management at the subnational level; a network of regional officials was created to encourage the exchange of best practices in the field of performance management.
  • — Through SINERGIA, follow-up is readily available. The Presidency, the government and citizens can follow up on the government’s performance, which is an essential tool for building trust in government.

Source: Government of Colombia (2013), “Background Report prepared for the OECD Public Governance Review”, unpublished working paper.

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