In the spirit of Sunshine Week 2013 the government watchdog leader, Open the Government, issued today a major evaluation of the Obama Administration’s National Action Plan for Open Government. The report assesses the Administration’s implementation of the first National Action Plan for open government. That Plan (NAP) outlining the nation’s commitments was presented in September 2011 at the launch of the Open Government Partnership. That Plan covered numerous issues including FOIA processing, records management, spending transparency and accountability.
Today’s report looks at the degree to which the federal government has met the letter of its commitments. Findings are based on input from volunteers at 37 civil society organizations and academic institution. Evaluators were asked to rate the government’s efforts to collaborate with civil society organizations, steps towards addressing civil society recommendations, and the impact and sustainability of the government’s efforts.
Bottom line, the report concludes that the government met most of the NAP’s commitments, noting that “many of the commitments were small first steps towards addressing issues.” Based on that finding, the report calls on the federal government to take more assertive steps to “achieve the greater goal of transforming government to be open and accountable to the public.” To do so, the report argues for the urgency of a second and bolder plan.
The report makes the point that many of the steps in the original NAP were timid, at times reflective of projects and programs already in place or underway. Further, the report urges that those involved in preparation of a second National Action Plan open the process itself so that the input from the public and agencies be made public as the plan is developed.
The report goes on to recommend benchmarks and assistance for participating agencies that have less experience with planning for and implementing robust transparency plans. An interesting note included in the report suggests that the US look beyond its borders for ideas. Though the U.S. was first among nations to launch an aggressive engagement process, scores of other countries have followed that model to make commitments and to reach out to the public and civil society for input. The U.S. should learn from other nations.
Above all, the 50+page report calls on the Obama Administration, broadly defined, to BE BOLD! An implicit message is that the Open Government Partnership is available assistant in a process that will be closely monitored.