New Zealand is internationally recognised as having one of the most open and transparent governments in the world. We also have one of the most trusted and high-integrity governments in the world, sitting at the top of most international measures.
We cannot rest on our laurels though, and we are committed to continuing to improve in all aspects of what we do. This includes making government more open, more transparent and more focused on the needs of New Zealanders. Being a member of the OGP, and committing to the aims and principles of the Partnership, is one of the ways we are seeking to do this.
New Zealand is starting from a high base of transparency and openness as we develop our second National Action Plan. I believe the commitments we are making here will stretch us and will help make our government even more open.
A major plank of our action plan is a commitment to improve compliance with the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). The OIA is a critical part of how the New Zealand government is transparent and accountable. It is essential that the Act is working effectively and that government agencies are meeting their obligations under it.
In 2015 the then Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, released a seminal report on the operation of the OIA and how well government agencies were meeting their obligations. Dame Beverley made a number of insightful recommendations for how government can improve its performance and improve public confidence in how we comply with the Act. This is a theme that came through strongly in the submissions made by civil society during the development of our action plan.
A central aim of the work programme under the National Action Plan is to improve the consistency and quality of the data on compliance with the OIA, and to make this publicly available, in line with Dame Beverley’s recommendations. We will also be working to improve the information and guidance on the OIA for both citizens and government agencies and support agencies to proactively make more information available.
The State Services Commission is committed to leading the work programme to improve agency practice around the OIA. A cross-agency team is being established to take this work forward without delay, working in partnership with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The New Zealand government is in the midst of delivering a broad work programme to reorient the public service to focus on priority needs of New Zealanders, and to work collectively to meet them. This is challenging work for everyone involved – from frontline public servants to chief executives to government Ministers and the public we serve – and is leading to real improvements in how government operates.
The Better Public Services initiatives, along with other change programmes like an all-of-government information and communications technology (ICT) strategy, touch nearly everyagency within New Zealand’s public services and are requiring, in some cases, significant shifts in emphasis and orientation for agencies.
This National Action Plan builds on our first plan and takes into account the feedback we received from civil society and the OGP independent review mechanism. It represents a real step forward for transparency and openness and challenges government to keep doing more. We will continue to learn and improve as we develop future action plans and will continue to improve our engagement with civil society.
I would like to thank those who worked on this plan with us:
The commitment and engagement from these groups and individuals in the development of this National Action Plan has made our commitments stronger and more targeted. What these diverse groups have in common is a commitment to the ideals of public service and to delivering for New Zealanders, both today and into the future, and I thank them for their input.
Peter Hughes, CNZM
State Services Commissioner