National and local context of the Plan
New Zealand has a solid international reputation for its trusted public service. International rankings and research show that trust and confidence in the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Service continues to be high. Across a range of international indexes, Aotearoa New Zealand ranks as a world leader in trust and confidence in government. Globally, trust in government was declining in many countries even before the coronavirus pandemic, and only 51% of OECD citizens trusted their national government in 2020 compared to 63% of New Zealanders.
While most OECD countries experienced a decline in public trust between 2007 and 2020, Aotearoa New Zealand has not. In Kiwis Count, the Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission survey of public trust and confidence, there has been a long-term gradual upward trend in public trust since 2007.
Aotearoa New Zealand has always ranked in the top five countries in the world for the least public sector corruption since the inception of the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. In the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2020, New Zealand is ranked number one, equal with Denmark, as the country whose public sector is considered to be the least corrupt.
To effectively serve Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse communities and make a difference to wellbeing, the Public Service must have the trust and confidence of New Zealanders. Trust and confidence can only occur if the public service continues to show that it is trustworthy and acts in the interests of Aotearoa New Zealand and its people.
New Zealanders’ trust in their Public Service continues to trend upwards, with 82% of New Zealanders saying they trust public services based on their personal service experience. This is up from 72% in 2012.
Responsiveness is key to trust and confidence. Reliability is another factor, particularly in testing times of change, including when responding to a national emergency of any kind. Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission’s own recent research into the drivers of public trust found that New Zealanders’ experience of public services being reliable and meeting their needs, along with being treated fairly and having public servants admit responsibility when mistakes are made, are key drivers of trust.
Taking active steps to sustain trust and confidence in government through, for example, moving to a more collaborative approach (giving value to lived experience) to policymaking and service design, is important to more effectively serve Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse communities and make a difference to wellbeing.
Our approach to NAP3 demonstrates New Zealand’s commitment to learning from experience, adapting to change and innovation.
Aotearoa New Zealand NAP3
NAP3 was focused on open government efforts to support participating in democracy; public participation to develop policy and services; and transparency and accountability. These reflect the importance of building and maintaining citizens’ trust in government.
NAP3 contained 12 commitments (listed below with lead agencies):
- Engagement with Parliament (Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives)
- Youth Parliament (Ministry of Youth Development)
- School Leavers’ Toolkit (Ministry of Education)
- Making Aotearoa New Zealand’s secondary legislation readily accessible (Parliamentary Counsel Office)
- Public participation in policy development (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet)
- Service design (Department of Internal Affairs)
- Official information (Ministry of Justice and Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission)
- Review of government algorithms (Stats NZ)
- Increase the visibility of government’s data stewardship (Stats NZ)
- Monitoring the effectiveness of public body information management practices (Archives NZ)
- Authoritative dataset of government organisations as open data for greater transparency (Department of Internal Affairs)
- Open procurement (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment).
The NAP3's 12 commitments were to be implemented in the period from 2018 – 2020. The emergence of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) in 2019 (discussed below) led, however, to the Government accepting the Open Government Partnership (OGP) invitation to extend NAP3’s term to August 2021. This NAP3 Report accordingly covers the period from 2018 – 2021.
Significant changes occurred in NAP3 period
The impacts of COVID-19
In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) struck in Aotearoa New Zealand. COVID-19 meant that the public service worked under additional pressure to meet New Zealanders’ needs. Government agencies rapidly pivoted their activities and resources to support the COVID-19 response and the economic recovery. OGP were aware of the impact on countries of the prioritisation of the pandemic response. Aotearoa New Zealand accepted the option offered to countries in the 2020 cohort to extend the NAP3 timeframe to August 2021.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, open government work happens in many ways and organisations, not only as part of the OGP National Action Plans. More information is included in the section Other Initiatives.
New Public Service Act 2020
The NAP3 was implemented against a backdrop of legislative change. The new Public Service Act 2020, (the Act) which governs the public service was passed in 2020. The Act provides a modern legislative framework to enable a more adaptive, agile and collaborative public service. The Act has recognised the importance of open government for the public service in many of its statutory provisions.
The Act affirms the purpose of the public service as one that:
“…supports constitutional and democratic government, enables both the current Government and successive governments to develop and implement their policies, delivers high-quality and efficient public services, supports the Government to pursue the long-term public interest, facilitates active citizenship, and acts in accordance with the law.” – Section 11, Public Service Act 2020.
The Act’s clear purpose, principles and values facilitate active citizenship and pursue the long-term public interest. The Act’s principles explicitly include fostering a culture of open government. The Act’s values align with open government values and comprise:
- Impartiality – treating all people fairly, without personal favour or bias
- Accountability – taking responsibility and answering for its work, actions, and decisions
- Trustworthiness – acting with integrity and being open and transparent
- Respect – treating all people with dignity and compassion and acting with humility
- Responsiveness – understanding and meeting people’s needs and aspirations.
Commitments and OGP Values
The ideas generated in the NAP3 development were categorised under three themes:
Theme 1 – Participation in democracy
Theme 2 – Public participation to develop policy and services
Theme 3 – Transparency and accountability.
All the ideas put forward for NAP3 inclusion were progressed, either becoming commitments, or by being referred to the appropriate government agency, and the process was recorded so it was visibly trackable. This trackability greatly increased the transparency of the commitment development process and showed the progress of ideas, some of which were progressed largely unchanged and became NAP3 commitments.
The ideas that were generated reflected the core Open Government Partnership values of transparency, accountability, public participation and technology and innovation. Our ‘Plan on a Page’ on page 8 shows how the commitments were linked.
Figure 1: Our ‘Plan on a Page’
Across the top is a box that says “New Zealanders provided 449 ideas about how to make government more open, accountable and transparent. We prioritised these ideas into three themes.
- Participation in democracy
- Public participation to develop policy and services
- Transparency and accountability
Then, we turned the themes into commitments with actions the Government will deliver and publicly report on.
Participation in democracy:
- engagement with Parliament
- youth Parliament
- school leavers’ toolkit
- Making legislation more accessible
Public participation to develop policy and services:
- Public participation in policy development
- Inclusive service design
Transparency and accountability:
- Official information
- Government’s use of algorithms
- Government data stewardship practices
- Public information management
- Open data about government agencies
- Open procurement
Theme 1: Participation in democracy
About 50 ideas were received relating to what New Zealanders should know about how our democracy and system of government works to empower participation.
Easy access to information about legislation and how Parliament and government works is important to inform all New Zealanders about what the government is doing and why.
Youth can play an important role in counteracting the global trend of declining political engagement in the general population.
The first three NAP3 commitments developed under the theme of “Participation in democracy” were squarely focussed on young people and enabling their public participation in democracy. These NAP3 commitments comprised “Engagement with Parliament” (Commitment 1), Youth Parliament (Commitment 2) and a School Leavers’ Toolkit (Commitment 3).
“Making legislation more accessible” (Commitment 4) addressed public participation in democracy for the broader population.
Theme 2: Public participation to develop policy and services
Around 100 ideas were received on matters relating to public participation in the design of policy and services. Public participation in policy improves the design of policy and services, increasing their fitness for purpose and legitimacy.
Commitment 5 of the NAP3 tasked the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the “Policy Project”, as the division responsible) to assist the Aotearoa New Zealand public sector to develop a more consistent, deeper understanding of what good engagement with the public meant – right across the International Association of Public Participation’s (IAP2’s) Spectrum of Public Participation – through providing guidance, tools and resources. This work built on the Policy Project’s previous work on community engagement.
Alongside Commitment 5, community organisations have seen a more collaborative approach to policy starting to become more commonplace, partly as a result of organic change, and partly due to innovations prompted by the constraints of COVID-19, as discussed in a lessons learned report by Inspiring Communities here.
The Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti (Te Arawhiti) was established in December 2018 to foster strong, ongoing, effective relationships with Māori across government. The Policy Project has noted that Commitment 5 supports and complements the work that Te Arawhiti has been doing during the NAP3 period, in developing and publishing important engagement tools for the Crown’s engagement with Māori here.
Commitment 6 (service design) focussed on the development of an assessment model to help implement the digital design standard. The standard supports agencies to work with New Zealanders to design inclusive, integrated and trustworthy services. Consultation found that the new standard would be unimplementable in its current form, so the commitment was adapted to take this into account.
Theme 3: Transparency and accountability
Over 200 ideas were received for NAP3 that expressed, in various ways, the need to increase government transparency and accountability. This included easy access to government information, resources and services, through a choice of different channels; and increasing the availability and quality of official information.
Many of the 12 commitments related to this theme – for example, increasing the visibility of data stewardship; reviewing the government use of algorithms; making secondary legislation more accessible; and creating greater transparency in new technological areas.
NAP3 Commitment 7 relating to official information included making more Cabinet material available to the public than ever before as a result of new policies on proactive release; and looking into a review of the official information legislation.
Commitment 8 involved the government’s use of operational algorithms. Algorithms are increasingly being used in government decision-making. While algorithm use presents considerable, positive opportunities, it is essential that the public can have assurance that algorithms are being used appropriately. This commitment seeks to increase transparency and accountability in government’s use of algorithms and involved a review of algorithm use across government agencies, by the Chief Data Steward in collaboration with the Chief Digital Officer.
Commitments 9 and 10 looked at government data stewardship and information management practices.
Open government data is a fundamental enabler of an open and transparent government. Two NAP3 open data Commitments (11 and 12) involved developing Aotearoa New Zealand’s environment to enable open data and accelerate the release and reuse of open government data, so that Aotearoa New Zealand can maximise the value of open government data.
When the work on Commitment 11 is completed, it will provide an authoritative, machine-readable open dataset of government organisations, for both government agencies and the public to use as the foundation upon which to build digital tools and services.
Providing as open data the information published (in the form of individual notices) on who has been awarded a particular contract that was tendered on the Government Electronic Tender Service (GETS), Commitment 12 will increase the usability of this data.
Transparency through technology
The Independent Reviewer identified three NAP3 commitments (Commitments 4, 8 and 11) as “noteworthy.” All three of these commitments were concerned with increasing transparency in, or by, the use of technology. One of these (Commitment 4) involved making New Zealand’s secondary legislation readily accessible through publication on Aotearoa New Zealand’s Legislation website.