copy the linklink copied!Chapter 4. Institutional framework for the promotion of open government

The effective performance of an open government reform or of implementation of an open government strategy and initiatives also depends on the municipal institutional framework. Studies conducted in the OECD countries have demonstrated the usefulness of specific structures dedicated to coordinating open government initiatives at all levels of government, to ensure their consistency, complementarity and pertinence. Currently, 77% of OECD countries have an office with responsibility for the horizontal coordination of open government initiatives at central level. This office is often tasked with formulating an open government strategy, coordinating the implementation and monitoring and evaluation of open government initiatives, communication and, in some cases, allocating financial resources and evaluating the impact (see Figure ‎4.1) (OECD, 2016[2]).

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Figure ‎4.1. Responsibilities of coordination office
Figure ‎4.1. Responsibilities of coordination office

Source: (OECD, 2016[2])

In the case of the city of Salé, the municipal bodies consist of a council with 86 members elected at the municipal elections, an elected council office, tasked with drawing up the agenda of council sessions and implementing its decisions, as well as five permanent committees: the budget committee, the committee for financial affairs and programming, the committee for public services and provision, the committee for human development and social, cultural and sports affairs, the committee for planning, land use and the environment, and the committee for traffic, transport and mobility. These committees examine issues on the municipal council agenda. The council and the committees study matters that the municipality needs to address and make decisions that will have a decisive role for open government. For example, recommendations from the Thursday dialogues (a participatory mechanism described below) are discussed by the municipal council. The decision to adopt a vision or strategy for open government would also be a matter that falls to the municipal council, after preliminary work by the committees. These bodies aside, the city has an administrative structure. This consists of a general directorate made up of fifteen divisions, several of which are involved in initiatives related to open government; although no single division has sole responsibility for coordination of open government reforms (see Figure ‎4.2). In addition, an internal audit unit was set up to strengthen integrity, a key pillar of open government, through awareness and training on internal audit and the development of risk mapping as well as a charter and procedures manual.

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Figure ‎4.2. Organisation of the municipality of Salé
Figure ‎4.2. Organisation of the municipality of Salé

Source: City of Salé (2017), Flow chart, https://en.villedesale.ma/

The important role of the division of information and communications systems should be highlighted. It has responsibility for managing the website and Facebook page, as well as communication with citizens and publishing information. Communications are strategic in helping to strengthen transparency of the city’s public affairs management. In addition, the city has launched various participatory mechanisms, such as the Thursday dialogues, which require the contribution of a number of divisions. Therefore, the thematically specialised divisions – such as those of urban planning, economic affairs etc. – are called upon to interact with citizens and respond to their questions and suggestions. According to interviews conducted in October 2017 by the OECD team, the initiatives to promote open government are supported by high-level commitment – on the part of the council and especially by the mayor – which encourages the entire administration to engage in the collaborative process. In line with OECD best practices and the OECD Recommendations on Open Government, such high-level engagement is a key success factor for reform and an effective cultural shift within a public administration. The engagement of the executive branch of the municipality of Salé is the result of appropriation and a strong commitment on the part of municipal officials. Despite the lack of any formal coordinating body, public officials attest to an effective internal system of coordination and communication, in terms of exchanging information and participatory practices, such as the Thursday dialogues.

Nevertheless, specific coordination mechanisms could facilitate initiatives to promote open government, avoid duplication and improve communication. Mechanisms dedicated to citizen participation or open government exist at municipal level, as in the case of the city of Alcobendas in Spain, which has an Innovation and Communication department. Several municipalities in France also have departments dedicated to participation and local democracy, such as the Directorate for Democracy, Citizens and Territories in the city of Paris, or the Directorate for Local Democracy and Citizenship in the city of Dieppe (see Box ‎4.1).

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Box ‎4.1. Citizen Relations’ Department in the city of Dieppe, France

In Dieppe, this department is “one of the key tools for the participatory process aimed at inhabitants engaged by the municipality of Dieppe. Staffed by three officials, it has responsibility for working to develop and set in place tools for local democracy by forming participatory working groups, neighbourhood councils and staging themed city workshops. It offers an interface with citizens, while furthering discussion, thereby assisting them in implementing finalised and shared projects. It provides logistical support, particularly for reserving and preparing meeting rooms, and making available information or material. At citizens’ request, it facilities and organises discussions with elected councillors or municipal services, so as to supply them with the information needed for a shared analysis, providing access to technical and financial expertise for the projects being developed, which can subsequently be registered as part of the participatory budgeting process. The team also provides support to Dieppois wishing to implement, at the level of their neighbourhood, micro projects eligible to the participation fund of the inhabitants, which is intended for the implementation of actions centered on the development social ties and the improvement of neighbourhood life. Finally, its mission is to organize and monitor the operation of the five neighbourhood councils.”

Source: (Ville de Dieppe, n.d.[13])

The city of Salé could consider setting up an office dedicated to open government. This office could either be part of an existing division, such as the division of information and communications systems, or take the form of a steering committee, involving several divisions, as well as council members – among them, for example, the mayor and committee chairpersons. This committee could be headed and chaired by the mayor and managed by one of the divisions. The purpose of launching such an office would be to improve the city’s policy design for open government, ensure consistency between all the activities conducted in this area and develop a strategic vision for open government. In addition, such an office could analyse existing capacities and human resources in the field of open government, so as to identify gaps, define needs and elaborate a suitable training programme.

According to the OECD Recommendation on Open Government, implementation of open government initiatives does not depend exclusively on an institutional framework, but also on the human financial and technical resources available. The Recommendation calls on governments to introduce reforms “providing public officials…with adequate human, financial, and technical resources, while promoting a supportive organisational culture.” At the same time, it recognises that open government practices require appropriate resources and competences, and cannot simply consist of an extra task for public officials. Open government requires innovative approaches in terms of interaction and listening. A participatory approach to public policy design demands new skills such as negotiation or mediation. The administration should therefore offer training, either in-house or through intermediary partners, to enable its public officials to acquire these new skills. Open government also requires adequate technical and financial resources for the various activities, such as consultations, publishing information, etc.

However, the city of Salé does not have specific resources for its open government initiatives. Such activities are funded by the budgets of the various divisions, which also make their human resources available. The city of Salé can however count on a unique culture of dialogue and consensus, which greatly facilitates interaction with the citizens and management of city policy. Indeed, resistance to cultural change and doubts about the added value of participation are often cited as obstacles to implementing open government. To illustrate this point, at national level more than 60% of OECD countries claim that inadequate communication or insufficient or non-existent knowledge on the part of public officials about the benefits of open government reforms remain a priority challenge. For more than 50% of participants in the OECD survey, widespread resistance to reforms in the public sector also constitute a significant challenge (OECD, 2016[2]). The culture of dialogue has enabled the city of Salé to develop a variety of participatory mechanisms which were deemed positive by the majority of stakeholders – council members, administration staff, citizens, civil society – participating in the interviews conducted by the OECD.

Despite this culture of dialogue, respondents highlighted the lack of training available in open government. Training initiatives have been proposed in partnership with universities, but these were perceived as being too theoretical and not sufficiently practical. In the OECD countries, a many practices exist to strengthen public administration capacities in the area of open government. As illustrated in Figure ‎4.3 these may include training provided by national schools of public administration. Other practices include the development and distribution of manuals and the integration of open government principles in a common framework of public sector values. For example, the city of Alcobendas has produced a participation manual and a strategic development plan for human resources that includes the values of responsibility and integrity.

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Figure ‎4.3. Approaches used to strengthen capacities of public officials
Figure ‎4.3. Approaches used to strengthen capacities of public officials

Source: (OECD, 2016[2])

Continuous training in open government could strengthen the institutional framework of the city of Salé and provide the necessary impetus for innovative open government initiatives, making use, for example, of information and communication technologies (ICT). Such training could be delivered in collaboration with the national school of public administration (ENA) or be based on international networks of cities engaged in open government. The city could also develop a guide that would introduce public officials to all existing initiatives.

References

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Chapter 4. Institutional framework for the promotion of open government