Chapter 4. Institutional framework

Open government is a culture of governance that aims to transform how the public administration works and interacts with its citizens. The transversal nature of open government strategies and initiatives requires an effective governance structure with appropriate co-ordination mechanisms at horizontal and vertical levels. Therefore, the OECD Recommendations advise countries to “co-ordinate, through the necessary institutional mechanisms, open government strategies and initiatives – horizontally and vertically – across all levels of government to ensure that they are aligned with and contribute to all relevant socio-economic objectives” (Provision 3). Ideally, such a governance structure includes the following two aspects:

  • An Open Government Committee that co-ordinates the national open government agenda and involves all relevant stakeholders from government, civil society, academia and the private sector.

  • A central government institution that has a clear mandate and the capacity to steer and lead the national open government agenda (OECD, 2019[6]).

Data from OECD countries show that establishing a co-ordination unit within a central government institution is a common practice, with 77% of OECD countries having a dedicated office responsible for the horizontal co-ordination of open government initiatives. In the majority of cases (62%), this office is located in the office of the head of government or in the cabinet office/chancellery/council of ministers. This ensures high-level support and steering of open government initiatives. Ministries of finance, interior or public administration are also other common offices that take on the open government co-ordination function. The responsibilities of such an office vary (see Figure 4.1), but generally include the co-ordination function, the responsibility to develop an open government strategy, monitoring implementation, communicating reforms and in some cases assigning financial resources and evaluation of impact.

Some 34% of OECD countries have also established an open government steering committee (which is equally a recommendation of the OGP), to ensure regular engagement with a variety of stakeholders. This engagement can take the form of regular communication, consultation and sometimes even co-creation, co-implementation and co-evaluation of open government initiatives. In most cases, an open government steering committee includes civil society organisations working in related fields, but local government representatives, media, private sector, trade unions or other branches of power can also be members of such a committee (OECD, 2016[2]).

Lebanon’s open government governance structure is still in development. OMSAR, as the ministry responsible for developing administrative reform and the institutional capacities of the public administration has taken the lead role in promoting and co-ordinating open government initiatives. For example, the minister has publicly announced Lebanon’s intention to join the OGP, and OMSAR has elaborated Lebanon’s definition of open government and is co-ordinating work with international institutions in this field. The OECD survey found that to support this work OMSAR has established a technical internal open government team with six public officials that unite a variety of policy areas, such as digital government and ICT, anti-corruption, human resources, legal advisors and public procurement specialists. This is a laudable step and could be reinforced by defining the responsibilities and tasks of the team.

There is currently no mechanism to co-ordinate open government horizontally and vertically in Lebanon. However, the country, and in particular OMSAR, could build on several existing co-ordination frameworks in related policy fields that could be an inspiration or provide a structure for an open government co-ordination mechanism.

The Prime Minister’s Decision No. 156/2011 established an Anti-corruption Ministerial Committee of which the Minister of State for Administrative Reform is the vice president and the Prime Minister the president. It also includes the Minister of Justice, Minister of Interior and Municipalities, and the Minister of Finance. The committee is supported by a Technical Committee (established by Prime Minister’s Decision No. 156/2011) presided over by OMSAR. It is responsible for the elaboration and adoption of Lebanon’s policies in the field of anti-corruption and integrity, in particular the adoption of the national anti-corruption strategy (see Chapter 2). In order to enhance the implementation of the Right of Access to Information law, and given that access to information is also a key pillar for anti-corruption, the Prime Minister formed a committee to develop the national action plan for the implementation of the Right of Access to Information law (see Chapter 3). The committee, which is composed of the Ministry of Justice, Council of State, Central Inspection Board and OMSAR, acts as a sub-committee of the Anti-corruption Ministerial Committee, which adopts its policies and action plans. Lebanon could consider establishing a sub-committee on open government that reports to the Anti-corruption Ministerial Committee and includes the members of, or co-ordinates closely with, the Access to Information Committee.

In parallel, the Lebanese Council of Ministers has established a Ministerial Committee for Digital Economy and Digital Transformation, chaired by the Prime Minister and formed by Decision No. 53 of February 28, 2019 and Decision No. 4 of May 24, 2019. As Figure 4.2 shows, the committee has various sub-structures for the implementation of policies, and is also aiming to set-up an advisory board to engage with different public and private actors.

According to the OECD Recommendation on Open Government, digital tools are a lever and opportunity to design and implement open government strategies and initiatives (OECD, 2017[1]). Equally, the OECD Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies promotes “capturing the value of digital technologies for more open, participatory and innovative governments” (OECD, 2019[30]). In line with these recommendations, Lebanon’s digital transformation strategy lists open government as a founding principle. Hence, close co-ordination through a co-ordination mechanism on open government and the Ministerial Committee for Digital Economy and Digital Transformation, as well as its sub-bodies, is recommended. Lebanon could, for example, consider including a high-level representative of the entity responsible for leading and co-ordinating the digital government policy (e.g. OMSAR or eventually the future Lebanese Digital Agency) in the open government committee, while having its decisions presented to or even approved by the ministerial committee.

In parallel, two other initiatives are underway to engage stakeholders in policy making. These include the Public and Private Advisory Board (mentioned in Figure 4.2) to be created in relation to the digital transformation, and a multi-stakeholder group to be created in the framework of Lebanon’s intention to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). The latter is an EITI requirement and must include representatives from government, extractive companies and civil society. It will support Lebanon in meeting the standards and oversee the implementation of EITI commitments (Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, 2017[31]). At the time of writing, civil society is electing its members for the group in an independent manner and according to its own rules. Several civil society organisations have elaborated a code of conduct that sets the criteria for the election process (Lebanese Coalition for Good Governance in Extractive Industries, 2018[32]).

An institutional framework conducive to open government initiatives does not only rely on appropriate co-ordination structures, but also on adequate human resources with the necessary skills. Open government culture is transforming how civil servants work and the skills they require. Engaging in two-way communication, listening to citizens and co-creating public services require skills such as empathy, negotiation and presentation. OECD countries are only at the beginning of their efforts to include these new skills in their public sector workforce. A 2016 OECD report showed that 57% of OECD countries include open government principles in values frameworks, and only 23% include them in competency frameworks, performance agreements and/or accountability frameworks (OECD, 2016[2]). The OECD Recommendation calls for “promoting open government literacy in the administration” and “providing public officials with … adequate human, financial, and technical resources, while promoting a supportive organisational culture”. These new interactions with citizens should not be outsourced to contract providers, as meaningful insights come only from the interaction between decision makers and citizens (OECD, 2017[33]). The OECD Recommendation on Public Service Leadership and Capability therefore provides a framework to highlight the capabilities needed in the public service (see Box 4.4).

A 2017 OECD report, “Skills for a High Performing Civil Service”, provides a framework of the skills needed for service delivery and citizen engagement (OECD, 2017[33]). These skills are:

  • Professional: Traditional building blocks of service and engagement skills include professionals with expertise in, for example, public relations, communications, marketing, consultation, facilitation, service delivery, conflict resolution, community development and outreach.

  • Strategic: Using engagement skills to achieve specific outcomes to inform, for example, better targeted interventions, or nudging public behaviour towards desirable outcomes, such as healthier eating habits or smoking reduction.

  • Innovative: Innovation skills applied to engagement to expand and redesign the tools themselves through, for example, co-creation, prototyping, social media, crowdsourcing, challenge prizes, ethnography, opinion research and data, branding, behavioural insights/nudging, digital service environments, and user data analytics.

Now is a timely moment to introduce the skills required for open government in Lebanon, as the Civil Service Board (CSB) and OMSAR are – at the time of writing – conducting a project on Lebanon’s public service, documenting and defining job positions and responsibilities. This is part of a call for restructuring the public sector echoed in the ministerial statement of the 2019 government (Lebanese Forces, 2019[35]). One of the objectives under this restructuring target is to carry out a comprehensive mapping of all government institutions, including staff vacancies and surplus, in order to determine the functional needs of each department. This could be the occasion to introduce the responsibilities and skills related to open government in certain job positions/descriptions. OMSAR is already working on defining the job description and tasks of the official responsible for access to information, a commitment of the national action plan for implementing the Right of Access to Information law, which could serve as good practice to build on.

Introducing these skills in job descriptions and considering them in future hiring processes is however only one approach; training public officials, and thereby enabling them to acquire the required skills, is another approach. This is of particular importance in the current situation, where the 2017 hiring freeze, as foreseen by Law No. 46 dated 21/8/2017, does not allow for the recruitment of further public officials (Division for Sustainable Development Goals, 2018[17]). The existing e-Learning portal currently run by OMSAR, which is envisioned to be transformed into a hub for a national digital academy portal, currently includes courses on, for example, relations with citizens, strategic planning, public employment, management and change management, project management in the digital age, conflict management, and the Covid-19 pandemic response. This portal could be further developed to include a course on open government principles and their application in the public administration. To develop the course OMSAR could partner with international organisations, universities and training institutes such as the Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan.

Responsible institutions require a budget to implement open government initiatives; however, fewer than 20% of OECD countries use the central institution in charge of open government to allocate funds for open government initiatives; however, countries ensure funding through the institutions implementing each project. In some cases, funds are also provided by the European Union (EU) or donors and multilateral organisations (OECD, 2016[2]). Lebanon is currently in a tight fiscal situation with an immense public debt, which led to the CEDRE conference. While the international community has pledged financial support, and some projects such as with the OECD, UNDP and the World Bank exist to financially support specific reform efforts, the government is called upon to develop cost-effective and innovative open government initiatives. Partnerships with civil society, academia and the use of digital tools are therefore advisable.

  • Formalize the role OMSAR as the leading agency of Lebanon’s open government agenda by nominating an open government co-ordinator and defining the responsibilities and tasks of the open government team. This could be linked to other proposed open government reforms such as developing an action plan and elaborating guidelines for stakeholder participation.

  • Establish a committee on open government, which functions in accordance with existing government committee structures. This would include coordination and dialogue with the Anti-corruption Ministerial Committee, the Access to Information Committee, and the Ministerial Committee for Digital Economy and Digital Transformation.

  • Introduce responsibilities and skills related to open government in certain job positions/descriptions. In doing so, develop training courses on open government principles and initiatives, taking advantage of the existing e-learning platform.

References

[9] Canada School of Public Service Digital Academy (2020), “Busrides” webpage, https://busrides-trajetsenbus.ca/en/ep-3-en/ (accessed on 2 July 2020).

[19] Division for Sustainable Development Goals (2018), Lebanon: Voluntary National Review on Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations, https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/19484Lebanon_VNR_2018.pdf (accessed on 29 October 2019).

[14] Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (2017), Lebanon commits to implement EITI, https://eiti.org/news/lebanon-commits-to-implement-eiti (accessed on 29 October 2019).

[8] Government of Canada (2020), “Open Government” webpage, https://open.canada.ca/en (accessed on 2 July 2020).

[6] Government of Canada (n.d.), Multi-stakeholder Forum Terms of Reference, https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NHSHqGDQBEuY76d5VA3lcz-AtaMegyUa6C7XE9DKQv0/edit (accessed on 20 November 2019).

[11] Government of Lebanon (2019), Lebanon Digital Transformation: Strategies to Actions.

[22] Government of Spain (2017), Third National Action Plan of Spain 2017-2019 fo the Open Government Partnserhip, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/Spain_Action-Plan_2017-2019_EN.pdf.

[21] Government of Spain (n.d), Educacion en Gobierno Abierto [Education in Open Government], https://transparencia.gob.es/transparencia/transparencia_Home/index/Gobierno-abierto/EduGobAbierto.html#Componente0 (accessed on  April 2020).

[15] Lebanese Coalition for Good Governance in Extractive Industries (2018), Code of Conduct of Civil Society Organisations involved in EITI, https://logi-lebanon.org/KeyIssue/code-of-conduct-process (accessed on 29 October 2019).

[18] Lebanese Forces (2019), “تفاصيل البيان الوزاري للحكومة الجديدة”, https://www.lebanese-forces.com/2019/02/12/new-gov-2/.

[10] May, K. (2018), “Feds launch ‘digital academy’ for public service”, Online article, iPolitics online, https://ipolitics.ca/2018/10/18/feds-launch-new-digital-academy-for-ps-to-help-drive-technology-makeover/ (accessed on 2 July 2020).

[13] OECD (2019), OECD Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies, https://www.oecd.org/gov/digital-government/recommendation-on-digital-government-strategies.htm (accessed on 29 October 2019).

[1] OECD (2019), Open Government in Argentina, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/1988ccef-en.

[17] OECD (2019), Recommendation of the Council on Public Service Leadership and Capability, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0445 (accessed on 29 October 2019).

[12] OECD (2017), Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, https://legalinstruments.oecd.org/en/instruments/OECD-LEGAL-0438.

[16] OECD (2017), Skills for a High Performing Civil Service, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264280724-en.

[3] OECD (2016), Open Government in Tunisia, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264227118-en.

[2] OECD (2016), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264268104-en.

[4] OGP (2019), OGP Handbook Rules and Guidance for Participants, Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/OGP_Handbook-Rules-Guidance-for-Participants_20190313.pdf (accessed on 15 November 2019).

[5] OGP (2018), OGP Participation and Co-Creation Toolkit, Open Government Partnership, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/stories/ogps-participation-and-co-creation-toolkit-from-usual-suspects-to-business-as-usual/ (accessed on 15 November 2019).

[20] OPSI (2018), Education in Open Government, Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, https://oecd-opsi.org/innovations/education-in-open-government/ (accessed on 3 April 2020).

[7] Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (n.d.), “Open Government Team: Work packages”, unpublished draft.

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