copy the linklink copied! Executive summary

Kazakhstan is taking steps towards greater openness, is striving to ensure the transparency of government-held information and data by publishing official decisions and improving access to public services, including through digital channels. Yet, like many other countries around the world, it faces complex challenges on the path towards open government, which the OECD defines as “a culture of governance that promotes the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth.”

copy the linklink copied!Enabling policy and legal framework for open government

The government of Kazakhstan has shown a strong interest in enhancing transparency, accountability and participation in the policy-making cycle in order to strengthen public trust in government and improve the quality of public services. As part of the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, the government has developed five institutional reforms to help reinforce the capacity of the state to fulfil its objective of being among the 30 most-developed countries in the world by 2050. One of these five institutional reforms is “Transparency and Accountability of the State”, which underlines the administration’s commitment to open government reforms.

Kazakhstan has already made significant achievements in this field, including the approval of an access to information (ATI) law and the creation of public councils as the institutions dedicated to enable citizen participation. Still, further steps could be taken to strengthen the participation of stakeholders in policy-making and ensure the incorporation of open government principles in Kazakhstan’s governance culture.

Among the priorities yet to be addressed by the administration is the need to establish a single definition of open government that is fully recognised and acknowledged by the whole public sector, and communicated to and accepted by all stakeholders. According to OECD good practices, this definition, together with the development of a structured and holistic open government strategy, are crucial for broadening the scope and impact of Kazakhstan’s open government agenda.

The definition and strategy would help to ensure a level playing field for non-governmental actors, including hybrid bodies (i.e. combinations of public and independent institutions) such as public councils and business chambers, which act as regular advisory partners to the administration.

copy the linklink copied!Public council as a mechanism for stakeholder participation

Kazakhstan has institutionalised stakeholder participation in the policy cycle through the creation of public councils, in which two-third of the seats are assigned to civil society and one-third to public officials. Suggestions by the public councils are advisory in nature, but their consideration is obligatory for all relevant public institutions, which are required to provide a response. Accordingly, through this provision public councils play an important role whenever public officials are tasked to produce policy proposals, evaluate the performance of public institutions, and make suggestions to improve services.

The main positive features of public councils can be summarised as follows:

  • The law upon which the councils were established gives clear instruction to both officials and stakeholders on the mandate and functions of councils;

  • Councils are proving effective in improving the transparency of the decision-making process by disseminating relevant information about the activities of the public institution they are attached to.

  • Councils act as a unique platform in the country for involving civil society stakeholders in the policy-making cycle as well as in the evaluation of public services.

  • Councils are permanent institutions. Hence, even if members rotate, the format of a permanent council enables gradual accumulation of expertise and improves the culture of governance.

copy the linklink copied!Recommendations to improve the governance of public councils

If the government seeks to empower councils to effectively give voice to citizens’ concerns and perform their control functions, as mandated by the law, the councils’ governance should be further improved by: including a greater diversity of citizen groups, conducting operations in a more transparent manner, and to better facilitate the stakeholders’ expertise and proposals as valuable input to decisions taken by public institutions. Key recommendations focus on applying standard requirements for establishing and managing councils. In particular:

  • The transparency of councils as a mechanism for stakeholder participation could be improved by disclosing more information on their composition, including publishing criteria for nominating their members.

  • Councils’ transparency needs to be upheld in an ongoing manner by regularly disseminating information about the councils' work and its impact.

  • Councils should be granted greater financial autonomy.

  • The public institution that establishes a public council, be it a municipality or a ministry, should consider covering the costs related to procuring external expertise, such as legal advisory services, carrying out site visits to monitor public services, or conducting other activities to ensure that councils carry out their functions according to the criteria set by the law.

copy the linklink copied!Recommendations to improve the functions of public councils as mandated by law

Among the functions of the public councils foreseen by the law is to provide expert opinions on draft regulations from the perspective of civil society. However, the public consultation process currently lacks explicit calls for comments, clear timelines, and guidance on how to report on the use of the feedback received. Accordingly:

  • Clearer guidelines on how to conduct public consultation processes would benefit councils, and in general all stakeholders, and would encourage their engagement in providing input into policy-making. In order to ensure that the consultation process is as inclusive and representative as possible, councils need to engage with all relevant stakeholders.

  • Specific training on how to carry out inclusive consultations should be made available for civil servants and public councils’ members.

    It is recommended to pay particular attention to closing the feedback loop by providing stakeholders with detailed feedback on the use of their comments and by following up on the implementation of the proposals made by public councils. Only by creating a responsive dialogue with the authorities can public councils serve their purpose of improving the accountability of public institutions in Kazakhstan.

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https://doi.org/10.1787/d21f1e98-en

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