Most Agencies Improve Open Government Plans Before Deadline


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Contact: Patrice McDermott or Amy Bennett, OpenTheGovernment.org, 202-332-6736 pmcdermott @ openthegovernment.org or afuller @ openthegovernment.org

 

Most Agencies Improve Open Government Plans Before Deadline

Washington, DC, June 28, 2010 – Twenty-two of 39 federal agencies responded to the call from OpenTheGovernment.org to issue revised Open Government Plans by last Friday’s deadline. OpenTheGovernment.org will work with volunteers to re-evaluate the strength of the plans, and provide feedback on the changes. The organization will release updated findings in July.

The response by so many agencies is very encouraging and truly in the spirit of the Open Government Directive. Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, said of these efforts “"That agencies have worked to update and revise their plans beyond the President’s publication deadline indicates openness is becoming a priority for the agencies as well as the Administration. We look forward to moving to implementation of the plans."

The Obama administration’s December 8, 2009, Open Government Directive (OGD) required executive agencies to develop and post Open Government Plans by April 7, 2010. This deadline was met, but an independent audit – organized by OpenTheGovernment.org and conducted by volunteers from nonprofit groups, academia, and other organizations that serve the public interest who have experience working with the agencies and evaluating information policies – found that many of the original Open Government Plans produced by the agencies failed to fulfill the basic requirements outlined in the OGD.

The initial audit did not include evaluations of the plans produced by several agencies that were not required to do so by the Obama Administration. These agencies are: Broadcasting Board of Governors; Corporation for National & Community Service; Export-Import Bank; Merit Systems Protection Board; National Archives and Records Administration; National Endowment for the Arts; Overseas Private Investment Corporation; Railroad Retirement Board; Udall Foundation; and US Peace Corps. Other entities also produced open government plans, but they did not have enough substance to fully evaluate the plans. McDermott said, "The initiative taken by these agencies is impressive and should be fully recognized by the administration. The voluntary plans will be included in our re-audit and will receive bonus points for going beyond the call of duty." OpenTheGovernment.org and their evaluators provided informal feedback on these plans to the agencies in May.

In light of the ample room for improvement, OpenTheGovernment.org invited revisions to the plans by June 25 for re-evaluation. Many of the agencies expressed a desire for more guidance on their revisions and reached out to the evaluators on how to better meet the specifications in the OGD in their plans. This collaboration will hopefully pay dividends in the improvements in the plans, as well as helping the agencies to implement the OGD.

Updated plans were produced by a wide-range of agencies: from all five agencies that produced plans evaluated by the audit as the "weakest" to five of the eight plans evaluated as the "strongest." Also, four agencies that were not required to produce plans submitted revisions.

All of the revised Open Government Plans will be re-evaluated in the coming weeks. Volunteer auditors will apply the same methodology used in the previous audit to measure the extent to which agencies meet the administration’s standards as spelled out in the OGD, as well as bonus criteria based on more rigorous standards under development by independent non-governmental groups, such as regularly posting inspector general reports and agency visitor logs.

The coalition views the plans and the audits as the beginning first steps of an ongoing process to make government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative, and applauds agencies for continuing to work to improve and strengthen the plans. Currently, the coalition and their evaluators are developing metrics to evaluate how agencies are implementing open government.

Participating Evaluators: American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Center for Democracy and Technology, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, OMB Watch, OpenTheGovernment.org, POGO (Project On Government Oversight), Union of Concerned Scientists, faculty and students at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, and volunteers Giovanni Piazza, Digital Strategist and Knowledge Executive, and Ted Smith (Health Central, for identification purposes only).

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