Open Government

The new Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is publishing the agenda and minutes for the meetings of its management board – available here.

8 replies on “Open Government”

“Government Meeting: – An instruction regarding delivery of memos has been circulated by the Secretary General.”

That’s nice.

And when do we get “Open Government”?

I must admit Philip I’m not sure I can take any more of this “openness”

“• Dáil Business: –
– Clarification is required regarding Statements on Dáil Reform scheduled for
Thursday. This may be private members’ business. Action: Ms. Mulvihill to check
with Minster if he wishes to respond. If so, draft material will be required.
– The Department’s legislation will go through the second stage in the Dáil this week,
will be at committee stage by 9 June and should be enacted by end June/1 July.
Action: Ms. Coleman to meet with Minister, Secretary General and Mr. O’Brien
to discuss.
– The Smithwick Tribunal is also of note on this week’s schedule. The Government
has requested a report on the matter by end June.”

Any more “openness” like this and I might begin to think that Anglo Irish Bank is the most successful bank in Europe if not the universe.


Obviously “Open Government” is not for me.

@ Greg: You say: “Obviously “Open Government” is not for me.”

Kind of obvious if you hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

This sort of exercise could have the perverse effect of forcing the real discussions outside of these meetings and deeper into the dark recesses.

In a properly functioning system of democratic governance openness and transparency means that people can see (1) how conflicts between different interests making claims on the public purse, or how the interests of one group are advanced to the detriment of the interests of other groups, are resolved in the public interest, (2) what arguments and evidence are advanced in support of the contesting positions and (3) how the evidence is assessed in making decisions.

All we get is some notice that certain issues are being considered and options are being examined. Then a decision emerges as a fait accompli, it is spun furiously and the ensuing ‘debate’ generates a lot of noise but, generally, has no impact on the decision made. The rare occasions when a decision is significantly modified – either due to co-ordinated public pressure (think of the pensioners and their medical cards) or a serious backbench revolt – present the exceptions that prove the rule.

This sort of exercise is an optical illusion and is the opposite of genuine openness and transparency.

(On a related note, the Department of Communications, Marines and Natural Resources (as it was then) used to put something similar on its web-site back around 2003/04. I received some press publicity of my claims that the CER was authorising the ESB and BGE to overcharge for electricity and gas and this was mentioned in one agenda and set of minutes. The publication of the management ctttee agenda and minutes on the web-site ceased abruptly and without notice or explanation shortly afterwards. I’m sure it was entirely coincidental, but one can’t help wondering.)

An episode of “Yes Minister” comes to mind – “open government is a contradiction in terms. You either have openness or you have government you can’t have both.”

The Department of Transport used also to publish similarly bland information.

Does anyone else think the new Departmental logo resembles an upturned baggage trolley? I hope no one was hurt.

One thing I’d note is there are far too many people at those meetings, an average of 14. That is ineffective and wasteful, there’s plenty of org design literature which points to about 6 as being an optimal number. Also personally I’ve always found a meeting that goes above 12 needs a full time host (as distinct from agendamaster).

They’ve clearly fallen into the PS trap of feeling that ‘representiveness’ is more important than efficiency.

Comments are closed.