Open-government groups set to score agencies' transparency plans

Agencies must release their plans April 7

The deadline that agencies have been working toward for months is finally here. Agencies must release their open government plans on April 7, and watchdog groups are standing by to evaluate them.

Agencies have been building their Open Government Plans to describe how they will improve transparency and integrate public participation into their activities since the Obama administration released its Open Government Directive last December. Those plans are to be posted on each agency’s open government Web site April 7, allowing the public to see how those organizations plan to open up.

Each agency’s plan is supposed to explain how the agency plans to improve transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Agencies are also supposed to describe at least one new, related program that’s being put in place, or soon will be.


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Gary Bass, executive director of OMB Watch, said he expects some unevenness in the progress that agencies have made on their plans. However, Bass said a lack of resources or time constraints – rather than resistance – are likely reasons that some agencies aren’t as far as along as others.

“What I find remarkable about the experience so far is how much energy all of the agencies have brought to this,” Bass said. “So far, I have not seen the kind of tug of war that I expected.”

OMB Watch is part of OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition that has developed a process to score the plans. The group has put all the elements that the administration required for the plans into an evaluation form.

Each element or component is worth zero to three points depending on an agency’s performance. A plan that fulfills all requirements, but doesn’t get bonus points, would get 60 points. OpenTheGovernment.org hopes to have the scoring done by April 16.

For each required component of the plan, agencies will get:

  • Zero points if it’s not included in the plan.
  • One point if the plan includes a reference of the component.
  • Two points if the plan fulfills a requirement.
  • Three points if the agency exceeds a requirement .

Amy Bennett, a program associate with OpenTheGovernment.org, said the goal of the audit is to have a tool to quickly assess the plans that are expected to be between 30 and 60 pages each.

Bryan Rahija, the blog editor at the Project on Government Oversight that will evaluate the Defense, Energy and Interior departments, as well as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the audit, said his organization is focused on making sure that agencies are emphasizing accountability in their plans.

“We really want to make sure that they have an eye on the long term when it comes to transparency,” Rahija said.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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