Agencies’ transparency plans need improvement, groups say

Transparency groups want improvements to agencies’ open-government plans

Some government organizations in charge of strengthening transparency programs governmentwide have relatively weak plans for making their own agencies more open, according to a coalition of open-government advocates. Overall, reviewers found that open-government plans recently released by agencies and departments across the government varied widely.

The group that organized the audit, OpenTheGovernment.org, then ranked the plans and those from the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget were near the bottom. Organizers said those findings were “of particular disappointment” because of the key role OMB and Justice are supposed to play in transparency efforts.

The open-government plans of agencies were reviewed and scored by volunteers from nonprofit groups, academia, and other organizations. Agencies released plans to make their organizations more transparent in April. They were required to do so by a directive from the Obama administration issued last December.

OMB has responsibility for overseeing parts of that directive and Justice is in charge of putting in place the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, OpenTheGovernment.org said.


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Kundra, Chopra say most open-government plans need more work


In addition to plans from Justice and OMB, the Treasury, Defense and Energy departments had the least impressive plans, according to OpenTheGovernment.org. Meanwhile, NASA, the Housing and Urban Development Department, and the Environmental Protection Agency developed plans that “serve as models for other agencies by going beyond” all of the directive’s requirements, that group said.

OpenTheGovernment.org said some plans are exceptional, others are quite weak, and most are in between. The group added that many of the plans that don't meet the minimal requirements laid out in the directive could do so with "only modest improvements."

Those findings differed from those of a recent assessment of the plans done by the administration that also looked at how the agencies' road maps met the directive's requirements.

OpenTheGovernment.org wants agencies to continue to improve the plans and the coalition plans to reassess agencies’ plans in early June.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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