18 April 2013

In an interesting coincidence the Treasury Secretary in New Zealand and the Programme Director of the UK Institute of Government have drawn attention this week to the need for a better approach to policy development.

The inference is that officials are not providing their governments with the quality of policy development that they deserve – that in terms of the Standards of Integrity and Conduct for the State Services appropriate attention is not being given to considering how to carry out agency functions in better and more successful ways.

A proposal in the UK civil service reform plan is that openness in policy development should be the default position.  Ideas for achieving this include crowdsourcing, policy labs, and arrangements  “to make more data freely available so experts can test and challenge our approaches…”  The plan also expects Departmental heads to be accountable for the quality of their agencies advice and to challenge policies which are not based in evidence and practice.

The New Zealand Government has raised an expectation of “policy stewardship”. State sector agencies are to “…articulate what their regimes are trying to achieve, what costs they may impose and what the risks are…” The Treasury Secretary has suggested that our policy evaluations are not as good as they could be or that we’re not sharing our analysis with as broad a constituency as we might…” This sounds rather like the new UK focus on policy openness.  It is the contemporary path to meeting the requirements of agencies to perform efficiently, effectively, economically and with a spirit of service to the public.