Civic Forum Kilkenny

Key points raised (by theme)

Strengthening Governance and Accountability

[LA-gov-standard]

Prevent and challenge corruption

  •         Put in place more mechanisms to hold civil servants to account – “this will be a necessity as we move towards a more participatory democracy. In addition, accountability is not just being answerable to someone, there also has to be consequences”. [LA-gov-standard] [common-goals-results]
  •         Introduce an independent body to oversee local authorities’ adherence to planning permission when the local authority is the developer “An Bord Pleanala should be given the power to be an independent adjudicator”. [anti-corruption-commiss] [LA-gov-standard]

Strengthen Oversight & Accountability

  •         Introduce a Governance mechanism surrounding recruitment processes to ensure that there is no conflict of interest.[LA-gov-standard]
  •         Ensure that every local authority has an independently chaired monitoring and evaluation committee around obligations that a local authority is supposed to proceed with. .[LA-gov-standard]
  •         Ensure the following three elements of accountability exist in Irish Local Government – 1. the ability to be questioned, 2. to be counteracted and 3. to be removed (few of those currently exist). Refer to international examples for best practice guidance (e.g. the United States).
  •         Ensure that Public bodies and local authorities have a suite of governance indicators in their Corporate plans. Ensure those indicators are internally and externally selected. [LA-gov-standard]
  •         Introduce a Corporate governance standard for local authorities that is independently monitored (ensure the Public Duty Obligations in the Human Rights Act is reflected in the Corporate Governance Standard – this will provide leverage for compliance). [LA-gov-standard] 

[expand-PAC-to-LA]

Strengthen Oversight & Accountability

  •         Expand the powers of the PAC to audit/look at what happens a local level – “Local authority spending of money is not subject to the PAC. They are not answerable to anybody, there should be an audit body who looks at how local authorities spend local money – they should be subject to the same criteria of examination”.[expand-PAC-to-LA]
  •         Establish a Local Government PAC – “This should be independent of Local Authorities, (but equivalent in authority), a Statutory body and its main role should be to Investigate and provide oversight”. [expand-PAC-to-LA]

Transparency and Open Data

[open-public-spend-data]

Increase transparency & effectiveness of public budget spending

Increase transparency in relation to;

  •         How decisions are made regarding budgets (who does what, where the money go, what decisions were made behind that spending) [open-public-spend-data] [duty-create-records]
  •         Tax – “it’s very hard to obtain any detailed information – people wouldn’t be so annoyed paying tax if they knew where it was going – money is thrown into a kitty and we don’t know where it goes” [open-public-spend-data]
  •  Provide further transparency with regards to the “actual” budget – “Budgeting (including national and local level) – should include poverty proofing, impact must be published in Dáil and debated before budget day”.[open-public-spend-data] –  Increase transparency in relation to how decisions are made regarding budgets (who does what, where the money go, what decisions were made behind that spending) [open-public-spend-data]
  • Housing Associations (and Charities) –  they get billions from the Government but they don’t appear to be accountable to anyone. Provide more information on how much they get, from where, how they spend it and salaries received (capping is key). [open-public-spend-data]
  •         Fiscal transparency – future focuses too much on planned expenditure (and rolling budgeting). [open-public-spend-data]
  •         Ensure transparency surrounding tax e.g. Sweden.[open-public-spend-data]
  •         [The Non-profit sector needs to] Demonstrate accountability and transparency when dealing with state funds. [open-public-spend-data]

[duty-create-records]

Increase transparency in relation to;

  •         How decisions are made regarding budgets (who does what, where the money go, what decisions were made behind that spending) [open-public-spend-data] [duty-create-records]

[foi-open-by-default]

Strengthen Freedom of Information

  •         Ensure that FOI redaction is undertaken on proper grounds. [foi-open-by-default]
  •         Ensure that there is an appropriate balance between data release v data protection. [foi-open-by-default] 
  •         Provide more transparency with regards to government appointments – e.g. Judges and State Boards. 

[std-data-publish-format]

Build capacity on the creation, use and promotion of Open Data

  •         Ensure that there are proper data systems in place (organisations to create usable data) and that indicators (e.g. poverty) are up to date. [std-data-publish-format]
  •         Introduce common Data Standards across public service “Make sure that there is consistency in knowledge, actions and rules across public sector”. [std-data-publish-format]
  •         Put the data in context – “Provide comparisons to other countries/sectors, % of total – this will help make sense of the data.” 
  •         Ensure that the data provided allows for more meaningful, consumable information, which aids in good decision making – “Data = Information = Knowledge = Wisdom” 
  •         Raise awareness of the Open Data website (accurate, timely, complete, detailed, structured and searchable) – “Open data has value!” [

Open New Datasets

  •         Provide data based on what people need – “ask people what data they want”. 
  •         Provide more searchable, open data (e.g. cancer clusters, telecom masts). [std-data-publish-format] 
  •         Publish the results from multi-annual planning “Transparency is key”. 
  •         Undertake Poverty and Environmental Impact Assessments and openly publish the results. 

Strengthening Citizen Engagement

[citizen-initiatives]

Increase citizens power in setting the agenda

  •         Bring back Article 48 of the old constitution – “engagement needs to start at a local level”. [citizen-initiatives]

[Citizen-engagement-org]

Build enabling structures and drivers for effective citizen engagement

  •         Establish a broader citizen’s advice network on ‘civic engagement’ or a group of people citizens can go to for advice. [Citizen-engagement-org]
  •         Reduce the costs for citizens to participate and further incentive those individuals to get involved. Flexibility with time and accessibility is key. [Citizen-engagement-org] [OGP-consultation-process]
  •         Make engagement ‘relevant’ to the audience at hand. [gov-communication] [Citizen-engagement-org]
  •         Move away from statutory processes (too rigid and linear) that don’t involve proper engagement.  Produce a methodology and a score card to monitor and evaluate the level of engagement that local authorities/public bodies do. [Citizen-engagement-org] [engagement-innovations] 
  • Ensure that there is more citizen participation in County development plans. [office-pipa] [Citizen-engagement-org]
  •  Ensure decisions are not pre-determined when running consultation exercises. Poor historical engagement efforts have left citizens feeling dis-hearted and cynical of the process (e.g. Kilkenny County Council and Urban Studies from London project – vast majority of suggestions were ignored; consultees feedback did not influence the end outcome). [capacity-rewards-scheme] [LA-gov-standard] [public-sector-capacity-train] [Citizen-engagement-org]
  • Reduce the costs for citizens to participate and further incentive those individuals to get involved. Flexibility with time and accessibility is key. [Citizen-engagement-org] [OGP-consultation-process]

[gov-communication]

  •         Remove the word ‘Public Consultation’ as is it tokenistic. [gov-communication]
  •         Further manage people’s expectations with regards to the consultation process – i.e. clearly explain what they can and can’t influence. [gov-communication] [public-sector-capacity-train]

[ppn-support-structures]

  •         Use the PPN’s as a vehicle to help individuals understand the ‘practice’ of engagement. [ppn-support-structures]
  •         Ensure political leadership doesn’t stem from PPN’s – “there is a fear that this is already happening”. [ppn-support-structures]
  •         Raise awareness of PPN’s and aim to ensure that they draw in a range of organisations/individuals/ordinary citizens – not just those in pre-defined community groups – “The current focus is too narrow”. [ppn-support-structures]
  •         Don’t rule out the PPN’s just yet – it’s far too early to tell if they are/aren’t working;  
  •         “PPN’s are in the very early stages of development. They have quite a complex structure and will take time to develop, but it won’t be without it challenges”
  •         “PPN’s should be recognised for lots of other structures – we should encourage broader groups of communities to feed into PPN’s”
  •         “The creation of the PPN was a result of poor consultation. Some communities are more developed than others, there is no consistency”
  •         “They are going in the right direction, but need a lot of nurturing” [ppn-support-structures]
  •         Further explain the Government’s position on referendums. [engagement-innovations]

[public-sector-capacity-train]

Build capacity of the public sector personnel in citizen engagement

  • Undertake a major re-skilling and up-skilling exercise with existing public sector workers in participative methodologies of engagement or else employ experts from private sector to carry out that work – “This is necessary within in local government to transform civic engagement. A shift in mindset is required, participation is not a linear process, citizens need to be treated as experts. “Sometimes government officials are just ‘dumped’ with it and don’t know what to do”. [public-sector-capacity-train]
  • Send members of the Judiciary on a refresher course every five years – focus on citizen engagement, governance and accountability. [public-sector-capacity-train] 
  • Ensure that Civic Engagement is included a separate, standalone module on the IPA website (the main public body training website for public officials). “There are about 100 modules offered but there is not one module on civic engagement”. [public-sector-capacity-train] 
  •  Implement training courses on ‘Civic Engagement’ for local Councillors. “A number of local councillors don’t know that their role/job is. They confuse using it as a platform to get a TD elected to actually doing the job of a local Councillor”. [public-sector-capacity-train]
  •  Ensure decisions are not pre-determined when running consultation exercises. Poor historical engagement efforts have left citizens feeling dis-hearted and cynical of the process (e.g. Kilkenny County Council and Urban Studies from London project – vast majority of suggestions were ignored; consultees feedback did not influence the end outcome). [capacity-rewards-scheme] [LA-gov-standard] [public-sector-capacity-train] 
  • Further manage people’s expectations with regards to the consultation process – i.e. clearly explain what they can and can’t influence. [public-sector-capacity-train] [gov-communication]
  • [Those running a consultation need to] Further demonstrate how consultees feedback influenced the end outcome and if not, why not – “Individuals get frustrated when engagement doesn’t influence the end outcome”. [public-sector-capacity-train] [Citizen-engagement-org][capacity-rewards-scheme] [LA-gov-standard]
  • Make sure that citizen engagement runs at two levels – pre-proposal and at proposal level – “it is a bounce back, not a one off”. [public-sector-capacity-train] [Citizen-engagement-org][capacity-rewards-scheme] [office-pipa] 
  •  Make sure that Civic Engagement forms part of public bodies performance measurement system. [public-sector-capacity-train] 
  •  National Officials need to confirm that they believe the Civic Engagement is a legitimate process. “I’m not convinced that that National officials who designed the civic engagement processes believe that civic engagement is a legitimate process (was in the Government white paper 200 and then ignored). This needs to be seen as legitimate and the message needs to come down through the system that this is a legitimate activity”. [public-sector-capacity-train]
  • Provide more dedicated resources to create better data “We need to increase resources for open data within Public Sector/Civil Service”. [public-sector-capacity-train] 
  • Provide more emphasis on training (e.g. leadership, resources, graduate training) of public officials in transparency – “A change the culture of public sector is required”.[public-sector-capacity-train] 
  • Ensure the following terms permeate Government Department Corporate Plans – Fairness, Justice, Inclusion, Equity (a key aspect here is changing the ‘governmental’ mindset). [gov-communication] [public-sector-capacity-train]

[common-goals-results]

  •  Rotate County Engineers from County to County every four years to ensure consistency across all LGA’s and to avoid compliancy (role should be project based rather than local authority based). [public-sector-capacity-train] [common-goals-results] 
  •  Introduce a refresher training and rotate staff to avoid corruption and ineptness (performance measures should come into play). [common-goals-results]  [public-sector-capacity-train]
  •  Implement a system that requires Government officials to be monitored so that they don’t engage in complacent behaviour (ensure adherence to performance measures/metrics). [common-goals-results]

[body-accessible-info]

Improve public communication & access to information for citizens

  • Run free courses for adults who are not in school. “Don’t give up on the generation of people who are out of school. The majority of people in Ireland don’t have a clue about politics, the political structure, the history of the Irish political system so they can’t put anything into context – don’t give up on the generation that are out of school – there needs to be free courses for people to up skill’. [body-accessible-info] 
  • Increase citizens understanding of the implications of the Public Participative Directive and the Aarhus Convention – “Citizens lack knowledge on what they are entitled to” [body-accessible-info]

[gov-communication]

[info-understood-by-all]

Improve public communication & access to information for citizens 

  • Introduce a standardised approach with regards to how to contact staff in Civil Service – “There is a vast difference on the type of information available on websites – e.g. role, phone number, email, picture”.[gov-communication]
  • Run an awareness raising campaign with regards to the ‘type’ of information that is currently available (e.g. citizeninfos.ie.).[gov-communication]
  • Simplify information/data – use Plain English (e.g. fiscal space). Spread the word – use more channels such as Social Media, TV. [info-understood-by-all] [gov-communication] 
  • Implement an aggressive Governmental PR strategy to raise awareness of consultations and the importance of them – “This could be used to spread the word and rely information, rather than simply loading a consultation onto a website for people to access – Corporate Organisations do this when selling a product, so why can’t Government?”. [gov-communication] 
  • Simplify complex language/explain things in plain English – people don’t get involved in the decision making processes as they feel “uneducated and stupid”.  [gov-communication] 
  • Use social media and political programmes on TV to further simplify debates – people could ring up and ask questions. [gov-communication] [engagement-innovations] 
  •  [The Government could] Further use student unions as a vehicle to pass on information on particular consultation topics. [gov-communication]
  •  Live stream local authority’s meetings (e.g. Belfast City Council run a live stream).[gov-communication]
  • Ensure the following terms permeate Government Department Corporate Plans – Fairness, Justice, Inclusion, Equity (a key aspect here is changing the ‘governmental’ mindset). [gov-communication] [public-sector-capacity-train]

[educate-young]

Educate young people for active citizenship

  •  Start teaching Sociology and Politics in secondary schools (should be examination subject), “We need to teach people that the things that shape their lives matter and they can shape them. If people don’t know that things matter they won’t get involved”. [educate-young]

[engagement-innovations]

Foster innovation in citizen engagement

  •  Use more creative, fun participation techniques (e.g. running a festival with stalls discussing different topics, engaging via musical instruments, implementing a gardening project, running a pub quiz) – people lose interest if bored. [engagement-innovations]
  • Use different methods and mechanisms of engagement based on the audience at hand – relevance to the audience is key. Refer to Comhairle Náisiúnta na nÓg who effectively engage with Youth. [engagement-innovations]
  • Develop software and an app to help facilitate conversation and enable remote conversations (e.g. Virtual Taiwan), however still remain mindful of those who can’t engage online (e.g. vulnerable groups, the elderly etc [engagement-innovations]
  • Develop a toolkit consisting of best practice citizen engagement case studies and disseminate across County Councils, run a pilot to test viability and evaluate against current performance. [engagement-innovations]
  • Refer to examples such as Tralee Town Council Regeneration Plan (they put in place effective structures such as steering committees and working groups, employed knowledgeable consultation experts, introduced constant feedback loops and therefore built trust in the community) and EirGrid for best practice guidance. [engagement-innovations]
  • Ensure that government officials ‘have a face’ in the community (e.g. put government officials on a stage where they discuss topics, run a Q&A session where there is feedback from the community). These officials could simplify topics (like in ancient Greece) and it will make them more accessible to the general public.  [engagement-innovations]

[Participatory-budgeting]

  • Make sure that citizens participate in budget prioritisation – “early/timely decision making is key”.  [participatory-budgeting]
  •         Introduce participatory voting at local level.[participatory-budgeting]

[General]

  •         Introduce the concept of elected Mayors. [General ]
  •         Introduce mechanisms to bring the right type of people into local politics – “the standard of County Councillors is often ‘terrible’”. [General]

[OGP-consultation-process]

Improve the OGP Consultation Process

  •         OGP needs to “up its game” in engaging people – the missing letter in OGP is ‘Partnership’. “I don’t feel that there has been a real openness to partner – this was also noted in the independent report.” [OGP-consultation-process]
  •         One attendee raised a number of points regarding the effectiveness and viability of the OGP NAP2 consultation process;
  •         “Why aren’t there more individuals (i.e. ‘just people’) – at the forum – this represents engagement from the bottom up”.
  •         “I feel the online portal is exclusionary as is uses expert language. In addition, the structure of the portal itself makes is inaccessible to citizens who want to engage in the project”
  •         “I am surprised from the leap of the four points that were outlined in the International Agreement by seven countries to the complete change in emphasis to the three points talked about in the Civic forum – this is indicative of the problem of engagement – somebody somewhere decided to transpose this onto on us”
  •         “It is not possible to undertake a robust consultation process within 8-10 weeks”.
  •         “In summary, advertising, language, structure and time is a problem”.
  •  Clearly publish the results of what has been achieved since the first National Action Plan – “A registration of lobbyists appears to have been the only thing that has been achieved”.  [OGP-consultation-process]
  • Openly communicate what impact the consultations had on the final National Action Plan 2.  [OGP-consultation-process]
  •  Reduce the costs for citizens to participate and further incentive those individuals to get involved. Flexibility with time and accessibility is key. [Citizen-engagement-org] [OGP-consultation-process]