Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform publishes proposed Guidelines for Public Consultation

Issued 27 July 2015

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin T.D., today (27 July 2015) published proposed principles-based Guidelines which aim to foster greater citizen consultation and involvement in policy and service development to strengthen democracy and improve public services. The Guidelines will now be the subject of a public consultation process (until 18 September).

Minister Howlin said:-

“One of the key aims of the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan is to build on initiatives that are in place, and take new steps to embed citizen participation in a sustainable way in public policy making and service delivery, across the spectrum of national and local level work. These principles-based Guidelines for public bodies are an important step towards achieving that objective. This will also contribute to the achievement of the commitments in the Civil Service Renewal Plan to strengthen policy-making skills and develop more open approaches to policy making.”      

The Guidelines were developed following a review of national and international guidelines and, in common with many countries elsewhere, they adopt a principles-based approach to public consultation. The aim is to improve transparency, responsiveness and accessibility of consultations.

The Minister also said –

“These draft Guidelines propose to improve the way public bodies consult with an emphasis on real, meaningful and targeted engagement to ensure that interested and affected parties have the opportunity to take part in open consultations at all stages in the policy process. I believe that this is important in achieving the ultimate objective of better outcomes focused on meeting public needs and greater understanding by all involved”.  

The Minister highlighted recent examples of public consultation and engagement including the National Economic Dialogue which took place in Dublin Castle on 16-17 July and the consultative event held by his Department in the Institute of Public Administration on 14 July which examined further steps in creating a sustainable OGP community enhancing involvement of citizens and civil society in the Open Government Partnership.

ENDS

Notes to Editor

  • An eight week consultation process is being initiated on the draft Guidelines. Anyone wishing to submit their views may do so by forwarding them to guidelinesonconsultation@per.gov.ie by close of business 18 September 2015.
  • All submissions will be considered and may be published on the Department’s website and will be subject to Freedom of Information legislation.
  • It is proposed, following the consultation process, to submit the draft Guidelines resulting from the consultation process to the Government in the Autumn, for final approval.
  • The Open Government Partnership National Action Plan (2014-2016) was developed jointly with civil society and citizen interests and launched in July 2014.
  • The Civil Service Renewal Plan (2014) commits to strengthening policy-making skills and developing more open approaches to policymaking.
  • A review of national and international guidelines was carried out. This included an examination of the Codes of Practice/Guidance on Consultation, and Consultation Principles in place in the UK, Australia, and Canada as well as those produced by the Council of Europe, the OECD, and the European Commission. A principles based approach to public consultation is advocated by these administrations and institutions.

In summary, the key principles adopted in the principles-based Guidelines are:

  • Consultation with citizens must be genuine, meaningful, timely, balanced and with the ultimate objective of leading to better outcomes and greater understanding by all involved of the benefits and consequences of proceeding with a particular policy or legislation proposals.
  • Consultation should be targeted at and easily accessible to those with a clear interest in the policy in question.
  • In the case of significant policy, services or legislative proposals, public bodies should make systematic efforts to ensure that interested and affected parties have the opportunity to take part in open consultations at all stages of the policy process: development, implementation, evaluation, and review.