Critical to the success of the overall reform effort is the ability of the public to have access to information on the activities of Government. The reform of the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation is one of the key measures aimed at ensuring that this access is secured to the greatest possible extent. The changes being introduced underpin efforts to rebuild public trust in the State and to enhance public governance through a significant strengthening of openness, transparency and accountability of government and public administration. In support of the legislative changes, a Code of Practice is being developed to assist all public bodies subject to the new Act to enhance their capacity and procedures for dealing effectively and efficiently with FOI requests.
In addition, participation in the Open Government Partnership provides an important international complement to national reform efforts as the Open Government Partnership provides an international platform for countries committed to making their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Through the Open Government Partnership, governments and civil society groups can work together to develop and implement ambitious reforms.
Another major element of the reform programme is the comprehensive updating of the statutory framework governing standards in public office. A major project being progressed is the development of an integrated Ethics Bill which will consolidate, modernise and simplify the existing legislative framework. The end result will be a much improved anti-corruption system in relation to ethics matters, which will both control and regulate conflicts of interest in public life in Ireland.
The intention behind this suite of Government reforms is to strengthen the democratic role of individual citizens by enabling them to see more clearly how the institutions of the State operate and to ensure that their rights are protected in all their dealings with the State.
The public will be able to gain greater insights into the formulation of policy including identification of the sectors and organisations which seek to influence both Government and key public service decision makers. Citizens will be able to see more clearly how decisions are made, whether they relate to broad macro-economic or social issues or to decisions affecting the rights and entitlements of the individual, thus empowering them in contributing more effectively to the democratic process.