What Is the Open Government Act?

Open Government Act

The Open Government Act, known as Wet open overheid (Woo) in the Netherlands, refers to a piece of legislation that aims to promote government transparency and openness. It obligates government agencies to provide easy access to government data and documents. The act replaces the previous legislation, known as Wet openbaarheid van bestuur (Wob).

The Open Government Act came into force on May 1, 2022.

Objective of the Open Government Act

The primary purpose of the Open Government Act is to increase public access to government information and promote citizen engagement. This practice intends to fortify the values of transparency, honesty and accountability in government procedures.

Main provisions

The primary provisions of this act include the following:

Broadened scope

The new act expands on the old legislation and applies to a wide range of public agencies, such as administrative bodies associated with municipalities and provinces. It also includes private companies involved in public administration activities.

Proactive disclosure

The act outlines the general duty to actively disclose information concerning public policy preparation, assessment and enforcement. It also highlights a specific list of information that should be disclosed, such as covenants and all public authority decisions.

Passive disclosure

Passive disclosure allows anyone to request information from government and private agencies. The agencies can take four weeks, with a possible two-week extension, to process these requests.

Absolute and relative exceptions

Absolute exceptions to the act include information related to state security and stability, confidential business data and personal information. Relative exceptions cover areas like environmental protection, economic interests and criminal offence investigations.

Procedures for public requests

Anyone can file a request with a government agency, such as the central government, water boards and municipalities, for specific information.

The request can be submitted online, via mail or in-person to gain access to specific information without demonstrating any particular interest. The receiving body must decide within four weeks. The deadline is temporarily suspended if the receiving body must ask another party for its response.

Improve the quality and accessibility of information

The new act introduces shorter decision-making periods and a central platform to publicise all information. It also allows information requests from researchers and journalists, permitting the disclosure of information that is normally not publicised.

Privacy guidelines for sensitive information

The ultimate decision to disclose or withhold information is based on balancing different interests. The benefits of disclosure must be weighed against those of maintaining privacy. However, certain material, such as confidential business information, cannot be disclosed in any case. The act also bars disclosing personal policy views of civil servants and officials.

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