Italy needs anti-corruption watchdog
Transparency International report highlights weakness in state bodies, media independence
Italy needs an independent anti-corruption watchdog to hold the country’s politicians, public officials and institutions to account and enforce new measures, such as the anti-corruption law currently going through parliament, Transparency International said today in a new report.
The survey, the first to evaluate the effectiveness of Italy’s politics, public service, businesses and media in the fight against corruption, also says the country needs specific codes of conduct for members of parliament and an end to parliamentary immunity from prosecution.
Transparency International Italy said the reforms are necessary to restore integrity in public life and stabilise the economy. It called for greater sanctions for, and prevention of corruption, but also more public education about it.
“Without an anti-corruption law, watchdog, and code of conduct, Italy is behind other countries when it comes to fighting corruption. To catch up at a time when Europe and Italy are facing economic crisis, our country needs to reinstate a culture of integrity, of professionalism and respect for the public interest from our schools to the highest levels of government,” said Maria Teresa Brassiolo, head of Transparency International Italy.
“Of utmost importance is the credibility of political representatives and public servants, who must be chosen with the greatest care, and need to show absolute proof of their transparency.”
The report says Italy’s justice system and state auditor lead the way in fighting corruption. It says that creating a body responsible for investigating and enforcing anti-corruption laws would bring the country in line with international anti-corruption treaties from the United Nations and the Council of Europe. 89 per cent of Italians think sanctions for corruption are currently too weak, according to a recent EU survey.
Ranked 69th out of 183 countries, Italy is one of the worst performing EU countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures perceptions of public sector corruption.
Today’s report seeks to explain the structural problems underlying this score, looking at how institutions perform when it comes to transparency, accountability and integrity. Italy’s public sector is weakest with problems both in law and in practice including nepotism, lack of access to information and lack of oversight.
Corruption and the economic crisis
Transparency International Italy warned that these institutional problems are also responsible in part for the country’s economic crisis, with a mismanagement of resources a particular concern since the public sector manages resources equal to about the 55% of Italy’s Gross National Product (€800 billion in 2009).
“In recent years, Italy’s leaders have not done half as much as they should have to fight corruption,” said Brassiolo. “Their failure to act has left systems of accountability and control of public spending weak and expensive, leading to enormous waste. We see examples of this on an almost daily basis and it can no longer be accepted.”
The report also warns about lack of independence in the media, citing a “super concentration” of political influence in the sector.
Political parties, parliament and the executive also score poorly, weakened by conflicts of interest, impunity against sanctions as well as conflicts with other state institutions. Italians think that political parties are the most corrupt institution in their country, according to a 2010 Transparency International survey.
Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption
Transparency International is analysing the institutions of 25 European countries and their effectiveness in fighting corruption, a project part-funded by the European Commission.
The first Italian report of its kind, the National Integrity System report takes an in-depth look at Italy’s anti-corruption structures, comparing thirteen institutions and sectors: anti-corruption agencies, business, central electoral services, civil society, the court of auditors, executive power, judiciary, law enforcement, media, the ombudsman, parliament, political parties, and public administration.