Corruption and Bribery; Just ‘Business As Usual’
Corruption is an issue that has been of particular importance in Italy. Ninety-seven percent of Italian citizens believe that corruption is widespread in their country, 42% claim that they are personally affected by corruption in their daily lives and 88% believe that bribery is the easiest way to achieve certain public services. The public’s trust in government institutions is low, especially because of the perception that public services are not equally accessible to all citizens. Reformers are hoping transparency and public participation can help turn this around.
Sustained Commitment to Transparency: OpenCoesione
Through three OGP action plans, spanning 2012-2021, the Italian government launched and strengthened OpenCoesione, an innovative online platform publishing spending of EU Cohesion Policy funds as open data. OpenCoesione publishes both budgets and expenditures of European Union Cohesion Funds and Italian National Funds for territorial development — money intended to reduce the economic, social and development disparities between Europe’s very diverse regions. In short, the platform publishes information about the implementation of projects funded by the EU and Italy and contains additional information on financial and socio-economic contexts.
Hackathons and Classroom Auditors
The platform has now published the details of 1 million projects and €100 billion of EU and national funding — from small student loans to highway bridges — through a searchable online archive. Efforts are also being made to encourage citizens to use this information: an ongoing civic “hackathon,” called Monithon, coordinates journalists, civil society, and data scientists to use the data and a competition motivates high school students to monitor public spending on local projects, called “A Scuola di Open Coesione” (ASOC). The project took off in 2013, training high school students to be on-the-ground auditors, analyzing the open data periodically released by OpenCoesione, visiting project sites, asking questions of local authorities and suggesting solutions, several of which are now implemented. From 2014 to 2021 over 30,000 students and 3,000 teachers have been trained to issue civic monitoring reports on the Monithon platform.
As a result of these efforts, the platform has become hugely popular, averaging around 1.5 million hits a month.
This searchable database is a powerful tool for identifying the misuse of public money, and it represents a serious step forward for transparency and accountability of public spending. While the possibility for the public to provide inputs has proven successful, future steps could involve forming a system through which the government can react to and give feedback.