Following the Corruption Perception Index 2015 from Transparency International, only Bulgaria it’s worse than Italy among the EU nations. The issue affects the whole Italian national system but is even worse in the south, where corruption is endemic and the civil society scarcely experiments autonomy. This generates complete mistrust in the democratic procedures and sensibly reduces participation in politics. The cost of corruption, historically connected to the raising of the public debt, was, during the course of the global crisis, payed in terms of cuts or malfunctioning of public services. Corruption, that used to be a silent monster, have now clear consequences on citizens’ everyday lives in southern cities and towns. After Mafia’s massacres of the 90s, there were some signs of civic awakening. Nonetheless, these efforts found only little help from institutions. At that time, the system of privilege and corruption formed under the patronage system was guaranteed by a portion of the Public Administration, called “the grey area”, aimed at preserving the status quo. Understanding that this system was not tolerable in times of crisis, the national government started a faint effort to produce a new legislative framework to fight corruption and to provide transparency. This commitment became more consistent when Italy joined Open Government Partnership and proposed of the first National Action Plan 2012-2013. Amongst the (few) commitments of the plan that have been implemented, gave demonstration of importance of Open Government practices. One of these commitments was the deliverance of a more comprehensive normative framework against corruption and stimulated the adoption of a new law on transparency in 2013 as well as one against corruption in 2015. These steps raised the interest of various stakeholders among the press, CSOs, legal associations, which formed a movement named FOIA4Italy aimed at putting pressure on the national government for the approval of Italian Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). As a matter of fact, FOIA4Italy has significantly contributed to the content of the FOIA law approved just a few days ago.

This is a good example on the extent to which civic engagement can really advance and speed up items that are already part of the national institutional agenda.


PWI site


Another important commitment of the OGP national action plan was “Opening via a web portal all the data about the European and National Cohesion funds. This portal, named “OpenCoesione”, is today monitoring more than 900.000 projects financed with more than 100 billions euro, mainly located in southern regions. The importance of such data is related to the fact that some of these regions have a very low ratio of funds’ absorption due to PAs’ incapability. In most cases, funds are allocated for the lack of planning knowledge, inside the administrative structures, of the required rationality and vocabulary. In other cases, funds are allocated but then claimed back, due to their misuse. In the worst cases, projects were approved and their implementation was correctly documented, even though nothing was done on the ground. The OpenCoesione portal makes possible the monitoring of these funds while fostering civic participation, journalism and monitoring.

Parliament Watch Italia was established in 2016 with the aim to further the civic monitoring agenda through the application of a ” monitoring and web-based Q&A” method. We started to work at the local decision-making level, believing that only Open Government strategies operated at such a level can achieve the most transformative effects, and that the national Open Government agenda cannot be fully implemented without local actions. Such a goal is especially challenging and urgent for decision-making processes in southern regions, proved to be characterized by significant transparency issues.

Even though National laws calls for Transparency in local decision-making, there are no sanctions for governments that don’t comply. As a consequence, we believe that civic monitoring and interaction with PA can help PAs’ fulfilment of legal prescriptions.

Our method is to assist PAs in the process of reaching transparency through standard procedures, while pushing for a change of mentality of our local public administrators.


umbria social hackaton


Our first experimental practice is carried out in Messina, Sicily, where Parliament Watch Italia has established a collaboration with the City Council with the purpose of implementing Open Government practices and of pushing Public Administrators to open their data (e. g. laws and decisions endorsed by local politicians, the index of presence/absence, the history of mandates and political coherency, etc.). Data provided by public administrators are immediately published and re-used on our web-platform. The idea is that data quality is checked at the source before they are published. We organized a participatory table with local stakeholders and public representatives aimed at identifying a strategy for the City’s transition to an “Open and smart city”. The Parliament Watch Italia-City of Messina partnership entered as Leader’s Tier in the Subnational Pilot Program of Open Government Partnership.




The work in Messina is meant to be a pilot project to be replicated and adapted with other local governments, with the hope that the method can have a significant national impact. Our ambitious project is supported by a significant voluntary base and various pro-bono collaboration with other association and grassroots, such as “Libera” (the “association of associations” against mafias) and “Avviso Pubblico” (a network of local administrators against corruption). Both local groups are responsible for identifying, respectively within the civil society and local institutions, potential partners in other cities, where we can engage in fundraising and organizing campaigns.

This post was contributed by Francesco Saija, Co-Founder of Parliament Watch Italia
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