The due diligence of public administrations as a prerequisite for development
The need for due diligence … While we keep on organising events on open government and smart cities, the true data of Italian public administrations is neglected: that, apart from some obvious best practices, they are neither smart nor open.
It must be recognized that in recent years significant progress has been made in the work of improving the efficiency of the public machine, but not enough to reverse the trend of its performance and, consequently, the perception of public opinion.
Instead, confusion has increased. Compass of transparency, digital agenda, e-government, open-data: these are many terms common among Municipalities, Regions, Ministries. Terms in vogue, which every PA wants to show on its website. But a city, before being smart, must be a city and a ministry, before being open, must be government. Outside the perimeter of the experts, the citizens, who are users and financiers of the Public Administration, no longer trust slogans: to convince themselves that the Public Administration is really changing, they must have concrete experience in the direct contacts they have on a daily basis with the court, the ASL, the school.
To govern the process of innovation of the PAs it is necessary, first of all, to rewind the tape and understand what has not worked so far, in the perpetual journey of Italian reform. What went wrong and what is still wrong?
Surely it is wrong to continue to list problems: with different levels of information and awareness, we all know what is wrong with administrations.
So as it is wrong to keep saying what should be done without then doing it. Academic conventions and television debates are crowded with enlightened speakers who dispense miraculous solutions against waste and inefficiency: the problem is that these are mostly solutions whose implementation is ditched to third parties, sometimes to those political and administrative elites that are part of the problem to solve.
Finally, it is wrong to continue to invoke the umpteenth new law: those approved over time are already too many, some very useful but of which most of the public opinion ignores even the existence. What is needed, then, to put an end to repeated mistakes and veer effectively towards Public Administration innovation?
First of all, it is necessary to shift the attention from what to do for the PA to know the PA. No one invests in a company without first having due diligence of the same, so as to verify if and where it is necessary to intervene to restructure. Why shouldn’t the concept apply to public administrations that manage public money?
And yet, to date no institution or body, public or private, has the exact picture of the PA universe. An immense and heterogeneous universe. The only photograph available is the fragmentary one that emerges from the data of the MEF, the Ministry of the Interior, the Court of Auditors, Istat and other databases, but this is mostly partial (for example, the budgets): nobody covers the entire world of Public Administration with all its activities.
The first step, therefore, is to collect a complete framework of information, starting from reading and analyzing documents, data and information on the thousands of administrations that make up the Italian public system. It is a long and tiring road, often devoid of media attention, but unavoidable: it is for taxpayers who aspire to see their money well spent, for citizens who ask for good services, for businesses that aim to grow, for the country who wants to modernize and develop. The PA due diligence tool already exists: it is called the Public Rating and was built by Fondazione Etica.
A better spending of public money means improving the performance of public institutions and allowing them to regain credibility and authority: it is also in this way that the climate of increasing mistrust of citizens towards institutions is fought and meaning is given to the word participation and to terms that are very much in vogue such as cohesion and civic engagement.