Monitoring on Municipalities
Faced with the waste of public money, the growing current expenditure and the progressive cutting of services, citizens are often limited to temporary indignation or to the choral request for transparency and control of the institutions at every level. It is not enough.
In fact, it is the citizen who can control and can, in this regard, have a single instrument, but a very powerful one: the vote. It just depends on how he decides to use it: whether in a conscious and responsible manner or in a superficial and emotional way. Let us not forget, in fact, that where there are cases of politicians with easy spending, there are citizens who have legitimized them by voting.
Perhaps, then, to change the way of managing public affairs we need to start again not only from the elected, but also from the voter. “And he who has the power to send a corrupt or inefficient Administration home and choose a better one.
Exercising the right to vote is neither easy nor obvious. Not even at the level of the Municipalities, which, also, represent, in Italy, the institutional level in which the relationship between voter and elected person is closer, even only due to territorial contiguity. It is thought to know the Mayor, but only by hearsay or as far as the local newspapers say. And then, how do you choose a Mayor well? Certainly, not based on your statements; often not even on the basis of its resolutions, since they are not always translated into actions.
The only way to evaluate an administration is to know how much and how much it has spent. For example, if a Mayor considers the school a priority, it is seen not by how many times he says it, but by how much money he allocates for it. The municipal budget, therefore, should be the starting point for every citizen who approaches the polls to renew the Administration. In fact, however, it is unthinkable that most people can find time and way to do it.
Hence the project initiated by Fondazione Etica with the name of Finestra sui Comuni. This is a monitoring on how the Municipalities spend, making the information on municipal budget numbers available to voters, without giving opinions on individual Municipalities, but simply providing citizens with information tools to evaluate the Administration of their city and thus vote in a more responsible way.
We have begun monitoring the provincial capital municipalities since the beginning of the legislature, starting with those that were elected in 2011.
For each municipality, we collect and preserve the program with which the new council has won the electoral competition: it may seem trivial, but it is not, given that the electoral programs become impossible to find – perhaps not by accident – shortly after the polls closed.
Then, year by year, the financial statements are archived and examined. And even this is no small feat: First of all, because budgets are often not found, not even on the web, if not partial and not updated. Secondly, because the financial statements are often illegible, as the requests for transparency and simplification of the complex accounting procedures that still regulate them are still ignored.
At the end of the five years the financial statements are analyzed and compared to those of other Municipalities.
This is not an accounting reading, but a political one: the numbers do not concern themselves but for what they tell. In other words, it’s not so much about combing every issue, but finding the answer to some simple questions:
- for which sectors did a municipality spend more and for which less?
-how and how much did he spend compared to what was promised in the electoral program?
-how and how much did you spend compared to the previous administration?
-how and how much has it spent compared to other municipalities of the same size and wealth?
The comparison is particularly important for evaluation purposes: for example, that one’s own Municipality has invested one hundred thousand euros in a year in the company can be a fact that the resident of Florence does not know how to interpret, but knowing that Bologna has spent twice as much difference for the purposes of a judgment in view of the vote.
When it comes to public spending, it is necessary to distinguish the two different concepts of “cost” and “expense”: what an Administration “costs”, a very rigid voice, which derives from the way in which the administration…
Flavio Tosi, mayor of Verona