Italy Scores Poorly in Anti-Corruption Assessment

April 2, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)

Italy needs an independent watchdog organization to fight widespread corruption that hampers the country. This is one of the conclusions of a new report by the global anti-corruption coalition Transparency International (TI) in its first assessment targeting Italy. The head of TI in Italy also said that fighting corruption is key when it comes to stabilizing the troubled Italian economy.

“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 TI Italy in a press statement.

The report, which evaluates different governance institutions and their roles in counteracting corruption, finds that lack of integrity in political parties, the public sector, and the media are the biggest problems. The judiciary and the Supreme Audit Institution, on the other hand, are playing a relatively positive role.

TI evaluated 13 institutions, or pillars according to its model, to create an assessment of the country’s National Integrity System, or NIS. Italy scored only 55.04 percent, which the report calls “far from robust.” In another TI analysis, the Corruption Perceptions Index, Italy had placed 69th out of 183 countries, making it among the worst performing of the EU countries

“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 finds that Italy is suffering from a variety of problems, such as unnecessarily complex, flawed, or contradictory regulations, a lack a truly independent media, inadequate evaluation systems, and widespread conflicts of interest, blurring the lines between different state powers thus undermining integrity in the different pillars.

An internationally well-known phenomenon related to this last point is what the report calls the super-concentration of the control of the media, especially broadcasting, in the hands of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, where only radio and the Internet provide a measure of balance. The supposed public service broadcaster RAI also fails to provide impartial facts, and investigative journalism is rare and has little impact, according to TI.

Italy also lacks a dedicated anti-corruption agency, as required by the U.N. Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). The country’s current efforts are poor when it comes to resources, independence, transparency, and accountability the report finds.

The TI recommendations stress the need for a watchdog organization, as well as for improved anti-corruption laws, codes of conduct for members of Parliament and the government, as well as mechanisms for control and sanctioning.    

But other measures are needed as well to stop the waste in the Italian economy due to corruption, according to TI. The large Italian public sector needs to start implementing merit-based appointments and laws to protect whistle-blowers. Furthermore, the judiciary also needs modernization, and statutes of limitation for fighting corruption-related crimes need to be revised.