Monitoring on Municipalities

In front of waste of public money, to the growing current expenditure and the progressive cut of services, citizens often limit themselves to momentary indignation or to the unanimous request for transparency and control of the institutions at every level. It is not enough.

Indeed, it can - and must - also be controlled by the citizen, which has, in this regard, a single but very powerful tool: The vote. It just depends on how you decide to use it: whether consciously and responsibly or superficially and emotionally. Let us not forget, in fact, that where cases of easy-spending politicians come to light, there are citizens who have legitimized them with the vote.

Perhaps, then, to change the way of managing public affairs we need to start afresh not only from the elected, but also from the voter. 'It is he who has the power to send home a corrupt or inefficient Administration and to choose a better one.

Exercising the right to vote is not easy, nor taken for granted. Not even at the municipal level, which also represent, in Italy, the institutional level in which the relationship between the voter and the elected is closer, even if only due to the territorial contiguity. You think you know the Mayor, but only by hearsay or what the local newspapers say. And, then, how do you choose a Mayor well? Surely, not based on his statements; often not even on the basis of its resolutions, since they are not always translated into actions.

Lhe only way to evaluate an Administration is to know how much and how it has spent. For example, if a mayor considers school a priority, it can be seen not by how many times he says it, but by how much money he allocates to it. The municipal budget, therefore, should be the starting point for every citizen approaching the polls to renew the Administration. In fact, however, it is unthinkable that most people can find time and a way to do it.

Hence the project launched by the Ethical Foundation with the name of Window on the Municipalities. This is a tracking on how the Municipalities spend, making information on municipal budget numbers available to voters, without giving judgments on individual municipalities, but simply providing citizens with information tools to evaluate the Administration of his own city and so on vote more responsibly.

We began monitoring the provincial capitals from the beginning of the legislature, starting with those that were elected in 2011.

For each Municipality, we collect and store the plan with which the new Giunta won the electoral competition: it may seem trivial, but it is not, given that the electoral programs become unobtainable – perhaps, not by chance – shortly after the polls close.

Then, year by year, the i balance sheets. And this too is no mean feat: First of all, because financial statements are often not found, not even on the web, if not partial and out of date. Secondly, because the financial statements are often illegible, since the requests for transparency and simplification of the complex accounting procedures that still regulate their drafting are still ignored.
At the end of the five years, the budgets are analyzed and compared with those of other Municipalities.

This is not an accounting reading, but a political one: the numbers are not of interest in themselves but for what they tell. In other words, you don't need to sift through each issue, but find the answer to a few simple questions:

  • For which sectors has a Municipality spent the most and for which the least?
  • how and how much did you spend compared to what was promised in the electoral programme?
  • how and how much did you spend compared to the previous administration?
  • how and how much did it spend compared to other municipalities of the same size and wealth?

The comparison is particularly important for evaluation purposes: for example, that one's municipality has invested one hundred thousand euros in social welfare in a year may be a fact that the inhabitant of Florence cannot interpret, but knowing that Bologna has spent twice as much makes the difference to purposes of a judgment in view of the vote.