Italy

   

Executive Accountability

#25
Key Findings
With a mix of oversight capabilities, Italy falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 25) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have significant resources and executive-oversight powers. The audit court is independent but not connected to parliament. A Parliamentary Budget Office assesses government forecasts, often critically, and monitors compliance with European fiscal rules. No national ombuds office exists.

Media coverage of politics is substantial but often superficial, with newspapers providing the strongest policy information. A minority of citizens say they are interested in politics, but most watch TV news, which does feature political themes significantly.

Political parties vary widely with regard to decision-making structures. Employers’ associations and trade unions draw on expert resources, but are conservative in outlook. A growing number of single-issue movements provide policymaking contributions.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#19

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
6
Existing public opinion studies indicate that only a minority of citizens (about 35%) are significantly interested in politics and that about a similar percentage talks regularly about politics and follows TV programs featuring political debate. A large majority (85%), however, regularly follows the TV news where political news has a significant weight. While data show that the level of sophistication and knowledge about parties, personnel and composition of government is not low, data concerning levels of information about policies were not easily available. They probably vary greatly depending on the policy field.

On certain policies (concerning major economic and fiscal aspects, education, health care, foreign policy), which parties use to define their position, levels of information are fairly high. On other policies, they drop significantly. As Italian politics is fast changing, not very stable and strongly personalized it should be difficult for the citizens to be well informed about the contents of government policymaking. Television – by far the main information source in Italy – can’t give in-depth information.

Citations:
Vincenzo Memoli, How Does Political Knowledge Shape Support for Democracy? Some Research Based on the Italian Case, in Bulletin of Italian Politics, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2011, 79-102

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#28

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
8
Members of parliament can draw on significant resources of highly qualified personnel to monitor the activities of the government. The permanent staff of both chambers is quite large and is selected through highly competitive mechanisms. Most staff members possess highly qualified legal expertise. The parliamentary staff regularly produces studies on issues and reforms under discussion. A special office of the parliament (the Ufficio Parlamentare di Bilancio, Upb), created in 2015 following the Fiscal Compact Treaty and successive decisions of the European Council, is now responsible for providing parliamentarians with a detailed evaluation of the government’s fiscal proposals. The two chambers have quite extensive libraries. Members of parliament also have at their disposal resources for hiring personal parliamentary assistants. The selection of these assistants is much less merit-based and their quality highly variable. Whether in general members of parliament are really interested in using systematically the available resources for monitoring the government is another matter. Probably only a minority fully utilizes these resources.

Citations:
http://www.upbilancio.it/
http://www.upbilancio.it/rapporto-sulla-programmazione-di-bilancio-2016-2/

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
8
Parliamentary committees are comparatively powerful. They can significantly amend legislation and they have extensive oversight powers. Committees also have the right to ask for documents from the government. Delivery of the documents may not always be prompt, but there is no significant evidence that the government fails to comply.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
9
Article 143 of the Chamber of Deputies’ rules of procedure enables parliamentary committees to summon ministers for hearings. Similar rules apply for the Senate. Summoning ministers is a regular practice, and ministers normally comply with such requests.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Parliamentary regulations provide for the right of committees to invite any person able to provide important information (art. 143, 144 Regolamento Camera dei deputati). They can also ask the government to command special studies from the National Statistical Office (ISTAT) (art. 145). The rights of committees are not limited, and committees frequently use this opportunity to summon experts. This also reflects the fact that the Italian committee system plays a more prominent role in the legislative process than do committees in other European parliamentary regimes. Special parliamentary commissions may be established to investigate particular topics. These parliamentary commissions can also summon experts to give evidence. Recently, a joint parliamentary commission of inquiry on the banking system was established and senior officials from the Banca d’Italia were summoned.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
8
The tasks of committees and ministries mostly coincide. However, there are a few cases where more than one ministry is overseen by a single committee (for instance, this happens with the Presidency of the Council and the Ministry of the Interior, for the Ministries of Cultural Affairs and Education, and for the Ministries of the Environment and Public Works). Parliamentary committees have instruments at their disposal enabling the effective monitoring of ministry activity.

Committees meet frequently and their members are assisted by highly qualified technical personnel. However, parliamentarians are not always interested in fully exploiting these possibilities. Often, they prefer to concentrate on issues with high media visibility or of local relevance rather than on the more important administrative processes taking place far from the spotlight.

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
6
General auditing functions are conducted in Italy by the Court of Accounts (Corte dei Conti), which oversees all administrative activities. The court regularly reports its findings to the parliament, but cannot be said to be accountable to the parliament as it is an independent judicial body. The court can review ex ante the legitimacy of executive acts (although its decisions can be overruled by the government), and is responsible for the ex post review of the management of the state budget. The court oversees the financial management of publicly funded bodies. It is protected from political influence; its judges remain in office until they are 70 years old, and cannot be removed without cause. Judges are nominated through national competitive exams, and members of the court nominate the court president. The court has a highly skilled professional staff. Citizens may access court decisions via the internet, at no cost, shortly after decisions are rendered.

In April 2014, the parliament created the Parliament Budgetary Office (Ufficio parlamentare di bilancio), which is tasked with assessing the government’s macroeconomic and fiscal forecasts and monitoring compliance with national and European fiscal rules. This new body plays a particularly important role during the budgetary session, and enables the parliament to have its own independent source of information in evaluating government proposals. In 2016, this office demonstrated its increased independence by openly contesting some of the government’s economic forecasts.

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
3
Italy does not have a national ombuds office. Some functions are performed by regional ombudsman offices (difensore civico). Through questions and other oversight instruments, members of parliament perform with significant vigor an analogous advocate’s function with regard to issues and complaints raised by citizens.

Citations:
Russo, F. & M. Wiberg (2010). Parliamentary Questioning in 17 European parliaments: Some steps toward comparison. The Journal of Legislative Studies, vol. 16(2), pp. 215-232

Media

#29

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
7
The space allocated to political themes in Italian media is quite significant in the 10 most important mass media brands (the three main national newspapers, Corriere della Sera, la Repubblica and Il Sole 24 Ore, which have print and online versions; the three state television channels RAI1, RAI2 and RAI3; the two Mediaset channels Canale 5 and Rete 4; and two other private TV channels – Skynews and La7). Television time (both public and private) allocated to political themes is substantial throughout the year, averaging more than seven hours per week. A large part of this time is devoted to debates and talk shows involving politicians, journalists and experts, and to covering the most important aspects of current political controversies.

However, detailed, in-depth analysis of government decisions is much rarer, and debates tend to focus on the personality-driven dimensions of power politics. National newspapers provide more in-depth coverage of government decisions, often providing detailed dossiers on their content. Some radio and internet programming gives high-quality information in advance. The broader public has no access or does not seek access to these media.

Parties and Interest Associations

#20

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
5
With regard to intra-party democracy, Italy’s major parties differ significantly. At one end of the spectrum lies the Forza Italia party (previously called the People of Freedom Party’s or Popolo della Libertà), where decision-making and leadership selection are both fundamentally dominated by its leader, Silvio Berlusconi. Requests to adopt primaries to designate candidates for leading positions at national and subnational levels were recurrently aired but have always been stopped by Berlusconi. With the decline of Berlusconi, the party is largely in disarray. The situation is rather different in the main center-left party, the Democratic Party, where leadership has in past years been selected through primaries open not only to party members but to anyone willing to subscribe a declaration of support for the center-left coalition. A similar procedure was adopted for the selection of parliamentary candidates. Given the increasingly strong power acquired by the current leader of the party and prime minister, Matteo Renzi, the space for minority positions inside the party has increasingly narrowed.

The Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle) of Beppe Grillo has introduced new mechanisms of online direct consultations for decisions and for candidate selection. At the same time, behind the scenes (and sometimes openly), the leader of the movement has maintained for himself a very strong steering and veto role. Internal oppositions have found it very difficult to have a space for voicing their positions and cases of dissidents expelled from the party have been frequent.
Overall intra-party democracy in Italy’s political system is not well developed. In particular, it seems difficult to balance an increasing personalization of leadership and the preservation of internal debate. Discussions about regulating the internal dynamics of political parties are recurrent, but have not been implemented.

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
7
The big-interest associations (employers’ associations and trade unions) have developed research units which regularly use experts and rely upon scholarly knowledge. Their proposals are often detailed and based upon substantive policy know-how. However, it must be noted that trade unions generally have a rather conservative outlook, and are reluctant to adopt innovative policies in the areas of labor relations or pensions.

Employers’ associations (the most important of which being Confindustria) in general adopt a more innovative perspective, and are less defensive of the status quo. However, their policies are much more prudent on issues associated with increasing economic competitiveness or reducing government subsidies. In recent years, two of the largest trade unions (CISL and UIL) have shown a somewhat greater willingness to negotiate with the government and employers’ associations over measures designed to increase the flexibility of labor relations.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
6
The landscape of non-economic interest organizations is increasingly rich and diversified. But only few of them are able to formulate articulated policy proposals and most operate in a reactive mode instead. Among the most professional associations, some religious ones (such as Caritas, which deals among other things with immigration policies, Comunità di S. Egidio), humanitarian (such as Emergency) and environmental groups (such as Legambiente and WWF) deserve special mention, and are able to provide well-articulated, expert analysis. An increasing number of single-issue movements are gaining ground in Italy and are contributing to policymaking in their respective areas.

There are also a series of foundations and think tanks in the field of international affairs (IAI, ISPI), social and economic problems (Censis, Eurispes) producing critical studies and conducting oversight activities. But their infrastructures, resources and personnel are in general limited.
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