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The Italian Public Administration Reform: drivers, achievements, next steps and goals

Rome, 26/09/2018, National Roundtable

Aspen Institute Italia’s aim in organizing this roundtable was to provide an opportunity to reflect on the processes that have characterized public administrative reform in Italy in recent years. In the course of the proceedings, a new Aspen Report was presented entitled "Public-sector reforms in Italy during the 17th legislature: their impetus, outcomes, and objectives".

The discussions highlighted the main issues concerning the organization and workings of the Italian bureaucratic machine, spanning the reconfiguration of national and local administrations, the overhaul of public sector management rules, the strengthening of the governance of publicly-held companies, the redefinition of local public services, policies for simplifying administrative procedures, the transition towards e-government, and transparency and anti-corruption laws (especially in the fields of procurement and public works).

The participants stressed the need for a more far-reaching and comprehensive approach in public-sector reform strategies, which should enable a root-and-branch rethink of administrative organization and procedures, including as regards digital transformation. Emphasis was also placed on the key importance of implementation processes for reforms and subsequent mechanisms for evaluating their effectiveness. It was felt that too many reforms have remained a dead letter and that there have been too few instances where progress has actually been monitored. In this respect, it was argued that it would be worthwhile having a Coordination Unit permanently in place to gauge and substantiate the outcomes of the various reforms adopted.

It was also pointed out that reforms should not be self-serving, that is, designed without consulting the general public, the business community, and institutional investors. In addition, it was suggested that any reform efforts would be meaningless without public servants as their cornerstone, which entails more investment in training and recruitment of officials and executives. Lastly, in order to facilitate the work of public-service employees, there were calls for the simplification of the current system of ex-ante and ex-post controls, which otherwise risk overly constraining administrative action.