The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy [1st ed.] 9783030322878, 9783030322885

This book provides a stimulating presentation of the Italian administrative system through an empirical and critical per

326 66 2MB

English Pages IX, 147 [153] Year 2020

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy [1st ed.]
 9783030322878, 9783030322885

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-ix
Introduction: The Puzzle of Administrative Change (Sabrina Cavatorto, Antonio La Spina)....Pages 1-21
Pressures to Reform and the Impact of the Fiscal Crisis (Sabrina Cavatorto, Antonio La Spina)....Pages 23-41
Restyling Public Management–Inspired Reforms (Sabrina Cavatorto, Antonio La Spina)....Pages 43-74
Fighting Corruption (Sabrina Cavatorto, Antonio La Spina)....Pages 75-100
Obstacles to Performance Evaluation and Improvement (Sabrina Cavatorto, Antonio La Spina)....Pages 101-126
Conclusions: Still Risking Implementation Gaps (Sabrina Cavatorto, Antonio La Spina)....Pages 127-144
Back Matter ....Pages 145-147

Citation preview

The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy

Sabrina Cavatorto Antonio La Spina

The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy

Sabrina Cavatorto • Antonio La Spina

The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy

Sabrina Cavatorto University of Siena Siena, Italy

Antonio La Spina Luiss Guido Carli, Free International University of Social Studies, Rome, Italy

ISBN 978-3-030-32287-8    ISBN 978-3-030-32288-5 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Pattern © John Rawsterne/ This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


1 Introduction: The Puzzle of Administrative Change  1 Sabrina Cavatorto and Antonio La Spina 2 Pressures to Reform and the Impact of the Fiscal Crisis 23 Sabrina Cavatorto 3 Restyling Public Management–Inspired Reforms 43 Sabrina Cavatorto 4 Fighting Corruption 75 Antonio La Spina 5 Obstacles to Performance Evaluation and Improvement 101 Antonio La Spina 6 Conclusions: Still Risking Implementation Gaps127 Sabrina Cavatorto and Antonio La Spina



List of Figures

Fig. 2.1

Fig. 2.2 Fig. 4.1

Fig. 4.2

Fig. 5.1

Public employment in the Italian general government (N). For obvious problems of definition and measurement, an ensured level of comparison among OECD countries is that of “general” government, which comprises state, central and local authorities (OECD 1997). (Source: Own elaboration based on Citizens attitudes towards the PA: Italians among Europeans (%). (Source: Own elaboration based on Eurobarometer Interactive “PA in [OUR Country]” (11/2018)) 35 Control of Corruption (2017) (percentile rank 0–100). Country’s rank among all countries in the world: 0 corresponds to lowest rank and 100 corresponds to highest rank. (Source: Own elaboration based on governance/wgi/index.aspx#home)78 Favouritism in decisions of government officials (2017 (1–7 best)). In your country, to what extent do government officials show favouritism to well-connected firms and individuals when deciding upon policies and contracts? 1 shows favouritism to a great extent; 7 does not show favouritism at all. Italy’s rank in 2017 was 118/137. (Source: Own elaboration based on Provision of public services (2017) (%). QA1a. “How would you judge the current situation in each of the following? The provision of public services in [OUR COUNTRY]”. Only in Greece a higher percentage of respondents (85%) believe that the provision of public services in their country is “total bad”. vii


List of Figures

Fig. 5.2

Fig. 6.1

Fig. 6.2

Seven countries follow Italy: Croatia (66%), Romania (63%), Spain (58%), Bulgaria (54%), Portugal (53%), Slovakia and Cyprus (50%). On the contrary, a majority of respondents think their country’s public services are good in 19 EU member states, with levels of satisfaction ranging from 46% in Poland and 54% in France, to 90% in the Netherlands. Satisfaction exceeds 80% in Luxembourg (87%), Finland (86%) and Austria (81%). (Source: Eurobarometer Standard 88 (Autumn 2017)) 122 Satisfaction and confidence on the national government (% of citizens expressing confidence/satisfaction). Data for “national government” refer to the percentage of “yes” answers to the question: “In this country, do you have confidence in each of the following, or not? How about national government?” (Source Gallup World Poll). (Source: Own elaboration from OECD Government at Glance (2013, 2017)) 122 Compliance checks by the Inspectorate for the public function and “severe” sanctions. (Source: Own elaboration from http:// Total staff employed by public administrations per year (thousands of units). The Annual Account shows the data on the consistency and costs of PA personnel and constitutes the official source of information for decisions regarding public employment. (Source: General State Annual Account 2017) 135

List of Tables

Table 2.1 Table 3.1 Table 3.2 Table 6.1 Table 6.2

Implementation of CSRs to Italy in the PA field 34 “Management-” and “governance-”oriented ideas from the parliamentary narratives 60 Delegations according to law 124/2015 reorganizing the PA 68 Turn over quotas in central PA (% of expenditure equal to that relating to personnel who left the previous year) 135 Designing PA change through EU structural resources (2014–2020)137



Introduction: The Puzzle of Administrative Change Sabrina Cavatorto and Antonio La Spina

Abstract  This introductory chapter develops the theoretical framework of the book, placing the country case study of Italy on main trajectories of administrative change in Europe. The variety of administrative traditions and models of innovation are at the core of our reflection about possible new policy trends: in the way reform options have been incrementally shaped, we examine how New Public Management (NPM)-oriented approaches have been taken into consideration, together with the development of post-NPM narratives. The peculiarity of an empirical science of public administration is put forward. Keywords  Policy change • New Public Management • Neo-Weberian state • Public governance • Implementation • Italy

1.1   Administrative Reforms, Types of Public Policy and the Empirical Science of Public Administration The adoption and implementation of administrative reforms could be thought of as being relatively smooth. Neither they imply the huge financial costs of social policies, nor do they focus on identitarian and ideologically divisive issues. Rather, they are based on the commonsensical idea © The Author(s) 2020 S. Cavatorto, A. La Spina, The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy,




that red tape is excessive and public bureaucracies are rigid, tardy and inefficient. In principle, therefore, they could easily attract some consensus among both citizens and members of the political elite. At the same time, for the above reasons the decision  making processes leading to their approval could be expected not to be ridden with controversies and conflicts. According to the seminal taxonomy of public policies proposed by Lowi (1970, 1972), administrative reforms seem to belong to “constituent policies”, which are in fact characterized by remoteness of coercion and low levels of conflict.1 Gustavsson (1980) combined  Wilson’s (1980)  and Lowi’s taxonomies: administrative reforms can be seen as measures with diffused costs and diffused benefits, being to some extent able to “determine”  (in Lowi’s vein), like any type of public policy, the way political interactions (i.e. politics) develop. This would be consistent with their supposed relative “easiness”. One might guess that all that is actually needed is the availability of certain technical policy instruments (which could be creatively devised or, more frequently, imitated), whose application can be credibly expected to reduce or solve certain problems plaguing existing public bureaucracies. Imitation and learning would therefore be the main factors in order to explain why certain historical phases apparently exhibit “waves” of administrative reforms, which expand themselves across many countries. This is what is supposed to have happened at first with the diffusion of the neo-­liberal version of new public management (NPM), which stressed the need to cut costs and import efficient tools from the private sector, and then with other more progressive approaches, which rather emphasized service quality, involvement of citizens/users, openness of governance and participation (the so-called “post-NPM” models). Such a picture, however, would be overly simplistic, and anyway is contradicted by several hard facts. When they are really impactful, 1  When Lowi wrote about constituent policies, the examples he made were rather heterogeneous. He mentioned “reapportionment, setting up a new agency, propaganda”; then “constituent or system maintenance policy” (Lowi 1972: 300, 310). Elsewhere, he was more explicit in subsuming the organization of public bureaucracies under constituent policies (Lowi 1985). When describing them, Spitzer (1987: 678, 680; see also Tolbert 2002) indicated as an example of constituent policy “administrative/departmental reorganization”, or a “agency reorganization”. Salisbury (1968) tried to fill the empty fourth cell of the taxonomy with self-regulation, which has to do with some of Lowi’s examples of constituent policies, but not with administrative reform.



administrative reforms often modify, reduce or eliminate existing advantages and opportunities for rent-seeking. Therefore, in such cases they would rather imply concentrated costs and diffused benefits, hence a much more adversarial and difficult decision path. Apart from the more or less overt opposition of bureaucrats or other actors whose material interests would be directly damaged by a reform, also the general culture, the institutions or the policy style of each country are relevant in favouring or obstructing the adoption and implementation of administrative reforms (Lenschow et al. 2005; Stillman 2016; Gustafsson and Richardson 1980; Richardson 1982). It must also be remarked that the diffusion of the various waves of public management reforms was not in fact so widespread, homogeneous and uncontroversial (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2017; Goldfinch and Wallis 2010; Massey 2018). A public intervention in this field could be merely or mostly symbolic, when it is devoid not only of the necessary minimum of financial resources, but also of sanctions or other tools that can alter bureaucratic structures and performances deeply enough. It can also happen that, even if the innovation is explicitly inspired by some foreign experience or managerial approach, it resorts to choosing inappropriate instruments (e.g. performance evaluators that are supposed to be independent, but actually are not). Public administrations and the policies affecting them can be studied from three different cognitive points of view: that of the jurists, who interpret valid texts in order to derive from them legal obligations and consequences; the managerial one, which is focused on the practical need of performance improvement; that of empirical social scientists (who belong to the science of administration, political science, sectoral sociology and other relevant fields), who produce explanatory/predictive accounts based on factual evidence, concerning the actual operation of real public bureaucracies, as well as the genesis, formulation, drafting, legitimacy and impact (including unintended consequences) of reforms.2 The present study is to 2  A somewhat similar but actually different threefold distinction is proposed by Bauer (2018), who sees public administration as surrounded by the three sides of a disciplinary triangle: law, management and political science (the latter being focused on legitimacy and unintended consequences). In this respect, Kingdom (1990) warns against the limitations of managerialism and defines public administration a “peculiarly vulnerable discipline”. According to Pollitt (2010), “what unifies public administration is his subject”. Kettl (2000) shows how several social sciences and theoretical approaches address public administration and can enhance its rigor. Wright (2011, 2015) speaks of “administrative management’s nearly exclusive focus on efficiency and effectiveness”, too. In his opinion, an empirical and



be attributed to the third point of view. We examined Italian administrative reforms against the background of the interface between external pressures, isomorphic change, path dependency and domestic politics. The framework is dynamic and reflects the balance of power relations among the relevant actors and institutions involved in the administrative policy as a subsystem. That is the way we see politics and the policy processes interact, confirming that in order to understand administrative reforms trajectories the “pure” dichotomy between politics (politicians) and administration (bureaucrats) within the policy cycle (decision making vs. implementation) is not enough.

1.2   Continuity and Changes Within Public Administrations There is wide convergence among scholars of public administration (PA) that “administrative reform is a slow process of incremental small changes, with radical changes occurring only occasionally” (Kickert 2011: 802), often as a result of external shocks (the so-called critical junctures3). Anyway, beyond the pessimistic view that administrative reforms “are mostly piecemeal, gradual and incremental” and that “almost nothing happened at all”, particularly in Southern European states, Kickert concludes that “many small changes could add up to a substantial change” (ibidem). In fact, modes of gradual, nevertheless transformative change, were also taken into consideration by historical institutionalists, ­traditionally more used to adopt an “all-or-nothing” dichotomous way of thinking (the well-known “punctuated equilibrium” theory). The heritage from the Napoleonic state model, dominated by formalism and legalism, explains why in Southern European administrations new public management reforms (such as privatization, contracting-out, public–private partnerships, view of the citizen as a client, performance measurement, results-based budgeting and decentralization) were mainly rigorous “science of public administration” is not an easy accomplishment, but much progress was made in that direction since Dahl’s article (1947). On the one hand, Dahl already spoke of generalizations, experiments and deduction. On the other, he argued that “the study of public administration inevitably must become a much more broadly based discipline, resting not on a narrowly defined knowledge of techniques and processes”. Therefore, it had to include also societal contexts, cultural traits, historical roots and economic processes. 3  A useful literature review on the use of the “critical juncture” concept was provided by Capoccia and Kelemen (2007). The potentialities and the limitations of the concept in comparative-historical analysis were further described by Capoccia (2015, 2016).



reframed in legal terms (Capano 2003)4 and often produced limited, or even perverse, effects (Pollitt et al. 2007). Studying the dynamics of public management reform in Italy, Ongaro (2009) asked whether there was change of “a radical kind through disruption of the old equilibrium and transition to a new equilibrium” or whether reforms of the public sector were “purely superficial”, that means that “path dependency has prevailed and there has been no or limited change, or else whether there has been change through accumulation of small changes” (ivi: 10). He suggested a mixed interpretation, generally agreed in the scholarly debate: by reason of an unfavourable environment for paradigmatic reforms since the beginning of the 1990s—described by the notion of “context in motion”, i.e. a scenario characterized by continuous transformations of the political and institutional system (Ongaro 2011), hence a context of political instability (Mele and Ongaro 2014)—there was but only limited, “patchy” change. On the one hand, it was “partly in the form of punctuated change occurring through disruption driven mainly by political turmoil” in the 1990s (after the Tangentopoli corruption scandals); on the other hand, it was “partly through accumulation” in the way of specific mechanisms, like layering and conversion (ivi: 30). A process of “negotiated change” (Bull and Rhodes 1997; 2007) is strongly characterized by path-dependent evolution. This is also why, describing the types of national structures and processes, and their link to patterns of management reforms, still in  recent times Pollitt and Bouckaert (2017) considered Italy as a “hard-to-classify” case of modernizer: “Italy has been quite volatile on the surface—especially in the mid-1990s—but simultaneously exhibits some deeper cultural and organizational continuities” (ivi: 118). With the severe, systemic crisis at the beginning of the 1990s, the inertia of previous decades was “replaced by a permanent cycle of reform” (Capano 2003: 787) aimed at developing a management-oriented programme of change within the public sector. In discontinuity with the past, from the early 1990s up to the eruption of the global crisis in 2008, three major waves of administrative reform worked in substantial continuity with respect to one another.5 These were promoted, first, by the 4  Explaining the Italian trajectory of administrative reforms during the 1990s, Capano stressed how ideational variables are essential and argued the “hegemony” of administrative law as a cultural paradigm governing the institutionalization of public organizations in all European countries with Rechtstaat traditions (Capano 2003: 785–787). 5  Previous cycles of administrative reform in the Italian republic, immediately after World war II ended and the democratic constitution was approved in 1948, are discussed by Capano (1992).



“technical”6 governments led in the 11th Legislature by Giuliano Amato (1992–1993) and by Carlo Azelio Ciampi (1993–1994); then, in the 13th Legislature, by the centre-left coalitions (1996–2001); finally, by the centre-­right Berlusconi IV cabinet (2008–2011), which did not resist the impact of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis intensified in early 2010 and thereafter and was then replaced by the president of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano with a “fully technocratic” government headed by Mario Monti (2011–2013).7 By reason of its economic and fiscal vulnerability, the impact of austerity measures resulting from the great recession and its developments was in fact for Italy particularly harsh and the implementation of further additional cuts in public spending was made possible by the technical executive backed by a very large majority. Within this crisis-influenced context (Di Mascio and Natalini 2014, 2015), still in an emergency climate despite the worst peak of the crisis had passed, the new wide-ranging administrative reform of the Renzi government (2014–2016) took place.

1.3   One Policy Design, More Trajectories of Policy Reform Following Capano (2003), we consider that a suitable way to understand the logic and the content of policy reforms is through “the reformers’ own words” (ivi: 789). Conveniently, in addition to literature review on Italian administrative reforms during the 1990s and early 2000s, we directly took 6  In technical governments, parties are in principle largely excluded from the choice of ministers. That is why, even if at a minimum degree, the Amato cabinet had not been considered a typical expression of the party government, being the party system substantially collapsed at that time. More appropriately, the first “technocrat-led-government”, being served by a non-parliamentarian as prime minister, was the Ciampi one (Ciampi was governor of the Italian central bank when he was asked by the president of the Republic to form a government). Then, the Dini cabinet (1995–1996) followed, entirely composed of experts and officials from outside Parliament. On the empirical variability of the concept applied to the Italian case, see Verzichelli and Cotta  (2018). The constitutional and parliamentary effects of technical governments have been analysed by Lupo (2015). 7  According to Verzichelli and Cotta (2018: 78), the Monti government formed at the end of 2011 was the “most extreme case of ‘party abdication’ has happened”. The authors compare the Ciampi, Dini and Monti cabinets considering, on the one hand, the amount of non-party personnel and, on the other hand, the scope of delegation conferred to the government. The potential of political autonomy granted to Monti and to his ministers resulted to be much higher than in the two previous cases.



into account written evidences (interviews and articles) published over time by key players of administrative reform processes: first of all ministers, top bureaucrats and directly involved experts (mainly scholars of administrative law). Strongly committed to overcome “maladministration” in a period of severe crisis for the country, the minister of public function in the Ciampi executive, the professor of administrative law Sabino Cassese,8 was able to act as a policy entrepreneur and successfully “reframed the issue of public sector reform in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness” (Ongaro 2009: 71). In a brief report of a year’s work (Cassese 1994), he reminded that before 1993 the administrative reform was not on the political agenda; administrative inefficiency was perceived in a “latent” way by citizens and, to some extent, “administration was ‘left’ to exist” for itself; it was a very “introflexed” system (ivi: 249). On the contrary, also taking into due consideration the outcome of the 1993 referendums,9 the Ciampi government stressed the administrative issue, “doing so much in such a short time, like never before” (ivi: 250). Seven lines of action were promoted at that time, choosing items from an NPM-inspired menu, as other European countries already did and, in the South of Europe, were still doing: (1) “put public offices at the service of citizens” (a consumer-oriented PA); (2) “aim for a less centralized administration, conversely closer to the communities to be served” (decentralization and simplification); (3) “streamlined administrative structures” (downsizing and functional bundling; modernization); (4) “a less expensive PA” (politics of cutbacks to reduce the public debt, but also reduction of administrative burdens; codes of conduct for civil servants; public procurement and anti-­ corruption); (5) “a more efficient PA” (privatization of public employment; negotiation of labour contracts; recruitment and career paths; 8  He took part in the commission that drew up “the Giannini Report” about the reform of public administration in Italy, prepared in 1979 (Capano 1992; Mele 2010). That report “remained inoperative” (Cassese 2003: 134), also because it radically overturned the traditional approach to administrative reform of previous decades (Melis 2003). However, it sowed those innovative ideas that would be then budded in the policy change of the early 1990s: private management models, concepts of planning and control, performance indicators, unification of measurement methodologies and organization offices ( 9  In March 1993, seven abrogative referendums out of eight concerned the organization of the state and a clear majority of voters called for the abolition of part of the administrative apparatus.



measurement of workloads; training); (6) “more effective controls” (internal auditing added to the external system); (7) “a more European PA” (EU citizens can access Italian public competitions). In just one year of activity, the work of the Ciampi cabinet was of course “unfinished” but transmitted as “a positive legacy” to successive governments (ivi: 255). Further achievements were in fact strictly linked to the implementation of already approved delegations by the parliament (as for the ministerial reform contained in law 537/1993). As predictable, nothing happened during the first right-wing Berlusconi cabinet (May–December 1994), which was also very short, and not even under the technical government led by Lamberto Dini (1995–1996), which was in charge of leading the transition to a snap general election in April 1996. In that occasion, the winner was “the Olive” centre-left coalition: in the 17th Legislature, with the Prodi government (1996–1998), the administrative reform season started again. In full continuity with Cassese, the minister of public function in the centre-left cabinets—after Prodi I, D’Alema I and D’Alema II (respectively, 1998–1999 and, after a reshuffle, 1999–2000); Amato II (2000–2001)—Franco Bassanini, professor of constitutional law, further strengthened some pillars of previous policy reform cycle, namely administrative simplification and better regulation, a performance-oriented public sector management, the development of horizontal and vertical subsidiarity (administrative federalism), the e-government. The “first government-­wide reform since 1865”—as Bassanini himself defined it (Bassanini 2002: 27)—was aimed at “rethinking and redrawing the perimeter of public intervention and public services, by focusing public administrations on its ‘core business’ and systematic outsourcing” (Bassanini 2010: 372). He acknowledged the reduction of the cost of the PA as “the first objective from the early 1990s on” in order to consolidate the public finances and enable Italy to join the European Monetary Union (EMU), as indeed it happened. Thereafter, “since 2000 the problem of Italy’s PA is not so much the cost of general government bodies, which naturally must be contained and, if possible, reduced further, but the quality of the goods and services that they supply to individuals and firms, together with the quality of regulation and the regulatory and bureaucratic burden imposed on individuals and firms” (ivi: 370). Of course, he found that a “strong leadership” for the coordination of the change strategy was a fundamental determinant to make the reform successful: as minister of PA, Bassanini was effectively delegated with ample powers of policy direction



and was responsible for all tools of reform. He admitted that “the whole administrative culture” had to be changed (Bassanini 2000: 230), in the sense of a new focus on results instead of procedures. The third comprehensive reform is dated 2009 and was promoted by the minister of PA and innovation (professor of labour economics) Renato Brunetta, under the Berlusconi IV government. The Brunetta reform10 was particularly aimed at improving “the system of incentives and evaluation of performance” by bringing “citizens themselves into the process of evaluation and preference formation for the correct allocation of resources” (Brunetta 2009: 351–352).11 Again, so that the competitive system of incentives (both between individuals and between production units) could properly realize its full innovative scope, it was evoked a “conceptual transition from the culture of mere formal compliance to that of substantial results” (ivi: 361). Therefore the cultural dimension was explicitly confirmed as a crucial component of the extant reform strategy. Anti-­ corruption through transparency was another dominant foundation. Such a “revolution”, which was perceived, at least in the short-medium term, with the appearance of a costly challenge for the recipients, was conversely prospected by the reformers as a catalyst of more diffuse benefits in the medium-long run, that is, “the” way for relaunching the economic growth in Italy. Accordingly, updated e-government plans were mobilized too. During the same Berlusconi IV cabinet, it is worth  mentioning the decision to delegate—for the first but, for now, even the last time—a special minister for legislative simplification, additional to the minister for PA: Roberto Calderoli,12 a leading member of the Northern league, was

10  The legislative decree 150/2009, implementing the enabling law 15/2009, was aimed at improving labour productivity as well as efficiency and transparency of PA through the recognition of the merits and shortcomings of executives and of all government employees (OECD 2010). 11  Legislative decree 198/2009, also approved to further implement law 15/2009, established that, in case of inefficient services, citizens and business may file a collective action against public administrations and public services’ providers. Brunetta’s own words: “I want from my side sixty million customers, who are also sixty million controllers, entitled to express their own preferences, but also their anger” (speech to the students of the National administration school, Rome, May 2010, uploads/2010/05/Brunetta-spiega-la-riforma-della-Pubblica-Amministrazione%E2%80%A6.pdf). 12  He also served as minister for reforms and devolution in the Berlusconi II cabinet (2004–2006). At that time, administrative reform tasks and responsibilities were split in a



appointed to emphasize the legislative simplification process already started by the Bassanini reform. As a result, despite the alternation of governments, the substantial homogeneity of the reforms’ policy design, that is, “the purposive attempt by governments to link policy instruments or tools to the goals they would like to realize” (Howlett and Mukherjee 2017: 1), was largely recognized by the various reformers themselves. For instance, comparing the Brunetta law with the previous 1996–2001 reform’s cycle, Bassanini found that “the factors of continuity outweigh the few innovations” (…) and judged continuity “not only positive as a method, but also commendable on its merits” (Bassanini 2010: 369). More in detail, when considering the specific “trajectories”13 of the Italian public-sector reforms over time, in the period 1992–2012 they were summarized as follows (Ongaro et al. 2016): • As for the organization, a shift from homogeneity to differentiation: regional and local decentralization (devolution14) became a major political reform issue15; furthermore, independent administrative number of actors, in fact a minister for information and technology was also appointed, and some lack of coordination emerged. 13  According to Pollitt and Bouckaert (2017: 75), a trajectory “is more than a trend (…) is an intentional pattern—a route that someone is trying to take”. They selected five main “conventional” components: finance, personnel, organization and performance measurement. Then they added transparency and open government. In Italy, public sector reform concerned almost all components of public organizations. 14  After many years of debate, a significant wave of devolution started in 1997 with law 59/1997 (the law so called by Bassanini first), which profoundly altered the distribution of administrative functions across levels of government, reallocating competences from the central government to regional and local governments in different policy fields, although it did not affect the Constitution. Then the notion of “concurrent legislation” between the central and the regional governments was introduced by a constitutional reform in 2001 (Ongaro 2009, 2011). Bassanini himself described the way the reshaping of the government macrostructure was pursued in Italy (Bassanini 2000: 232–235). 15  Albeit Capano (2003: 792) argued that “decentralization is one more thing that can hardly be considered a novelty to Italian PA, and it is interpreted through the hegemonic paradigm”, losing its meaning of “a strategy to adopt in drawing up public policy”, and just conceived in terms of “mechanical division of duties” (ibidem). This interpretation confirms the idea that many of the measures introduced were (reasonably) chosen because they were compatible with the administrative tradition. The latter defined as “a historically based set of values, structures and relationships with other institutions that defines the nature of appropriate public administration within society” (Peters 2008: 118) and, consequently, composes elements of explanation for administrative behaviour. Administrative traditions may also be



authorities were established and public agencies increased in their number; additionally, ministries adopted divisional, next to functional, models.16 • As for the financial management, a move from an input-oriented, highly fragmented, spending responsibility framework to an output-­ oriented system of spending responsibility attributed to public managers17; the new model was clearly inspired by the “management by objectives” (MbO) perspective and aimed at integrating financial and strategic planning. • As for the personnel, the privatization18 of the working relationships and labour conditions was introduced and a clear separation between politics and administration19 was stated. considered as just a restatement of the concept of “style” used to describe policymaking in various states (Richardson 1982). 16  Law 50/1999 (another piece of the Bassanini reform), together with the legislative decree 300/1999, also established the reduction of the total number of ministries to 12. However, the reorganization design was soon reversed by the centre-right Berlusconi II government through law 317/2001 and law 137/2002. 17  Closely linked to law 59/1997, law 94/1997 (the Ciampi law, from the name of the minister of economy and finances in the centre-left Prodi government) reformed the state budget and accounting system, reducing the number of line-items—which stood at about 7.000 at the time (Blöndal et al. 2016) and binding them, first, to the authorization by the legislature, then to the responsibility of general directors in ministries: “the aims of that measure were to reorganize government budgets according to mission and programme, assign the resources required to implement each programme to the responsible administration as an aggregate, and give each organization and its administrators complete autonomy in managing their financial and human resources, a precondition for making public bodies and their administrators accountable for performance and results” (Bassanini 2010: 378). The second wave of reform was launched in 2009 with a new budget structure based on broader “missions” then articulated in “programmes” instead of aggregated “units” (law 196/2009). 18  The contractualization of public employment (i.e. the “de-legislation” of organizational acts concerning human resources, instead regulated by private labour laws) was introduced in 1993 by the legislative decree 29/1993 (Ciampi government), putting into effect the enabling law 421/1992 (Amato government); the premises were further articulated in 1997–1998 by the Bassanini reform (the legislative decrees 396/1997, 80/1998 and 387/1998 modified the legislative decree 29/1993 in several points, for instance by establishing the possibility also for the PA to use flexible contractual arrangements to recruit personnel); all the subject was then codified in 2001, after the approval of the constitutional reform (legislative decree 165/2001). 19  The legislative decree 80/1998 (Bassanini reform) allowed political bodies to make top official appointments, introducing in that way a form of “spoil system”, which was further strengthened in 2002 by the centre-right Berlusconi II government, with minister Franco



• As for audit and performance measurement, ex ante compliance controls on administrative acts were shifted mainly to ex post controls and performance indicators were developed.20 In conclusion, from the early 1990s Italy adopted managerial tools to a significant extent, anyway not in such a radical way as to have changed the overall administrative system. Moreover, if scholars agree that the 1992 crisis was perceived as a window of opportunity for administrative modernization which then continued during the rest of the decade (Capano 2003; Ongaro 2009, 2011; Ongaro et al. 2016), contrarily the response to the 2008 crisis, and its politics of cutbacks, was considered a setback which substantially hindered managerial modernization. Accounting for the larger trajectory of administrative reform in Italy, Di Mascio et  al. (2013) interpreted the 2008 crisis as a part of the reform sequence set in motion by the 1992 crisis. In particular, they interpreted the politics of austerity strengthened after 2008 as partially influenced by cutbacks already experienced by policymakers to deal with previous 1992 monetary crisis. In the framework of the global crisis, anyhow, “the managerial repertoire has been sidelined by cutbacks” (ivi: 29). Nevertheless, “the principles and institutions disseminated by the previous waves of reforms—i.e. managerial-oriented tools and structures—have not been entirely reversed” (ibidem). As a consequence, Italy has been considered in the midstream with respect to many components of the public management reforms yet. Actually, most European continental countries showed to be more “interested in modernising their public administration in order to make it more transparent, accountable and closer to citizens”, instead of “implementing the ‘Anglo-American global reform package’ (Torres 2004: 109). Besides, it has been well proved that “in terms of trajectories (…) not every country has played the NPM game, and certainly not many are doing so now” (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2017: 127). Last, but not least, beyond trajectories, the “uncomfortably sharp question” has in fact to do with the “slippery concept” of results (ibidem). Frattini (law 145/2002). That system was strongly criticized by the former minister Cassese (2002) and partially mitigated by a number of Constitutional Court’s rulings. 20  Evaluation mechanisms consistent with the new private-sector-type contracts for civil servants were started by Bassanini through the legislative decree 286/1999. In 2009, the Brunetta reform tightened the rules to enforce personnel performance rankings.



1.4   Results and Operational Challenges On the basis of data collected by a top executive survey (realized in the context of the Cocops21 project) aimed at analysing the impacts of recent public sector managerial reforms, scholars described a picture of “a not irrelevant penetration of managerial tools” in the Italian PA (…) at a level higher than the Cocops average” (Ongaro et al. 2016: 188). However the research demonstrated that the use of market-type mechanisms (NPM inspired) were still combined, at least in the top managers’ perceptions, with more traditional elements consistent with the so-defined Weberian model of bureaucracy. Indeed, scholars largely concurred to identify the mixed outcome of administrative managerial reforms in most continental European states with a neo-Weberian state (NWS) model,22 categorized as “an attempt to modernize traditional bureaucracy by making it more professional, efficient, and citizen-friendly” (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2017: 19). In the words of minister Brunetta: “The notion of performance can, and must, embrace more than just efficiency and effectiveness (…) and be broadened to include the ability of the PA to embody such fundamental values as ­transparency, integrity, equity, participation—in a word accountability” (Brunetta 2009: 343). Hence, interpretive schemes play a role when handling the puzzle of policy change and its outcomes, particularly in the case of administrative policy, for the sake of the legacy of traditional norms and values in the organizational culture, as well as path-dependent dynamics. All in all, evolutionary models of public policy presuppose more merging and sedimentation than dismantling or demolition. Consequently, it makes a difference when the concept of policy change is made operational (Capano 2009), for instance distinguishing the phases of policy agenda and decision making from the implementation. Just so, questioning how policy frameworks are put into practice, Cepiku and Meneguzzo (2011) underlined that in Italy “the contents and tools of reform suggest the adoption of a pure NPM model to PA modernization (…) However, a closer look at the implementation approach  Considering how Weber’s conception of the state is basic in the theory of the modern state, it has been recently observed that “it makes more sense to talk about degrees of weberianism rather than to distinguish between states that are (neo)-Weberian and those who are not” (Byrkjeflot et al. 2018: 1006). 21 22



and the results of reforms invalidate this position pointing instead toward a neo-Weberian model” (ivi: 23). Conclusively, Italy has been interpreted as a neo-Weberian implementer of NPM-oriented reforms. Main failures in the implementation of the managerial reforms had been therefore traced back to this specific feature. However, over time, implementation gaps were also addressed to limitations of the NPM recipes themselves, especially for the excessive focus on private sector and competition, ignoring organizational specificities and the context-dependency of public administrations. Additionally, we know that implementation always takes place in a dynamic environment where different factors, even unintentionally, may influence outputs and outcomes. Thus, between market and hierarchy, governance mechanisms and the cooperation within complex public–private networks of actors seemed to offer potential alternative solutions to administrative policy problems. Indeed, a “more sophisticated understanding of public policy implementation and public services delivery within a plural (with multiple interdependent actors) and pluralist (with multiple processes informing policy-making) state” was then suggested by the New public governance (NPG) approach (Osborne 2010: 5 ff.). From a normative stance, NPG-influenced administrative reforms are inter-organizationally oriented, enhancing coordination between the government and multiple stakeholders. Civil servants are seen as network managers and partnership leaders: they are crucial actors for change processes. The plurality of inter-relations between state, non-state/private, para-state agencies and civic society become a focal point for “co-­ production” and “co-responsibility” of public service delivery and “production of public value” (Liddle 2018). As Capano et al. (2015) properly outlined: “Governments are still very much in charge, in every governance mode (…) from hierarchical to market and network forms” (ivi: 319). Hence, empirically, elements of each ideal type (PA, NPM, NPG) are predicted to occur intertwined, resulting in increased complexity and hybrid organizational forms, and conceivably producing recurring types of dilemmas and contradictory effects (Christensen and Lægreid 2011). These non-linearities would be able to direct the process of implementation towards failures. Nevertheless, scholars also observed that some contradictions could only be apparent: for example, Pollitt and Bouckaert (2017) wrote a shortlist which includes “some (seemingly) incompatible paired statements and some complicated/less obvious combinations” (ivi: 191), such as “give priority to making savings/improving public service



quality”, or “promote flexibility and innovation/increase citizen trust and therefore governmental legitimacy”, along with “develop more partnerships and contracting out/improve horizontal coordination” (ibidem). As far as Italy is concerned, Bassanini already argued in 2010 that “since 2000 the problem of Italy’s PA is not so much the cost of general government bodies, which naturally must be contained and, if possible, reduced further, but the quality of the goods and services that they supply to individuals and firms, together with the quality of regulation and the regulatory and bureaucratic burden imposed on individuals and firms” (Bassanini 2010: 370). In that respect, new technologies had been universally regarded as an indispensable ingredient to solve that contradiction which seems to polarize “money-saving” vis-à-vis “services’ quality”. Besides, under cutback management this challenge’s results are amplified, and it should be considered, at the same time, that cutback management is anyhow about the long term. Yet it had been also considered that innovations, unintentionally, do not produce egalitarian effects; then a narrower scope of activities, in order to simplify and reduce public opinion’s mistrust, can emerge. Similarly, when relationships become multiple and horizontal, as it happens through contracting-out and partnerships, coordination is more difficult than in the case of hierarchy, which is vertical and two-dimensional. Anyhow, it is not given that more hierarchical, centralized systems do not endure fragmentation. Thus, once more, results are sensitive to context specificity; and the same applies to the adaptation of the “big reforms” to manifold theoretical/normative models. We expect that the latest administrative reform cycle signed in Italy by the Renzi government would fit more than its antecedents into this extremely variegated repertoire, influenced by post-NPM models as well.

1.5   Structure of This Book The book aims at providing a synthetic presentation of the Italian administrative system and an empirical as well as critical perspective on the processes of administrative reform in Italy, focusing more in depth on some of the most recent changes developed during the years of austerity and fiscal crisis (a comprehensive overview which tends to cover all areas of administrative reform is given by Merloni 2018). Literature review and secondary analysis were conducted to frame research questions about models of administrative innovation, policy preferences and options, implementation risks. These topics were developed



through new empirical data: process tracking and a qualitative methodology had been at the basis of the comprehensive and up-to-date policy analysis presented in the book. A number of primary sources were collected from the parliamentary arena, from executive, administrative actors and experts at the national level. We took into account written evidences published over time by key players of the reform processes: the positions adopted by the rulers were tracked, in such a way as to systematically describe different components of the politics of administrative change in Italy and explain its results. Following this Introduction, Chap. 2 is devoted to clarifying to what extent the austerity agenda adopted in the long run by most Southern European states under the pressure of influential international actors, as well as of authoritative EU institutions, resulted in Italy as an interplay between external impositions and national constructions. In fact, we assumed that to the transnationalization of policy frames through expert knowledge and cross-national comparisons based on best practices, along with the harmonization of regulations, howsoever domestication processes correspond. Empirically, we took into consideration the interplay between Italy and the EU in the frame of the European economic semester in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Seeing therefore that the nature and contents of reforms are always influenced by the structure of the arena of policy discourses, and the way in which reformers frame innovation matters with regard to further developments in the policy cycle, Chap. 3 explores the agenda setting and policy formulation of the latest Italian administrative reform, that of the Renzi government. In that regard, we found it useful to examine the narratives that emerged from crucial steps of the government policy cycle and during the parliamentary debates. The executive–legislature relationship and the role of party politics were examined. Chapters 4 and 5 are dedicated to two specific topics, established as decisive elements in the trajectory of public sector modernization particularly in Italy, and both revised by the latest Renzi reform (through the so-called Madia law): corruption and performance. In Chap. 4, we reported, the pressures made by a multiplicity of actors, after decades of political inattention, for an increasing expansion in the Italian regulation of measures to fight corruption. Within this constellation, the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC) entrepreneurship is in the long run especially discussed, as well as the use of evidence-based knowledge and orientation towards outcomes, which acquired specific relevance in the



most recent policy developments. Chapter 5 investigates advantages and disadvantages of independent bodies as a lever of change studying the case of performance planning, implementation and evaluation. In their real life, the OIVs (Organismi indipendenti di valutazione) are appraised as a policy failure. It is precisely to the implementation failures that the conclusive Chap. 6 is concerned. The vicious cycle of administrative reforms in Italy is explained with a focus on the most recent developments from the 18th legislature (started on 23 March 2018) and especially on the Five-Star Movement (M5S)/League coalition which, after months of political deadlock, agreed on an independent prime minister—the private law professor Giuseppe Conte, almost unknown to the public—thus giving birth to the “government of change”23. As for the PA, the government committed itself to achieve the “concreteness” of existing regulation instead of changing it in a comprehensive way. After all, the request for avoiding other waves of comprehensive reform is nowadays largely diffused in the policy community. Moreover it has been confirmed by the coalition government which took over after the crisis of the Conte I cabinet24 and was formed by the traditional rivals M5S and the centre-left Democratic Party (PD): they let Prime Minister Conte surviving the collapse of his own first government and, in the PA sector, the line of “concreteness” was understood with even greater continuity with the Madia (PD) reform.

References Bassanini, F. (2000). Overview of Administrative Reform and Implementation in Italy: Organization, Personnel, Procedures and Delivery of Public Services. International Journal of Public Administration, 23(2–3), 229–252. Bassanini, F. (2002, October 2–4). The Dynamics of Public Sector Reform. Reflections from the Italian Experience. Presentation at the 2nd Quality Conference for Public Administrations, Copenhagen, pp.  1–88. Retrieved March, 2018, from 23  The Conte cabinet rested on a “contract of government” between the anti-establishment M5S (which scored 32% at the general elections held on 4 March 2018, thus becoming the first party represented in the Italian parliament) and the “souverainist” League. M5S, which only entered parliament in 2013, experienced, not without contradictions, its first time in the national government. 24  The crisis occurred very rapidly between August and September 2019, after the announcement of the League’s leader Matteo Salvini to revoke the confidence in the cabinet and force early elections.



Bassanini, F. (2010). Vent’anni di riforme del sistema amministrativo italiano (1990–2010). Astrid Rassegna, 4 (English version). Retrieved from http:// Bauer, M. W. (2018). Public Administration and Political Science. In E. Ongaro & S. Van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management in Europe (pp. 1049–1065). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Blöndal, J., von Trapp, L., & Hammer, E. (2016). Budgeting in Italy. OECD Journal on Budgeting, 15(3), 1–28. Bull, M., & Rhodes, M. (Eds.). (1997). Crisis and Transition in Italian Politics (1st ed.). London and New York: Routledge. Bull, M., & Rhodes, M. (2007). Introduction—Italy: A Contested Polity. West European Politics, 30(4), 657–669. Brunetta, R. (2009). Reforming the Public Administration to make Italy grow. Review of the economic conditions in Italy, 3, 339–367. Byrkjeflot, H., du Gay, P., & Greve, C. (2018). What is the ‘Neo-Weberian State’ as a Regime of Public Administration? In E. Ongaro & S. Van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management (pp. 991–1009). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Capano, G. (1992). L’improbabile riforma. Le politiche di riforma amministrativa nell’Italia repubblicana. Bologna: il Mulino. Capano, G. (2003). Administrative Traditions and Policy Change: When Policy Paradigms Matter. The Case of Italian Administrative Reform During the 1990s. Public Administration, 81(4), 781–801. Capano, G. (2009). Understanding Policy Change as an Epistemological and Theoretical Problem. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 11(1), 7–31. Capano, G., Howlett, M., & Ramesh, M. (2015). Bringing Governments Back In: Governance and Governing in Comparative Policy Analysis. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 17(4), 311–321. Capoccia, G. (2015). Critical Junctures and Institutional Change. In J. Mahoney & K.  Thelen (Eds.), Advances in Comparative-Historical Analysis (pp. 147–179). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Capoccia, G. (2016). When Do Institutions “Bite”? Historical Institutionalism and the Politics of Institutional Change. Comparative Political Studies, 49(8), 1095–1127. Capoccia, G., & Kelemen, R. D. (2007). The Study of Critical Junctures: Theory, Narrative, and Counterfactuals in Historical Institutionalism. World Politics, 59(3), 341–369. Cassese, S. (1994). La riforma amministrativa all’inizio della quinta Costituzione dell’Italia unita. Il Foro Italiano, 117, 249–272. Cassese, S. (2002). Il nuovo regime dei dirigenti pubblici italiani: una modificazione costituzionale. Giornale di Diritto amministrativo, 12, 1341–1347.



Cassese, S. (2003). The Age of Administrative Reforms. In J.  Hayward & A.  Menon (Eds.), Governing Europe (pp.  128–138). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cepiku, D., & Meneguzzo, M. (2011). Public Administration Reform in Italy: A Shopping-Basket Approach to the New Public Management or the New Weberianism? International Journal of Public Administration, 34(1–2), 19–25. Christensen, T., & Lægreid, P. (2011). Complexity and Hybrid Public Administration—Theoretical and Empirical Challenges. Public Organization Review, 11(4), 407–423. Dahl, R. A. (1947). The Science of Public Administration: Three Problems. Public Administration Review, 7(1), 1–11. Di Mascio, F., & Natalini, A. (2014). Austerity and Public Administration: Italy Between Modernization and Spending Cuts. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(12), 1634–1656. Di Mascio, F., & Natalini, A. (2015). Fiscal Retrenchment in Southern Europe: Changing patterns of public management in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Public Management Review, 17(1), 129–148. Di Mascio, F., Natalini, A., & Stolfi, F. (2013). The Ghost of Crises Past: Analyzing Reform Sequences to Understand Italy’s Response to the Global Crisis. Public Administration, 91(1), 17–31. Goldfinch, S., & Wallis, J. (2010). Two Myths of Convergence in Public Management Reform. Public Administration, 88(4), 1099–1115. Gustafsson, G., & Richardson, J. (1980). Post-Industrial Changes in Policy Style. Scandinavian Political Studies, 3(1), 21–37. Gustavsson, S. (1980). Types of Policy and Types of Politics. Scandinavian Political Studies, 3(2), 123–142. Howlett, M., & Mukherjee, I. (2017). Policy Design: From Tools to Patches. Canadian Public Administration, 60(1), 140–144. Kettl, D.  F. (2000). Public Administration at the Millennium: The State of the Field. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 10(1), 7–34. Kickert, W. (2011). Distinctiveness of Administrative Reform in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Common Characteristics of Context, Administrations and Reforms. Public Administration, 89(3), 801–818. Kingdom, J. (1990). Public Administration or Public Implementation—A Discipline in Crisis. Public Policy and Administration, 5(2), 5–29. Lenschow, A., Liefferink, D., & Veenman, S. (2005). When the Birds Sing. A Framework for Analysing Domestic Factors Behind Policy Convergence. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 797–816. Liddle, J. (2018). Public Value Management and New Public Governance: Key Traits, Issues and Developments. In E.  Ongaro & S.  Van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management (pp. 967–990). London: Palgrave Macmillan.



Lowi, T. J. (1970). Decision Making vs. Policy Making: Toward an Antidote for Technocracy. Public Administration Review, 30(3), 314–325. Lowi, T.  J. (1972). Four Systems of Policy, Politics, and Choice. Public Administration Review, 32(4), 298–310. Lowi, T.  J. (1985). The State in Politics: The Relation Between Policy and Administration. In R.  N. Noll (Ed.), Regulatory Policy and Social Sciences (pp. 67–105). Berkeley: University of California Press. Lupo, N. (2015). I ‘governi tecnici’: gli esecutivi Ciampi, Dini e Monti nel difficile equilibrio tra tecnica e politica. Rassegna parlamentare, 1, 57–120. Massey, A. (2018). Persistent Public Management Reform: An Egregore of Liberal Authoritarianism? Public Money & Management, 39(1), 9–17. Mele, V. (2010). Innovation policy in Italy (1993–2002): Understanding the Invention and Persistence of a Public Management Reform. Governance, 23(2), 251–276. Mele, V., & Ongaro, E. (2014). Public Sector Reform in a Context of Political Instability: Italy 1992–2007. International Public Management Journal, 17(1), 111–142. Melis, G. (2003). Rapporto sull’evoluzione recente e i problemi aperti dell’amministrazione italiana. Formez. Retrieved March, 2018, from http:// unpan026875.pdf. Merloni, F. (2018). Costituzione repubblicana, riforme amministrative e riforme del sistema amministrativo. Diritto pubblico, 1, 81–120. OECD. (2010). Modernising the Public Administration: A Study on Italy. Retrieved February, 2018, from Ongaro, E. (2009). Public Management Reform and Modernization: Trajectories of Administrative Change in Italy, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Ongaro, E. (2011). The Role of Politics and Institutions in the Italian Administrative Reform Trajectory. Public Administration, 89(3), 738–755. Ongaro, E., Ferré, F., Galli, D., & Longo, F. (2016). Italy: Set Along a Neo-­ Weberian Trajectory of Administrative Reform? In G. Hammerschmid, S. Van de Walle, R.  Andrews, & P.  Bezes (Eds.), Public Administration Reforms in Europe. The View from the Top (pp. 185–193). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar. Osborne, S. P. (2010). Introduction: The (New) Public Governance: A Suitable Case for Treatment?, in S.P.  Osborne (Ed.) The New Public Governance? Emerging Perspectives on the Theory and Practice of Public Governance (pp. 1–16). New York and Oxon: Routledge. Peters, B. G. (2008). The Napoleonic Tradition. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 21(2), 118–132.



Pollitt, C. (2010). Envisioning Public Administration as a Scholarly Field in 2020. Public Administration Review, 70(1), 292–294. Pollitt, C., & Bouckaert, G. (2017). Public Management Reform. A Comparative Analysis—Into The Age of Austerity (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pollitt, C., Van Thiel, S., & Homburg, V. (Eds.). (2007). New Public Management in Europe. Adaptation and Alternatives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Richardson, J. (Ed.). (1982). Policy Styles in Western Europe. London: Allen and Unwin. Salisbury, R. H. (1968). The Analysis of Public Policy: A Search for Theories and Roles. In A. Ranney (Ed.), Political Science and Public Policy (pp. 151–175). Chicago: Markham. Spitzer, R. (1987). Promoting Policy Theory: Revising the Arenas of Power. Policy Studies Journal, 15, 675–689. Stillman, R. (2016). Two Varieties of Administrative Reform: US vs. Europe. In S.  Van de Walle & S.  Groenveld (Eds.), Theory and practice of Public Sector Reform (pp. 248–264). New York and Oxon: Routledge. Tolbert, C. J. (2002). Rethinking Lowi’s Constituent Policy: Governance Policy and Direct Democracy. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 20(4), 75–93. Torres, L. (2004). Trajectories in Public Administration Reforms in European Continental Countries. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 63(3), 99–112. Verzichelli, L., & Cotta, M. (2018). Shades of Technocracy: The Variable Use of Non-partisan Ministers in Italy. In A. Costa Pinto, M. Cotta, & P. Tavares de Almeida (Eds.), Technocratic Ministers and Political Leadership in European Democracies (pp. 77–110). Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. Wilson, J. Q. (Ed.). (1980). The Politics of Regulation. New York: Basic Books. Wright, B. E. (2011). Public Administration as an Interdisciplinary Field: Assessing Its Relationship with the Fields of Law, Management, and Political Science. Public Administration Review, 71(1), 96–101. Wright, B.  E. (2015). The Science of Public Administration: Problems, Presumptions, Progress, and Possibilities. Public Administration Review, 75(6), 795–805.


Pressures to Reform and the Impact of the Fiscal Crisis Sabrina Cavatorto

Abstract  This chapter considers the role of external pressures vis à vis administrative reforms. To what extent does the transnationalization of policy frames through expert knowledge and cross-national comparisons correspond to the processes of domestication? Is there a type of policy learning that is observable? This chapter analyses the guidance given by the OECD to Italy with regard to international standard setting and benchmarking, and the actions of the European Union through the European economic semester. Keywords  Transnationalization • Expert knowledge • Crisis-induced change • Policy learning • OECD • European semester

2.1   Policymaking Under External Constraints Revisiting the original concept of policy style, Richardson suggested a reformulation of it which stresses a cross-national move towards a more “impositional” approach to policymaking, with the decreasing influence of interest groups vis-à-vis the executives, lastly pushed by the 2008 financial crisis. According to the author, such a trend implies a decline in the capacity of policymaking systems to solve problems (Richardson 2018). © The Author(s) 2020 S. Cavatorto, A. La Spina, The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy,




Although he mainly focused on national contexts, we consider that shift reinforced in the context of Europeanization and globalization: the increasing of interdependencies and interconnectedness exposed nation states to more intense complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity, forcing them to deal with problems pressure under harsher external constraints. The dynamics of administrative reforms did not remain uncovered from these processes, influenced by policy transfer, policy diffusion, isomorphic change and policy convergence (Dolowitz and Marsh 2000; Radaelli 2000; Knill 2005), stemming from both voluntary and coercive mechanisms.1 Within this context, international organizations and the European Union (EU) proved to be driving forces for domestic change. Learning has been investigated as a dependent variable, and the connection between learning and organizational capacity, therefore governance in the public sector, has been recently made explicit by Dunlop and Radaelli (2018).2 In accordance, although on the one hand, especially in critical junctures such as crisis situations, most states intensify the perception of the need for reforms and become to some extent policy “takers” rather than policy “makers”, we also know from the literature that, on the other hand, countries react differently to external influences and that external impacts are always domestically mediated (Wasserfallen 2018). As a matter of fact, in Chap. 1 we discussed “trajectories” in administrative reforms, explainable in terms of national configurations. Additionally, the literature on Europeanization suggested an integrated perspective, where top-down and bottom-up processes influence each other, positing executive actors and administrations (more than legislatures or domestic groups) tightly at the core of EU multilevel governance system. This chapter is devoted to clarify to what extent the austerity agenda, adopted in the long run by most states under the pressure of influential international governmental or non-governmental actors and authoritative EU institutions, resulted in an interplay between external impositions and national constructions. We assume in fact that to the transnationalization of policy frames through expert knowledge and cross-national comparisons, along with the harmonization of regulations, howsoever domestication processes correspond. 1  Regulatory policies were able to be diffused to a higher extent than policies involving redistributive conflicts between domestic actor coalitions (see Chap. 1). 2  For a review on policy learning literature, see also Dunlop and Radaelli (2013). The link between learning and policy failures was further explored by Dunlop (2017).



Incorporating neo-liberal recipes, international organizations like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the World Bank strongly encouraged public sector “modernization”3 being inspired by the new public management (NPM). This international network of public management experts offered, and still offer, imaginative opportunities to national policymakers to facilitate change dynamics at home. In Italy, for example, the OECD’s best practices worked as a source of legitimization of the first wave of administrative policy reforms in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the embracement of NPM ideas was rather selective and differentiated, and not just in Italy (Pollitt and Bouckaert 2017). Although supranational, and thus with a higher degree of coercive potential, EU regulations also had differentiated impacts because of the distinctiveness of national systems. Moreover, it is to be recalled that administrative policy is not a competence delegated as such to the EU, so that harmonizing effects on the member states are limited.4 But yet, that lack of specific competence has not prevented the EU from drawing up measures which, indirectly and also directly, affected administrative policies of the member states. The impacting force of such external influences, even if transversal, became sharper when the effects of the 2008 financial and economic crisis became more evident within the Eurozone, consequently strengthening EU fiscal coordination and adjustment. The convergence towards EU recommendations was especially monitored in those EU countries, like Italy, which resulted more severely exposed to the risks of the crisis, due to their high public debt. In the next sections, we first consider what type of guidance for structural reforms specifically came to Italy from the OECD in the frame of international standard setting and benchmarking; second, the EU action 3  Discussing modernization as a “tacit” concept, naturally (emphasis added) associated with improvement, that is, increased rationality and effectiveness of the whole society, Alasuutari (2011) argues that the diffusion of worldwide policy models is coupled with the framework of state competition and uses cross-national comparative data to justify reforms. However, this does not guarantee that transnational recipes are always put into practice: “the introduction of a transnational idea typically triggers a process in which actors defend their positions and interests in the changes that the potential reform causes to the existing status quo” (ivi: 231). 4  According to the Treaty, the EU lacks any direct legislative competence on administrative policy. Article 298 TFEU calls for an “open, efficient and independent” administration, but for the European, not the national, level.



is taken into account especially in the aftermath of the Great Recession, once the European economic semester was introduced as a tool to prevent excessive macroeconomic imbalances and public debt.

2.2   The Role of the OECD The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development has acted as a leading global actor contributing to the public sector reforms of the last decades (Porter and Webb 2008). The global discourse about what constitutes a well-functioning state and good governance was indeed facilitated by transnational networks, where the OECD played a very important role, together with the World Bank5 and the United Nations Development Programme (UNPD). In the 1990s, the OECD’s Public Management Committee (PUMA)— then Public Governance Committee (PGC)—was particularly successful in developing an NPM-oriented narrative about public administration (PA) reforms which stimulated the dissemination of ideas for policy change and expert knowledge at the level of member governments. Nowadays, the OECD Directorate for Public Governance ( assists countries on a broad number of topics, from anti-corruption and integrity in the public sector, to digital government, regulatory policy and risk governance. Since 2009, the “Government at Glance” series biannually delivers public service performance data6 and comparisons among OECD members and beyond; the indicators are organized on 11 topics: significant attention is devoted to the administrative activities of the central ­governments, spending reviews are monitored as a specific tool to prioritize public expenditures but, primarily, reflecting on the critical effects of austerity measures adopted in most OECD countries in response to the 5  The World Bank Governance Indicators (WBGI) are considered the most widely used indicators for measuring PA worldwide ( wgi/#home). Yet, as Van Dooren (2018) remarks observing the “government effectiveness” dimension for the year 2016, WBGI is more useful to describe big differences that can be found on a global scale, than for smaller distinctions within EU countries. Actually, also the project team specifies that the composite indicators are useful as a tool for “broad crosscountry comparisons” and for evaluating “broad trends over time” (http://info.worldbank. org/governance/wgi/index.aspx#doc).  They themselves warn that specific governance reforms country contexts “need to be informed by much more detailed and country-specific diagnostic data” (ibidem). 6  Comparative information can be downloaded from the OECD database (http://www.



2008 crisis, a new approach for public sector reforms is framed (OECD 2017a). The need for governments to prepare (and steer) their public administrations for “continuous change” is envisioned through “system thinking” approaches, better suited to cope with the so-called wicked problems, that is, problems characterized by uncertainty, complexity, divergent values and interdependent processes, structures and actors (ivi: 327). On the one hand, they “put great emphasis on the needs, opinions and mind-sets of users, and enable an understanding of citizens as co-producers and co-­ designers of government policies and services”; on the other hand, they tend to overcome administrative silos by “involving actors and knowledge from different policy fields and parts of government”, thus creating horizontal, less-hierarchical structures and a more technologically rich environment. Consequently, although one lesson from three decades of reform experiences is that “modernization” efforts must be tailored to each individual country’s context, the OECD Observatory for Public sector innovation (OPsi) put forward a framework for system transformation in which administrative capacity—reframed as “strategic ability”, first conceptualized in the private sector organizations—depends on processes, that should be more “open, evidence based, and iterative” (ivi: 34–35; OECD 2017b). The unique position of the “centre of government” in articulating priorities and supporting a less compartmentalized operative approach to reform processes is deemed essential to ensure policy coherence and avoid failures. However, this does not necessarily should imply greater centralization. On the contrary, the gradual transformation of the public workforce towards more professional, strategic and innovative skills cannot be avoided. In this context, “it is crucial to have institutions that generate data and information that is not only valid and reliable, but also legitimate and trustworthy” (Bouckaert in OECD 2017a: 11). As a matter of fact, at the international level, the OECD fulfils this role of a legitimate, and legitimating, knowledge producer. Since 2015, country fact sheets and scorecards are provided online on the OECD website, together with the entire data archive. Moreover, OECD indicators are grounded in OECD recommendations subscribed by member countries, thus providing normative elements to their design: 7  The main organizational and cognitive dimensions emerging from the research literature on wicked problems, and the implications for public administration are usefully discussed by Brian and Alford (2015).



for instance, in the case of the regulatory governance indicators, the 2012 OECD “Recommendation on Regulatory policy and governance” are reflected. The same applies for the OECD “Going for Growth” recommendations and the indicators about public finance and economics.8 Precisely with reference to the dimension “public finance and economics”, parallel-connected to the dimension “budgeting practices and procedures”, six comprehensive spending reviews were classified between 2008 and 2016 in the case of Italy,9 even if the gross debt level remained persistently high. In the period 2007–2015, expenditures for general public services as percentage of GDP decreased more than the OECD average (respectively −0.7 and −0.210). A system of accrual accounting resulted not implemented yet.11 Concerning the “public employment and pay” dimension, a careful workforce planning was recommended because, in comparison to the OECD average (24.9%), in 2015 Italy had the highest proportion of central government employees aged 55 or older (45.4%). This percentage increased the most in Italy since 2010 (31% at that time)  (Fig. 2.1). Correspondingly, less than 10% of central government employees are aged 18 to 34 (like in Greece, Spain, Poland and Korea). Senior managers, who are the oldest (more than 60% are aged 55 or older) and even the highest paid, are in Italy. As regard “human resources management” (HRM), data refer to practices in central government, and the index12 on performance assessment ranks Italy on the OECD average. Notwithstanding, Italy is not in the group of countries where there is no

8  Future effort has been also announced in order to develop new indicators measuring the implementation of the 2014 OECD “Recommendation on Digital Government Strategies”. 9 10  Comparing the same “general public services” function from the structure of other Southern EU governments’ expenditures during the same years 2007–2015, Greece and France scored higher decreases (respectively −6.9 and −2.6); on the contrary, Spain and Portugal increased their quotas (respectively +2.2 and +1.5) (OECD 2017a: 76–77). 11  On the basis of the 2016 OECD “Accruals Survey”, Italy did not appear among those countries implementing or transitioning to accrual accounting, but maintaining cash financial reports. 12  The performance assessment index indicates the types of performance assessment tools and criteria, and the extent to which performance assessments are used in career advancement, remuneration and contract renewal. This index provides information on the formal use of performance assessments in central government, and does not provide information on its implementation or the quality of work performed by public servants. Data are based on expert surveys.


3,500,000 3,400,000 3,300,000 3,200,000 3,100,000












Fig. 2.1  Public employment in the Italian general government (N). For obvious problems of definition and measurement, an ensured level of comparison among OECD countries is that of “general” government, which comprises state, central and local authorities (OECD 1997). (Source: Own elaboration based on https://

or very few turnovers of senior civil servants just after a change in government, thus demonstrating a rather low level of professionalization. Additionally, inasmuch as integrity emerged as a major issue, a country-­ specific review was devoted to Italy on this specific topic (OECD 2013). In fact, OECD “Public governance reviews” assess the capacity-building across specific national administrations; trust in government, partnerships with civil society and the quality of public services delivery; the implementation strategies. Advice is also offered through the sharing of good practices on bringing down the public deficit/debt. In trouble times for Italy severely hit by the 2008 crisis, the integrity review was in effect requested by the Italian Department of Public Administration to help the implementation of law 190/2012, known as the Anti-Corruption Law, by focusing on the preventive aspects of the new regulation, not just on its repressive provisions, however numerous. The general aim was to increase citizens’ trust in the government’s ability to control corruption. A peer review with the participation of officials from other OECD member countries was developed, and recommendations for the “institutionalisation of a culture of integrity” in the Italian public sector were provided. Not last, economic surveys about major challenges faced by a country are also periodically carried out, comparing action taken year after year. The last OECD economic survey on Italy published in February 2017 still mentioned “PA inefficiencies” as a major obstacle to boost firms’ productivity; therefore, it addressed the recommendation of making progress on e-services, and also giving full and “swift” implementation to the latest comprehensive reform passed by the Renzi government (OECD 2017c). In a complementary way, the “Going for Growth” series provides policymakers with concrete reform recommendations (



eco/going-for-growth.htm): taking stock of reforms enacted over the past years, the 2018 Interim report on Italy highlighted once more the positive link between progress on implementing an ambitious structural reform agenda and the capacity to restore trust by improving the efficiency of the PA through a better-skilled performance-based human resources system, together with the reinforcement of the rule of law by fighting corruption.13 It is well evident that the recurrence of the same, or very similar, recommendations year after year, which testifies to their weak implementation, is a symptom of the need to frame change processes—even during times of crisis—in an ever-dynamic, not linear, perspective. Can we expect the responsiveness rate to increase in the presence of more binding mechanisms of coordination, as it should be the case of recommendations delivered within the framework of the EU new economic governance?

2.3   The EU Action Bearing in mind the role of the transnational networks and expert groups as knowledge producers and disseminators, hence potential drivers of policy innovation, as regards the EU context and administrative policy we focused on the action promoted by the European Public Administration Network (EUPAN), an informal network of the directors general responsible for PA in EU member States. EUPAN is supposed to contribute to the exchange of best practices for administrative reforms across the Union. Additionally, drawing attention to “harder” forms of policy transfer, the guiding function of the Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs) elaborated in the frame of the European economic semester was analysed, since a “public administration” priority was expressly mentioned within the Annual Growth Survey (AGS) from 2012 onwards and numerous CSRs were addressed to member states, pressing them to reform their public services and administrations. Although the CSRs do not offer detailed recommendations but just a list of top priorities, tending to be unspecific on the measures then needed to attain them, the overall importance attributed to the need of administrative reforms increased.14  It was suitably pointed out that the reference to public administration was “changeable, sliding from the broader notion of ‘public services’ in 2012 to the narrower one of ‘administrative modernisation’ in 2015” (Peña-Casas et al. 2015). 13 14



The pressure resulting from the financial and economic crisis accentuated the cost containment approach already sponsored by NPM-oriented frame. However, as we pointed out in Chap. 1, new nuances also emerged supporting post-NPM perspectives, where market-type mechanisms remain functional but normatively flanked by new elements, such as coordination, collaboration, co-responsibility and co-production, participation, and digitalization. As literature identified, NPM ideas have been integrated by post-NPM components, in an interplay between repertoires of action respectively oriented to (market)-efficiency, as well as (governance)-involvement. With regard to EUPAN, in her capacity as the head of the department for public administration during the Italian EU presidency in 2014, Pia Marconi called the attention on the need of suggestions and proposals by the network for a “whole-of-government” approach to address the challenges of PA and support “respective countries growth and thrive”.15 Although the challenges were considered “to remain the same”, the shift in emphasis towards the need of a more integrated and collaborative perspective to administrative reforms emerged. Peer-to-peer-consultations and knowledge transfer through networking have been experienced among members, gathering together cultural and structural diversities of administrations in the EU countries. An evaluation of EUPAN was launched under the Italian presidency and conducted during 2015 by the European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), already engaged by ministers as a EUPAN partner with the purpose of methodologically favouring organizational self-assessment.16 Anyway, criticism against unsatisfactory results of EUPAN was significant and mainly had to do with the tricky combination between informality (preferred by most members) and formality (to some extent required to produce more visible products), both embedded as EUPAN core principles (EIPA 2015a, b, EUPAN 2016). Also the attitude of the European Commission towards EUPAN changed over time (Demmke 2017), and it increased since when an emerging consensus about the role of PA efficiency in favour of economic growth and competitiveness was acknowledged, thus supporting an outcome-oriented but also user-centred model, where vertical and horizontal coordination,  Welcome Letter 2014 by the Italian EU presidency (  The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a tool to improve management performance inspired by total-quality models, but especially designed for public-sector organizations. 15 16



together with formal and pragmatic interactions among actors should have been improved. That is why responding to the crisis in the context of EU new economic governance (through the European Semester), the European Commission identified national administrations, and Europe-wide PA networks as EUPAN, not just as a component of EU sectoral policies implementation, but as a specific object, requiring additional attention per se.17 The idea that EU benchmarks and the specificity of contexts should be combined with was more clearly envisioned by the European Commission: since “synergy” never is an obvious process-result, in the AGS for 2015 the Juncker Commission suggested an “integrated approach” to reinforce the European Semester, making it less top-down, in pursuance of more positive interactions with the member states (European Commission 2014a). In fact, experience has shown that beyond acute crisis, when cross-country spillover effects tend to gradually reduce themselves, incentives for governments to coordinate decrease as well (Alcidi and Gros 2017). As for Italy, it has been classified as a “poor performer” according to EU monitoring indicators, together with (in the Eurozone) Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia and Cyprus and (non in the Eurozone) Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia18 (Asatryan et al. 2016: 38). Actually, in the years 2014–2016, Italy resulted among those member states who got the maximum number of recommendations.19 And still in 2018, Italy remained alone with Cyprus and Croatia (all of them experiencing “excessive” imbalances under the Stability and Growth Pact20) in receiving ­recommendations on the improvement of various aspects of PA efficiency and quality (European Commission 2018a). In the outset of the European Semester in 2011, the increasing of public debt in the Euro area as a whole was primarily at the heart of EU 17  The Guide on the “Quality of PA”, first published in 2015 (fully updated in 2017) by the newly established “European Commission Inter-service Group on Institutional Capacity and Administrative Reform”, was devoted to operationally support national administrations in delivering “successful” strategies through “inspirational” case studies, in order for them to “create prosperous, fair and resilient societies” and “become fit for the future” (European Commission 2017). 18  Croatia joined the EU in 2013, after the European Semester started. In the Eurozone, Greece and Cyprus got financial assistance from EU economic adjustment programmes. 19  Data from the Economic Governance Support Unit (EGOV) of the European Parliament ( 20  It deserves to be also kept in mind that in 2018 the fiscal adjustment for Italy was judged “inadequate”.



worries, given the combination of low potential economic growth and unfavourable demographic developments (Council 2011a). Specific efforts to enhance the PA, mostly vis-à-vis the business environment, were requested to Spain, Slovenia, Slovakia and Italy.21 For Italy, initially the prompt was for reducing disparities between subnational administrations in the absorption of cohesion policy funds (Council 2011b). Simplification was critically assessed owing to the complexity of the regulatory framework for firms, deemed suffering of high administrative burdens, an inefficient judiciary system and often ineffective public procurement practices (European Commission 2012; Council 2012). Only later on, in the third round of the ES, Italy was explicitly recommended to “reinforce the efficiency of PA” by itself, also strengthening anti-corruption measures (Council 2013). The results (Table 2.1) were considered of “limited progress”, namely announced measures appeared insufficient to address the CSRs and/or their implementation was considered at risk (European Commission 2013, 2014b). “Some” progress was recognized in 2015 for the adoption of the enabling law to comprehensively reform the PA by the Renzi government (see Chap. 3) and because the measures under the 2015–2017 simplification agenda were being implemented according the timeline set out (European Commission 2015). In spite of this, the uncertain path of enforcement of the enabling law, through the adoption of the implementing decrees, led the Council to consider the Italian commitments for medium term unattainable (Council 2017). The same held for Italy’s challenges related to high-level corruption (see Chap. 4), as in the case of public procurement22; “no” progress was made in revising the statute of limitations, with a bill pending since 2014; the national anti-­ corruption authority (ANAC) was recognized to have limited financial and human resources to effectively exercise its powers (ivi: 50).23 But finally, assessing the implementation of 2017 CSRs in March 2018, the European Commission recognized “substantial” progress in the anti-­ corruption framework (European Commission 2018b).   Among non-Euro-area countries, Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary and Poland were addressed too. 22   Measuring member states’ performance per policy area, the EU Single Market Scoreboard ( acknowledged as “unsatisfactory” Italy’s public procurement performance in 2017. 23  Recommendations about PA also included, since the very beginning of the European Semester, the enforcement of civil justice, resulting in the length of proceedings amongst the highest in the EU. In 2018, it remained a priority (Council 2018), but the analysis of this specific topic is beyond the contents of this book. 21



Table 2.1  Implementation of CSRs to Italy in the PA field 2018


CSR2 out of 4 (2017) CSR2 out of 5 (2016)

2016 2015 CSR3 & CSR6 out of CSR3 & CSR 7 out of 6 (2015) 8 (2014)

2014 CSR2 out of 6 (2013)

2013 CSR2 and CSR6 out of 6 (2012)

Full implementation Substantial Step up the fight progress against corruption, in particular by revising the statute of limitations Some progress

Limited progress

Complete reforms of public employment and improve the efficiency of publicly-owned enterprises

Reduce the length of civil justice proceedings by enforcing reforms and through effective case-management

Promptly adopt and implement the pending law on competition and address the remaining restrictions to competition

Ensure that the reforms Approve the pending adopted to improve the legislation or other efficiency of civil equivalent measures justice help reduce the aimed at simplifying length of proceedings the regulatory environment for Implement the businesses and simplification agenda citizens and address for 2015-2017 to ease implementation gaps the administrative and in existing legislation regulatory burden Fight against Wider effort to Implement the reform of the PA by corruption and revise improve the the statute of efficiency of PA, adopting and limitations by midclarify competences implementing all at all levels of necessary legislative 2015 government. Ensure decrees, in particular better management those reforming of EU funds publicly-owned enterprises, local Further enhance the public services and Adopt competitioneffectiveness of antithe management of enhancing measures corruption measures, in all the sectors human resources including by revising covered by the competition law, and the statute of take decisive action to limitations by the end of 2014, and remove remaining strengthening the barriers powers of the national anti-corruption authority

Reduce the trial length in civil justice through effective case management and rules ensuring procedural discipline

Adopt and implement the pending laws aimed at improving the institutional framework and modernising the PA

Monitor in a timely manner the impact of the reforms adopted to increase the efficiency of civil justice with a view to securing their effectiveness and adopting complementary action if needed

Enhance the efficiency of public procurement

Reduce the duration of casehandling and the high levels of litigation in civil justice

Implement the adopted liberalisation and simplification measures in the services sector

Simplify further the regulatory framework for businesses and enhance administrative capacity

Simplify the administrative and regulatory framework for citizens and business

Implement the planned reorganisation of the civil justice system, and promote the use of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms

Ensure timely implementation of on-going reforms by swiftly adopting the necessary enacting legislation, following it up with concrete delivery at all levels of government and with all relevant stakeholders, and monitoring impact Strengthen the legal framework for the repression of Corruption Adopt structural measures to improve the management of EU funds in the Southern regions with regard to the 2014-2020 programming period




Table. 2.1 (continued) No progress

Step up the fight against corruption including by revising the statute of limitations by the end of 2016

Ensure that local public services contracts not complying with the requirements on inhouse awards are rectified by no later than end-2015

In local public services, rigorously implement the legislation

Pursue a durable improvement of the efficiency and quality of public expenditure through the planned spending review and the implementation of the 2011 Cohesion Action Plan leading to improving the absorption and management of EU funds

Legend comprehensive PA reform anti-corruption conpetition civil justice

Source: European Commission, Country Reports on Italy (2013–2018)

80 60

Tend to trust Tend not to trust


Don't know

20 0 Italy


Fig. 2.2  Citizens attitudes towards the PA: Italians among Europeans (%). (Source: Own elaboration based on Eurobarometer Interactive “PA in [OUR Country]” (11/2018))

Even so, Italy’s PA is perceived to be less efficient and effective than it is in other EU countries (Eurobarometer 2018): 68% of Italians think that the provision of public services in their country is “total bad”. Among the 28 member states, only the Greeks are more pessimistic (85%). Distrust24 in the PA is indeed the strongest in Greece (81% of “tend not to trust” responses), Italy (72%) and Croatia (67%) (Fig. 2.2). 24  Trust in PA has been less documented than changes in political trust, and fewer indicators are available. Moreover, Raaphorst and Van de Walle (2018) deepen the subject distinguishing between two trust relationships: trust of citizens in the PA and trust of the PA in citizens. Anyhow, they found both dimensions very scarcely investigated by academic literature so far.



A “growth-friendly” PA scoreboard was additionally constructed by the European Commission as part of the “Member States’ Competitiveness Report”, which yearly compares EU countries’ performance in a number of areas important for the ease of doing business. As for Italy, the conclusion was that, despite governments’ efforts, a competitive business environment still had to emerge (European Commission 2014c). Late payments by public authorities also resulted in a big issue, causing high uncertainty for suppliers, particularly small businesses: Italy experienced a considerable worsening of the situation since 2008, and, in 2013, it was ranked as for payment times in the last EU28 position (ivi: 69–70). Of course, the crisis was not helpful to increasing cash flow from the public sector to suppliers, and in December 2017 the European Commission decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice of the EU because of the systemic breaching of the Late payment directive (2011/7/EU), three years after the launch of the infringement procedure. Not least, the 2018 “eGovernment Benchmark” report (European Commission 2018c) highlighted that “penetration” (i.e. the extent to which use of the online channel is widespread among users of government services) and “digitisation” (based on user-centricity, transparency, cross-­ border mobility and key enablers such as electronic identification)25 are positively correlated with the perceived quality of government performance. That considered, Italy resulted in seriously underperforming on penetration (22% vs. 53% EU28 average) and with a medium-low level of digitisation (58% vs. 63% EU28 average26). Italy was therefore included in the “non-consolidated eGov” scenario, where countries are not fully exploiting information and communication technology (ICT) opportunities (ivi: 48). That being the context, the need to further develop an even more systematic evidence-based knowledge about PA status and reform dynamics in EU countries has been strategically addressed by the European Commission, for instance through the 2016–2018 EUPACK project (EUropean Public Administration Country Knowledge),27 besides to 25  The four top-level benchmarks cover the policy priorities of the EU eGovernment Action Plan 2016–2020 ( 26  The Italian PagoPA, a centralized node for public payments, was selected as a good practice on the top-level benchmark “key enablers” (ivi: 50). 27  Funded by the European Commission and implemented by the consortium of the European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA), Hertie School for Governance, and Ramboll Management Consulting. EUPACK final results were presented in a closing partici-



ameliorate the impact of EU funding vis-à-vis administrative reforms.28 Beyond doubt, the adaptation of useful monitoring systems to member states own needs, with only limited mandatory reporting requirements connected to the funding (Attström 2018), is emphasized as a fertile operative suggestion for the European Commission to play an efficacious role. In view of strengthening reform partnerships with the member states, a Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) was created in 2015 by the Commission, designed to offer technical support on demand of EU countries, “tailor-made to the beneficiary and easy to use” (European Commission 2018d: 4). Particularly, the SRSS was thought as a tool to overcome the effects of the Euro crisis, following the example of the task forces established to steer reforms in Greece (2011) and Cyprus (2013), both entered the financial assistance package from the EU. At present, CSRs addressed in the frame of the European Semester can be implemented with the support of the SRSS. “Governance and public administration” figure among those reform areas for which assistance can be asked by the member states, also on reforms at their own initiative: in 2017, requests from 16 EU countries were selected, and from 24 in 2018. Italy presented 11 requests in 2017, of which 9 admitted to funding (European Commission 2018e). Support was specifically demanded by Italy to fight tax evasion, enhance transparency and business environment, design a comprehensive accrual accounting system. In 2018, a project for the management of the whistleblowing mechanism was started. Although since its inception scepticism was expressed about the SRSS potential (Asatryan et  al. 2016: 57), the development of the programme is demonstrating interesting results, at least in terms of member states’ responses: the 2019 package provides resources for 263 measures to 26 member states, an amount that has been increased in comparison to previous years. Of patory seminar in March 2018: useful documentation is available from https://ec.europa. eu/social/main.jsp?catId=88&eventsId=1308&langId=en (last accessed February 2019). 28  In 2014–2020, EU Cohesion policy funding invests in “institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders and efficient public administration” under Thematic Objective 11 (TO11). As in the previous period 2007–2013, most of the resources comes from the European Social Fund (ESF). The novelty of the 2014–2020 programming period is that the use of funds has been conditioned on the elaboration of a policy strategic framework for administrative reform. Whether the introduction of this ex ante conditionality can really improve the use of EU funds for PA reforms has been critically discussed by Asatryan et al. (2016: 42). Updated information about “TO11” are available from https://cohesiondata.



course, the effectiveness of the implementation of this policy tool requires longer time to be empirically investigated. Yet, in the medium term, we can say that the interplay between national reforms and EU investments has been institutionalized to a higher extent.

References Alasuutari, P. (2011). Modernization as a Tacit Concept Used in Governance. Journal of Political Power, 4(2), 217–235. Alcidi, C. & Gros, D. (2017). How to strengthen the European Semester? CEPS Research Report No. 2017/15. Asatryan, Z., et al. (2016). Public Sector Reform: How the EU Budget Is Used to Encourage It. In Policy Department on Budgetary Affairs. Brussels: European Parliament. Attström, K. (2018). Role and effect of external support to Public Administration. Brussels, European Commission, KE-03-18-295-EN-N. Brian, W.H. & Alford, J. (2015). Wicked Problems: Implications for Public Policy and Management. Administration & Society, 47(6), 711–739. Council. (2011a). Council Recommendation of 12 July 2011 on the Implementation of the Broad Guidelines for the Economic Policies of the Member States Whose Currency Is the Euro. Official Journal of the European Union (2011/C 217/05). Council. (2011b). Council Recommendation of 12 July 2011 on the National Reform Programme 2011 of Italy and Delivering a Council Opinion on the Updated Stability Programme of Italy, 2011–2014. Official Journal of the European Union (2011/C 215/02). Council. (2012). Council Recommendation of 10 July 2012 on the National Reform Programme 2011 of Italy and Delivering a Council Opinion on the Updated Stability Programme of Italy, 2012–2015. Official Journal of the European Union (2012/C 219/14). Council. (2013). Council Recommendation of 9 July 2013 on the National Reform Programme 2013 of Italy and Delivering a Council Opinion on the Updated Stability Programme of Italy, 2012–2017. Official Journal of the European Union (2013/C 217/11). Council. (2017). Council Recommendation of 11 July 2017 on the 2017 National Reform Programme of Italy and Delivering a Council Opinion on the 2017 Stability Programme of Italy. Official Journal of the European Union (2017/C 261/11). Council. (2018). Council Recommendation of 13 July 2018 on the 2018 National Reform Programme of Italy and Delivering a Council Opinion on the 2018 Stability Programme of Italy. Official Journal of the European Union (2018/C 320/11).



Demmke, C. (2017). The European Public Administration Network (EUPAN): Which Contribution to the Informal Civil Service Cooperation in the EU? Revue française d’administration publique, 161(1), 31–44. Dolowitz, D. P., & Marsh, D. (2000). Learning from Abroad: The Role of Policy Transfer in Contemporary Policy-Making. Governance, 13(1), 5–24. Dunlop, C. A. (2017). Policy Learning and Policy Failure: Definitions, Dimensions and Intersections. Policy & Politics, 45(1), 3–18. Dunlop, C. A., & Radaelli, C. M. (2013). Systematizing Policy Learning: From Monolith to Dimensions. Political Studies, 31(3), 599–619. Dunlop, C.  A., & Radaelli, C.  M. (2018). Policy Learning and Organizational Capacity. In E. Ongaro & S. van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management in Europe (pp. 595–620). London: Palgrave. EIPA. (2015a, June 11–12). Report on the Evaluation of EUPAN.  Executive Summary and Discussion Note. DG-Meeting in Riga. Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU. Retrieved January, 2019, from http://www.eupan. eu/files/repository/20150609160808_Executive_summary_and_discussion_ note_(Final_Version)_-_Evaluation_of_EUPAN_-_Luxembourg_-_2015.pdf. EIPA. (2015b, June 11–12). Report on the Evaluation of EUPAN.  Stakeholders Analysis. DG-Meeting in Riga. Luxembourg Presidency of the Council of the EU.  Retrieved January, 2019, from EUPAN. (2016, June 16–17). The First EUPAN Strategy Paper. DG-Meeting in Amsterdam. The Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the EU. Retrieved January, 2019, from EUPAN_2016_The_First_EUPAN_Strategy_Paper.pdf. Eurobarometer. (2018). Standard Eurobarometer 88—Public Opinion in the EU. Retrieved February, 2019, from publicopinion. European Commission. (2012). Assessment of the 2012 National Reform Programme and Stability Programme for Italy. Commission Staff Working Paper. COM(2012)318 Final, Brussels. European Commission. (2013). Assessment of the 2013 National Reform Programme and Stability Programme for Italy. Commission Staff Working Paper. COM(2013)362 Final, Brussels. European Commission. (2014a). Annual Growth Survey 2015. COM(2014) 902 Final, Brussels. European Commission. (2014b). Assessment of the 2014 National Reform Programme and Stability Programme for Italy. Commission Staff Working Paper. COM(2014)413 Final, Brussels. European Commission. (2014c). Reindustrialising Europe. Member States’ Competitiveness Report 2014. Commission Staff Working Paper. SWD(2014) 278, Brussels.



European Commission. (2015). Assessment of the 2015 National Reform Programme and Stability Programme for Italy. Commission Staff Working Paper. COM(2015)583 Final, Brussels. European Commission. (2017). Quality of Public Administration. A Toolbox for Practitioners. Abridged Version. Retrieved January, 2018, from http://ec. European Commission. (2018a). 2018 European Semester—Country-Specific Recommendations. COM(2018) 400 Final, Brussels. European Commission. (2018b). Country Report Italy 2018 Including an In-Depth Review on the Prevention and Correction of Macroeconomic Imbalances. Commission Staff Working Paper, SWD(2018) 210 Final, Brussels. European Commission. (2018c). eGovernment Benchmark 2018. Securing eGovernment for All. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the EU. European Commission. (2018d). 3 Years Structural Reforms Support Service. Supporting Reforms that Enhance Growth and Job Creation Across the EU. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the EU. European Commission. (2018e). Annual Monitoring Report on the Implementation of Structural Reform Support Programme 2017. Commission Staff Working Document. SWD(2018) 465 Final, Brussels. Knill, C. (2005). Introduction: Cross-National Policy Convergence: Concepts, Approaches and Explanatory Factors. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 764–774. OECD. (1997). Measuring Public Employment in OECD Countries: Sources, Methods and Results. Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD. (2013). Integrity Review of Italy. Reinforcing Public Sector Integrity, Restoring Trust for Sustainable Growth. Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD. (2017a). Government at a Glance 2017. Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD. (2017b). Working with Change: Systems Approaches to Public Sector Challenges. Paris: OECD Publishing. OECD. (2017c). OECD Economic Surveys: Italy 2017. Paris: OECD Publishing. Peña-Casas, R., Sabato, S., Lisi, V., & Agostini, C. (2015). The European Semester and Modernisation of Public Administration. OSE Paper Series, Briefing Paper No. 12, European Social Observatory, Brussels. Pollitt, C. & Bouckaert, G. (2017). Public Management Reform. A Comparative Analysis - Into The Age of Austerity, 4th Edition, Oxford, Oxford University Press. Porter, T., & Webb, M. (2008). Role of the OECD in the Orchestration of Global Knowledge Networks. In R.  Mahon & S.  McBride (Eds.), The OECD and Transnational Governance (pp. 43–59). Vancouver: UBC Press. Raaphorst, N., & Van de Walle, S. (2018). Trust in and by the Public Sector. In R. H. Searle, A.-M. I. Nienaber, & S. B. Sitkin (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Trust (1st ed., pp. 469–482). London: Routledge.



Radaelli, C. (2000). Policy Transfer in the European Union: Institutional Isomorphism as a Source of Legitimacy. Governance, 13(1), 25–43. Richardson, J. (2018). British Policy-Making and the Need for a Post-Brexit Policy Style. London, Palgrave. Van Dooren, W. (2018). Measuring Public Administration: A Feasibility Study for Better Comparative Indicators in the EU. EUPACK project Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union. Wasserfallen, F. (2018). Policy Diffusion and European Public Policy Research. In E.  Ongaro & S. van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management in Europe (pp. 621–633). London: Palgrave.


Restyling Public Management–Inspired Reforms Sabrina Cavatorto

Abstract  The chapter examines the agenda of Italian governments in their attempt to adjust to external pressures in the context of the Great Recession and austerity politics. We analyse the “modernization” trajectory of the Italian PA as developed by the latest comprehensive administrative reform under the Renzi government (2014–2016). The legislative process, and the narratives put on the agenda by the actors from the policy community, are empirically investigated and discussed as drivers of further, potentially “appropriate”, implementation. Keywords  Agenda setting • Decision making • Implementation • Executive-legislature relations • Party politics

3.1   Public Administration Beyond the Politics of Austerity Without a doubt, supporters and detractors of the latest Italian public administration (PA) reform agreed on one point: it was not the “reform of the reforms” (among others, Melis 2017). Rather, it was identified as an “extraordinary maintenance” intervention, as Bernardo Giorgio

© The Author(s) 2020 S. Cavatorto, A. La Spina, The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy,




Mattarella, the head of the legislative office of the Minister of Simplification and PA and a professor of administrative law, also had to say, having actively contributed to the whole legislative process (Mattarella 2017: 10). Therefore, with its wide-ranging scope of action and the policy-making complexity, due to the large number of actors involved from the formulation phase to the normative enabling of the main legislative law, the administrative reform proposed by the Renzi government (2014–2016) in the 17th parliamentary term can be linked to previous, equally ambitious, reform cycles. The Madia reform, taking the name of the responsible minister, was a giant re-regulatory effort, a puzzle made up of many pieces, which moved in line with the reforms inspired in the 1990s by new public management (NPM)-oriented ideas, albeit mitigated by a neo-Weberian state (NWS) approach (see Chap. 1). It was as if, following Capano (2003: 787), the “permanent cycle of reform” developed in the 1990s, which remained incomplete, had received a new impulse. There was no new paradigm and “no new concept of public administration” (Mattarella 2017: 107) but the relaunching and updating of the so-defined “modernization” trajectory, which had slowed down due to the implementation gaps of previous regulatory steps and was further worsened by the impact of austerity measures in response to the 2008 crisis (see Chap. 2). Madia’s reform was developed over a three-year span and was articulated through a chain of normative acts: a decree-law; an enabling law, delegating the government to enact legislative decrees to regulate several matters; and a large number of implementing decrees. The implementation phase was carried out by the Gentiloni government (2016–2018), succeeding that of Renzi, with Madia remaining as the responsible minister. Seeing that the nature and contents of reforms are influenced by the structure of the arena of policy discourse, in this chapter, we are interested in exploring the agenda setting and the policy formulation of the latest administrative reform process. In this regard, we found it useful to examine the narratives that emerged from some crucial steps of the government policy cycle and during the parliamentary debates. What problems did the Renzi government intend to remedy with this new wave of PA reform? To what extent was that vision shared among political actors? What about the recipients, notably the civil servants, who are a crucial cornerstone of any reform scenario?



In fact, we learned that, between the decision on a reform policy and its implementation, the level of uncertainty and the risks of failure could be very high (see Chap. 6). Implementation is a much less visible phase, strongly depending on the behaviour of actors who are not the same as those who shaped the decisions, especially when it comes to legislative decisions. Scholars in the field decades ago had already called implementation the “Achilles heel of administrative reform” (Caiden 1976).1 That is why the way in which reformers frame innovation matters with regard to further (not given) developments in the policy cycle.

3.2   Right at the Top: Administrative Reform’s Placement on the Renzi Government’s Agenda The broad plan of reforms pursued by Matteo Renzi government (22 February 2014–12 December 2016) was deemed crucial for boosting the weak Italian economic growth. According to the Italian government, the designed measures were expected “to enhance GDP by 3.6% in 2020” (Ministry of Economy and Finance 2015: 5). A very significant contribution was estimated to come from the administrative reform (ivi: 6). A snapshot of the government’s reform agenda was also offered by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its 2015 Economic Survey of Italy. Among the adopted measures, because of their expected impact on productivity, employment and the GDP, improving the efficiency of administrative justice and anti-corruption policies were appreciated, whereas further administrative simplification, not yet completed at that time, was encouraged (OECD 2015: 2–3). However, the quantitative assessment of reforms related to the efficiency of public administration and the justice system was limited to the creation of single access points for foreign investors, “which increases productivity by facilitating the dialogue with the public administration in the preparation of investment solutions as well as by guaranteeing the legality of investment-­ related regulatory practices at all stages of the investment process and the stability of contracts” (ivi: 6). That measure, assuming its full

1  The problematization of how a bill becomes a law and is then translated into implemented programmes was after all at the core of the seminal book by Pressman and Wildawsky (1973). An updated state of the art of policy implementation research was provided by Sætren & Hupe (2018).



implementation, was expected to increase the level of the GDP by 0.6% after five years and 0.9% after ten years by easing the entry of foreign firms (ibidem). In his investiture2 speech in the Senate (24 February 2014), Renzi mentioned public employment among the priorities of the “sweeping”3 reform programme that set out the government agenda, together with other issues, like the constitutional and electoral rules, the labour market, the tax system, justice and education. Putting on the record that “the school is the starting point”, Renzi intervened “on the four reforms (…) whose urgency is the element that imposes the timing” on the government action. The Presidency of the Council of the European Union was shown as the main opportunity really to speed up the decision-making and allow Italy to regain credibility at the European but also at the national level. The first commitment concerned “the total release of the debts of the public administration”, a deliberate “shock” by reason of its discontinuity from the past.4 Additionally, together with the establishment of guarantee funds to support the chance for small and medium-sized enterprises to access capital markets, the second engagement was linked to “a serious and irreversible review of public spending” to achieve “a double-­digit cut in the tax wedge”.5 Third, “ready within a month”, he promised a plan to reform the labour market and attract new investments. To improve the attractiveness of Italy, he believed above all that it was necessary “to face  In accordance with Art. 94 of the Italian Constitution.  The extent to which policy change should be “deep” and “sweeping” was especially argued by Renzi in the reply that he gave to the Chamber on the occasion of the same vote of confidence for the investiture of the government (25 February 2014). 4  Former prime minister Enrico Letta (23 April 2013–22 February 2014), appointed after two months of political deadlock following the general election, evoked in his investiture speech to the Chamber (29 April 2013) the need to proceed with further measures for paying just “part” of the debts of the public administration. In fact, that operation was previously initiated by the Monti government (decree-law 35/2013, converted with modifications by law 64/2013), accelerated by the Letta “broad agreements” executive thereafter. Actually, Letta did not mention the administrative reform as a specific priority; rather, he gave fundamental importance to the constitutional reform, including in this field administrative simplification—“bureaucracy must not oppress the creative desire of Italians”—and the rebalancing of governmental levels with the “definitive” abolition of provinces. Besides, when talking about “employment”, Letta committed himself to overcoming precariousness in the public administration if economic growth was achieved. No other reference to administrative reform as such occurred. 5  That is the difference between what it costs a company to employ a worker and what the worker takes. 2 3



the relationship with the public administration in a different way”. The structure of public management was considered to be inadequate6 due to the lack of accountability and transparency: “every cent spent by the public administration must be visible on the Internet by each citizen”, and this was presented as a still-required “revolution” for Italy. Furthermore, on the side of fiscal simplification, “pre-filled tax returns” for employees and pensioners were thought to be one more essential tool to move the administrative system closer to businesses and citizens. Public administration “cannot be experienced as an anguish”. Conversely, the method for reforms was supposed to be based on the involvement of stakeholders and policymakers “from below in every process” to ensure “administrative concreteness”, a prerequisite for credible policymaking. From the government perspective, the administrative reform was strictly related to the constitutional revision; in fact, although Renzi remarked that a return to the state bureaucracy centralism was untenable, he found that “the overlapping of competences among levels of government has made the institutional system substantially ungovernable”.7 To summarize, from the very beginning, Prime Minister Renzi announced the reform of PA as a top issue on the government agenda.8 In 6  With respect to top executives, the prime minister was much more explicit: “A strong politics has to guarantee certainty concerning the timing as for the role of public manager too.” Moreover, “without prejudice to the acquired rights, it cannot exist the possibility for a manager who remains indefinitely and who does the good and bad weather”. 7  Senate, 24 February 2014, Communications by the President of the Council of Ministers ( 8  During Letta’s short tenure (300 days), issues dealing with administrative change were only gradually introduced, linked above all to cuts in public spending. In his speech for the second confidence vote in October 2013, called after Silvio Berlusconi ordered ministers in his centre-right People of Freedom party (PdL) to leave the governing coalition, Letta promised the appointment of Professor Carlo Cottarelli as commissioner for the spending review. In passing, given that it was an issue to be discussed within the European Council and “therefore an essential issue for Italy, to balance the differences between the North and the South”, the Digital Agenda was also named. More explicit attention to some kind of administrative reform was finally given by Prime Minister Letta in the context of the discourse for the third (and last) confidence vote, in December 2013: “We want to change an administration that wastes time, and that wastes people’s time too much.” He was especially thinking of tax complications for businesses. Incrementally, measures in that direction (monetary compensation for late payments, digitalization, administrative and fiscal simplification and the efficiency of the judicial system) were set up in the so-called decree-law “of doing” (Decreto del Fare). Meanwhile, on 8 December 2013, Matteo Renzi was elected as new Secretary of the PD and began to strive for a clearer



fact, it was regarded as being strictly linked to Italy’s recovery after the crisis. The main goal was to reflate the economy; thus, a concrete, more effective and transparent administrative action, seen as particularly penalizing those who wanted to engage in business in Italy, was appraised as a crucial tool. The simplification of administrative burdens was associated with the reduction of the numbers of parliamentarians and therefore with a general “important saving of the costs of politics”. Symbolically, Renzi considered it to be important to “give the signal that, if you want to carry out the reforms, you must set out a good example before asking to take a step to the citizens” and opt for a “slimming cure” of the institutional structures. Hence, the dialogue with citizens and entrepreneurs was put at the core of the reform design. Shortly afterwards, the same guidelines were described by the Simplification and PA Minister and heard by the joint parliamentary committees for Constitutional Affairs and Employment at the start of her office.9 In continuity with previous governments since 2010, partially reconnecting to the reforms of the 1990s but in a corrective way, Madia again placed simplification as a prominent issue in this new cycle of administrative reform: “simplify simplification” became the warning for remedying the failures of previous attempts, caused—according to the minister—by an excess of regulatory complication and a lack of administrative coordination and effective implementation in the territories. Second, regarding transparency, especially to ameliorate the relationship with the private sector, the minister regretted the unsatisfactory implementation of the consolidated text on transparency (legislative decree 33/2013) and the delay in the use of open data. Third was placing people and their professional skills as the centrepiece through a large generational relay race project: “The administration needs a renewal, new fresh skills (…) we do not require the hiring freeze, which is an horizontal and non-selective mechanism, but a rational redistribution of resources; (…) we need a reduction, of course not traumatic, of public managers and officials closer to retirement with the purpose of encouraging the entry of young people” (Minister Madia, 2 April 2014). This target marks a discontinuity from the and more ambitious reforming agenda. In the end, following a decision taken by the PD’s national committee calling for a new government (13 February 2014), Letta resigned. Undoubtedly, however, we recognize a high degree of continuity in the field of public administration between the two executives. Possibly Renzi stepped on the accelerator, conceiving a more comprehensive bundle of measures. 9  Hearings at the Chamber on 2 April 2014 and 14 May 2014 (



previous normative actions, which, in the frame of austerity, did not face the issue of generational turnover at all.10 “Without a generational turnover there is no public administration renewal but only agony, (…) just for squaring the accounts; (…) despite the financial crisis we must not give up having a vision.” The worst peak of the crisis having been overcome, from the government perspective, administrative modernization was at that time inconceivable without public investments for the recruitment of new personnel. Simultaneously, however, the issue of staff mobility was exploited by means of a strategic plan for the redistribution of human resources between different sectors and levels of public employment: “We have to enlarge the scope of the State (…) aligning the different pay scales and career frameworks with regions and municipalities.” Additionally, “the recovery of the public administration must start from the head, that is from the top executives: (…) they must be the protagonists of the administrative reform; and therefore the protagonists of the recovery of our country”. Another target concerned the conciliation policy. The spending review, through the narratives of “an efficient way to spend citizens’ money” and “the road to fight corruption”,11 was presented as the last issue, which was “still being defined precisely”. In the wake of the Democratic Party’s (PD) victory in the European election in May 2014 (more than 40% of the vote, one of the best results for a long time), and on the eve of the Italian presidency of the Council of the EU, the announcement by Prime Minister and Secretary of the PD Matteo Renzi to “restart” Italy structurally became more ambitious and louder, and the administrative reform held a significant position in this wide-ranging package. As regards the way in which Renzi set out the programmatic agenda of his cabinet, as it emerged from the speeches he made in Parliament at the time of the inaugural vote of confidence, Marangoni and Verzichelli (2014) noted that he “was oriented to describing broad programmes of 10  As a matter of fact, the stabilization of public finance introduced formal limits to the recruitment in the public sector for the years 2010–2014. This caused an increase in temporary contracts and precarious jobs in the public administration. The Letta government was the first to re-intervene in the access to public administration and the stabilization of precarious workers in the public sector (decree-law 101/2013, converted with modifications by law 125/2013). 11  Regarding corruption, Madia’s commitment was that of implementing “the excellent starting point” represented by law 190/2012, “Provisions for the prevention and repression of corruption and illegality in the public administration”, approved by the Monti government.



change”—public administration included—more than “to identifying specific measures on which to focus the Government’s actions” (ivi: 186). Therefore, Marangoni (2016) found that “the programmatic density (the number of discernible policy commitments every 500 words) of the statements made by Renzi in Parliament on the occasion of the inaugural confidence vote, was a little more than 1.1—a figure that is appreciably lower than the corresponding figures for the other governments of the past 20 years” (ivi: 203). This notwithstanding, due to Prime Minister Renzi’s strong leadership style and the PD’s parliamentary majority, the public administration reform package was announced (as well as those for the labour market and education) through “press conferences called for the purpose, or even more direct forms of communication” on social media (ibidem).12 Expanding this line of research, even Borghetto et  al. (2017) used prime ministers’ investment speeches as a proxy for the policy agenda of a government. On the basis of a data set tracking the policy content contained in the investiture speeches of Italian prime ministers from 1979 to 2014, they described the evolution of executive agenda setting over time. However, given that their article was primarily devoted to outlining general patterns in the distribution of cabinets’ attention by testing the influence of partisan ideology, details about policy content were not provided. As for issue composition, the authors barely mentioned that a group of core topics “never leaves a cabinet’s agenda” (ivi: 205); among them, together with “macroeconomics, justice and crime, foreign policy”, they alluded to the very large topic of “state operations”, comprising—with many other subtopics—administrative reforms.13 Hence, operations that involve the ordinary maintenance of the public sector can be found on average in each legislature term. However, after 12  On Renzi’s style of communication, see, in English, Bordignon (2014). About the “announcement effect” and the reforms, a scathing review was published by Michele Ainis in Corriere della Sera (14 March 2015, p.  1): “Announced reforms: The text will follow (calmly)”. The fast schedule of reforms was compared with that of a ping pong tournament: “Announcements and formulaic optimism are not needed. Only the truth wins citizens’ indifference” (Corrado Stajano, Corriere della Sera, 6 August 2015). Regarding the “solitary march” of the prime minister, who “jumps mediations and mediators”, Ilvo Diamanti, “Post-democracy grounded on the premier” (La Repubblica, 3 August 2015), deserves to be mentioned. 13  The codebook applied was that of the Comparative Agendas Project (CAP), available in the Italian version from (last accessed September 2018).



the transformative modernization launched in the 1990s and although, in the worst phase of the crisis, austerity applied to public administration took the form of a structural policy, could we say that a new cycle of administrative reform was started by the Renzi government or did it simply refresh the dynamics of previous public management reform attempts? The amount and intensity of innovation, together with the policy design coherence of reforms in the sector of public administration, were measured through an expert survey by Capano and Pritoni (2016).14 Based on the experts’ assessment, “it appears that the Renzi government is the most innovative in terms of the total amount of policy change” (ivi: 294), which just reveals the sum of the changes introduced by the new regulation. Nonetheless, “the quality of the design of law 59/1997—(so called the Bassanini law)—is judged as consistently better than the quality of the similar law approved by Renzi (law 124/2015) both with respect to intensity of innovation and with regard to design coherence” (ivi: 295), which refers to “the degree of consistency between the declared goals and the means that are provided for by the formal regulations” (ivi: 291). Thus, the authors’ impression, based on the policy fields analysed, was that “the Renzi government has preferred to introduce as much policy change as it has been able, but with relatively less interest in the design coherence of its reforms” (ivi: 299). In their conclusive remarks about the policy design capacity, Capano and Pitroni observed that “when policy design is at issue”, in addition to the features of the political arena, “there should be due consideration given to the technical and knowledge capacities of governments” (ivi: 300). Hence, the policy advice that supports the formulation process also matters. Undeniably, from a policy analysis perspective, it is a well-known rule that agenda setting and policy formulation influence both the decision making development and the implementation results. That is why we paid particular attention to these phases of the policy cycle and to the narratives that emerged during the parliamentary debate.

14  They assessed the Renzi government comparatively with two other Italian governments “that are generally considered very ‘effective’ in decision-making”, specifically the first Prodi government (1996–1998) and the second Berlusconi government (2001–2005) (Capano and Pritoni 2016: 290). Together with public administration, education policy and the labour market were investigated.



3.3   The Use of Public Consultation for a Multitrack (But Fast) Decision Making Process By reference to the main standards for regulatory quality,15 Italy having in addition subscribed to the “Open Government Declaration”,16 which includes the promotion of processes of openness and participation by public administrations, this time the government made extensive use of public consultations to facilitate the drafting of the proposal. The reform ideas were described by President Renzi fairly soon to the press, in a conference after the 15th Council of Ministers (30 April 2014). Renzi was accompanied by Minister Madia, who had given birth to a child just a few weeks before,17 in that way showing great determination and efficiency in the engagement of the government with the reform programme. A quite new political communication style was adopted, inspired to show openness and yet assertiveness: an open letter18 to public employees and citizens was published (“Let’s make this real”); a proposal open to public discussion through the method of consultation was launched; and 40 days were allowed for people to send feedback to the account [email protected] “It will be important for us to read your considerations, 15  Many topics, such as consultation and citizen engagement, regulatory impact assessment, multilevel coherence, risk and regulation, institutional responsibility for policy coherence and oversight and the role of regulatory agencies, have been developed by the OECD in guidelines published since the mid-1990s ( The agenda for “better regulation” has been strengthened by the European Commission, especially under the Juncker presidency ( 16  The Open Government Partnership (OGP) was officially launched on 20 September 2011 by eight countries (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States); since then, the partnership has grown to 75 members ( Italy presented the first Action Plan in April 2012 ( 17  The fact was promptly remarked on by Renzi in front of journalists: “Madia, child and reform in the same month” (, last accessed September 2018). 18  h t t p s : / / w w w . r e p u b b l i c a . i t / p o l i t i c a / 2 0 1 4 / 0 4 / 3 0 / n e w s / lettera-84914976/?refresh_ce. 19  The communication campaign was also tweeted #sayours ( riforma-pa/riforma-pa-la-consultazione-pubblica-un-successo-che-continua-a-numberfpa14-number-dilatua, last accessed September 2018).



proposals, suggestions” and eventually to integrate the government ­proposal, expected to be approved—in the form of “a bill or a decree, hopefully a bill”, specified Renzi—by the Council of Ministers on 13 June 2014. The letter underlined that, “to be serious”—as the government declared that it wanted to be—“requires an extraordinary investment in public administration”. That investment was presented as necessarily being “different from the past, in both the method and merit”. Regarding the method, “the administrative reform cannot be done by insulting public workers (…) there are many valuable people who have never been involved in the reform processes (…) willing workers will be the protagonists of this public administration reform”. As for the contents, three main guidelines, articulated in 44 specific objectives, were offered for public discussion before entering the Parliament: “(1) changes start from the people; (2) cutting waste of money and administrative reorganization; (3) open data as a tool for transparency: simplification and digitalization of public services”.20 Hence, it was a process that, in the approach of the government, had to be participatory.21 “A better reform with citizens’ ideas” was the motto repeated by Minister Madia in public speeches. Almost 40,000 emails were received, and the government considered this quantitative result as positive feedback derived from such an innovative participatory approach to the political decision. The messages were so numerous as to encourage the government, to ensure a “rational reading” of all of them, to use “sophisticated technologies” of text mining.22 More than 50% of the messages came from the north of Italy; women wrote only in 35% of cases, especially expressing themselves about work–family conciliation and part-­ time facilitation. The “sentiment” of the respondents, that is, their attitude towards the listed topics, was also measured: the ratio between positive and negative evaluations was 4 to 1. Despite this, it must be noted that a high number of organized petitions,23 which did not fully respond  For each guideline, 15, 20 and 8 objectives were identified, respectively.  Public consultations preceding the formal presentation of government proposals were also developed in other cases, such as for the reform of the third sector. 22  The University of Rome “La Sapienza” was charged with conducting such research (Department of Methods and Models for Economics, Territory and Finance). 23  Those that were numerically larger (83.8% of petitions, equivalent to 33.3% of all the messages sent) faced the problem of renewal of contracts. The second major petition was against the abolition of the figure of the municipal secretary, an issue that was very controversial in the debate among political actors too (9.5% of petitions, equal to 3.8% of all the 20 21



to the consultation, were contextually sent to the same account. These messages accounted for 40% of the total. Excluding that component, the remaining 60% of emails were mainly focused on guideline “(1) changes start from the people”, particularly underlining the need to foster a kind of “generational relay” through the recruitment of young people; second, fighting waste; finally, matching the government’s ranking, the third priority was reflections about a digital PA. Recapitulating, the final text of the government proposal emerged as planned after two months of public online consultation. To be more precise, the Council of Ministers chose a double track and on 13 June 2014 examined two acts, strictly linked to each other24: a delegated bill, aimed at shaping more structural changes25; and a decree-law, focused on more urgent matters, which also corresponded to some of the most attractive issues emerging from the consultation (generational turnover, mobility, organizational streamlining of administrative structures, transparency and digitalization).26 “The bulk of measures is in the delegated bill (…) prefectures or chambers of commerce cannot be replaced by decree”, said Renzi to the press when the Council of Ministers had not finished yet, proving to be very satisfied with the decisions taken: “It is a good delegated bill, I like it a lot.”27 However, he did not enter into details, even though he suggested that some measures were intended to eliminate what the government considered to be “privileges of position”. For example, he mentioned the case of municipal and provincial secretaries, who had their right to deed, as well as the redistribution of the annual income due to administrative charges, cut off by the new decree-law (“a municipal secretary has his/her own salary (…) I guarantee that it is more than enough”); contextually, the government prescribed the redefinition of the role—namely the abolition of the category—through the delegation bill. messages). Lastly, 6.6% of the petitions dealt with the slogan “Free software in public administration” (2.6% of all the messages). 24  The same “unpacking” logic of having first a decree-law and then a delegated bill was also applied to the labour market reform (the so-called Jobs Act). 25  The delegation bill, No. 23, was definitively approved by the Council of Ministers on 10 July 2014. 26  Decree-law 90/2014 “Urgent measures for administrative simplification and transparency and for the efficiency of judicial offices”, then converted, with modifications, into law 114/2014. For the law to be passed, the government called for votes of confidence both at the Chamber (two readings) and at the Senate. 27   The video of the press conference is available from watch?v=HMOpEE0VttE (last accessed September 2018).



It has been commented that, with the decree-law, “the government wanted to give a shock, a signal of radical intervention” (Mattarella 2017: 104): a “preparatory” action before the “structural” reform (Pommier Vincelli 2017: 2). In so doing, Renzi emphasized the government’s compliance with the EU’s requests, notably those contained in the country-­ specific recommendations (CSRs) addressed to member states within the framework of the European semester (see Chap. 2). “If you remember the EU recommendations, we have started giving answers; (…) along with my party, I did not take 40% in the European elections just to scrape along (…) that result serves to change Italy and, with great determination, we will change it.”28 The decree-law 90/2014 became law one month after the delegation bill was presented to the Senate,29 and the discussion with the opposition parties worsened because of these multiple tracks. The government was accused of adopting a confusing incremental law-making style (“torrential and bulimic”30) through a plethora of emergency measures and votes of confidence that strictly limited and downgraded the possibility of parliamentary debate. The Committee on Legislation31 defined the decree-law as “wide and articulated”, a so-called multi-sectoral decree-law, if not properly an omnibus one, combining many different issues (e.g. the new civil telematic trial together with public employment, administrative reorganization, relationship with citizens and business, anti-corruption and public procurement  For the source, see the previous note.  AS1577 “Reorganization of public administrations” presented on 23 July 2014. 30  Qualifications actually given by a member of the majority, also chairman of the bicameral parliamentary Committee for Simplification, MP Bruno Tabacci, Democratic Centre (Centro democratico). He regretted that “the simplification announced in the decree’s title has been reduced to very little thing in the substance of the articles”. For this reason, his vote was “favourable but worried”; the decree nourished “a chain of norms of certain non-implementation”, producing “modifications and corrections in a very short time”. Just one example is the rules on turnover: “seven pages of document, a discipline that changes from year to year in the period 2014–2017 and which fully enters into force only from 2018; until then who knows how many times it will be changed”. He urged the government to “radically change the way of legislating” and hoped that decree-law 90/2014 would be a “prelude to a different approach to public administration, which needs a complete rethinking” (final vote declarations, Chamber, 31 July 2014). 31  The Committee expresses opinions on the quality of legislative texts “with regard to their homogeneity, simplicity, clarity and correctness of wording, and to their effectiveness in simplifying and reorganising the legislation currently in force” (Chamber, Rule of Procedures, Art. 16-bis). 28 29



and, last but not least, the World Exposition Milan 2015). The Committee also complained about the absence—revealed to be chronic in the case of decree-laws—of regulatory impact analysis and technical normative analysis: this lack “determines pernicious effects at the expense of the quality of legislation”.32 On the contrary, these regulatory quality tools had been drawn up for the delegation bill, even though the impact analysis was in fact deferred to the subsequent legislative decrees implementing the law. The diffuse attitude of considering the administrative reform as a priority, however, pushed the Constitutional Affairs Committee acting in a reporting capacity to enrich the discussion at the Chamber with a one-­ week parliamentary inquiry.33 In addition, to confirm the complexity of the process and quite a high dispute rate among decision-makers, it is worth noting that most of the standing committees involved in their advisory capacity expressed opinions with “conditions” and/or “observations”. All in all, a second reading at the Chamber was in fact required after the text had been modified by the government at the Senate as a consequence of the negative opinion expressed by the State General Accounting Department (Ragioneria generale dello Stato) about the uncertainty of financial coverage. This passage showed the strained relationship between the government and the “guardians” of public accounts, which proceeded with turbulence for the entire duration of the Renzi Cabinet. In point of fact, this decree-law was just one of the pieces in the mosaic. Before that, measures for a “sober” administration had in fact also been approved at the very beginning of the Renzi mandate (decree-law 66/2014). Together with the reduction of the tax wedge in favour of competitiveness and combating tax evasion, the decree-law 66/2014 was for the most part aimed at cutting a certain quota of public spending: limiting public wages, consultants and collaboration contracts; establishing a salary cap for public top executives; strengthening the centralized acquisition of public goods and services; controlling public procurement procedures more effectively; reorganizing central administrations and the 32  MP Balduzzi Renato, Civic Choice for Italy (Scelta Civica per l’Italia), member of the Committee on Legislation (Advisory Session, Chamber, 3 July 2014). 33  The Justice Committee and the Public and Private Sector Employment Committee were also involved in this fact-finding parliamentary initiative (Chamber, Rule of Procedures, Art. 144). Together with a number of stakeholders and scholars, Raffaele Cantone, president of the National Anti-corruption Authority (ANAC) was also heard, and its functions were reinforced by the decree-law.



presidency of the Council of Ministers; saving on public investee companies; and reducing the financing of the public broadcasting service. The multiple-track strategy was then confirmed by the delegation bill, the “true heart of the reform”, which “realizes the true reversal of the relationship between citizen and administration”.34 That reversal was considered by Minister Madia to be a “paradigmatic” change: “It should not be the citizen to bend to the times, places and ways—sometimes cumbersome and complicated—of the administration; on the contrary, the citizen must become aware that receiving a service from the PA is a right, not a complication.”35 The challenge should thereby still concern the redefinition of the image of the PA in its relationship with the stakeholders, which must actively be involved in the process of public service production. From this point of view, we investigated how different narratives intertwined and related to each other in this new wave of attempted administrative reform. As had already happened with the decree-law 90/2014, on this occasion, the examination of the delegation bill was preceded by a fact-finding parliamentary initiative developed by the Constitutional Affairs Committee acting in a reporting capacity. Nine meetings were devoted to hearing a certain number of stakeholders’ organizations, both public and private, together with a few experts (only in administrative law). Although with variable degrees of emphasis, depending on the different positions of the parties involved, a framework of problems vis-à-vis the government initiative actually emerged, from all points of view.36 One of the most controversial issues was the reform of the top bureaucrats’ profile and their status and role, especially in relation to political actors. The Democratic Party presented that issue as a hard but unavoidable “responsibility” challenge, with (very) concentrated costs and (supposed) widespread benefits. The proposal of constituting three unique but “communicating” roles (state, regional and local) should have encouraged the circulation of top bureaucrats among different administrations, with common, generally centralized access procedures to favour—precisely—staff mobility in a sort of “internal market” of management. On the other hand, also in this case, 34  Minister Madia, justifying in the Senate why the government had decided to start the reform—called “necessary” and “urgent”—with a decree-law (5 August 2014). 35  Ibidem. 36  The documents presented by each participant from 16 September to 9 October 2014 are available from documenti.htm.



the risks of centralization were largely underlined both inside and outside the Parliament, together with the excessive room for manœuvre within which politicians could have arbitrarily chosen the top bureaucrats, in that way unduly strengthening the spoil system. Thus, as one of the most radical—and hence controversial—innovations, it is therefore not surprising that this part of the reform was aborted in the delegation phase.

3.4   Images of the Policy Problem and Definitions of the Reform Focusing on the problems’ definition, we aimed at individuating general and specific policy objectives and consequently the framing of the reform. To what extent was a shared vision of the administrative reform outlined by political actors? In fact, we are well aware that policy formulation and decision-making are key premises for successful implementation. In the parliamentary arena, debating the Madia delegation bill,37 there were those who, even among the majority groups,38 underlined critical aspects of the Italian public administration. The latter would have undermined the previous attempts at administrative reform and should have been addressed definitively by the new legislative intervention. Far from it, there were those who, despite criticizing government actions deemed not to be strategic, highlighted positive features of the Italian PA, to be laid at the basis of the new reform process. Altogether, opposite narratives of bureaucracy coexisted: a “chronic evil” albeit a central pillar of the organization of a state. The PA was still nevertheless regarded overall as an unjustifiably burdensome cost for the community. The objective of reducing the costs of the PA was therefore bipartisan, but, for the oppositions, the measures proposed by the government did not make it credible. Moreover, the path of the delegated bill, already experienced by previous administrative reforms, left ample room for uncertainty. The PA was said to be experienced as a “ball and chain of those who pay taxes in Italy but do not get the services that must be guaranteed to them; 37  We collected all the final vote declarations during the passage of law 124/2015 through the Parliament: first at the Senate on 30 April 2015; then at the Chamber on 17 July 2015; finally, because of the “shuttle” (navetta) from one House to the other of the amended bill, at the Senate again on 4 August 2015. 38  The following parliamentary groups voted confidence in Renzi’s Cabinet: the Democratic Party (PD); the New Centre-Right (NCD), then dissolved into the Popular Alternative (AP); Civic Choice (SC); For Italy (PI); and Linguistic Minorities—For the Autonomies (SVPUV-PATT-UPT)-PSI-MAIE. The same groups voted in favour of the Madia Reform too.



it is a slow and disorganized bandwagon, useful only to complicate the lives of citizens and to waste public money”.39 The PA was portrayed as a “hippogriff, that mythological beast that would want to fly but has to deal with its cumbersome horse nature”.40 Considering the “failure and especially the partial implementation of past administrative reforms”, for the Democratic Party, the problem was whether the hippogriff “really wants to fly”.41 Following Kafka’s metaphor, Italian citizens were compared with peasants, who are victims before the law: “Everyone should be able to access the law, the administrative services and the benefits of the State, but there is always a guardian who stands before the door saying no, you cannot pass.”42 Contrariwise, considering the PA as “the engine of this country, that gear that allows laws to be implemented, without which the Country does not work”,43 for the opposition parties, the problem consisted of the lack of a strategic vision, which considers the PA as “one of the elements of success of a national community” and which “contributes to employment and to the development of a country-system”.44 Nonetheless, “despite being one of the most important structural factors”, the PA had not been perceived adequately for a long time and, as a consequence, “encrustations and blocks have accumulated over time” to determine “a substantial stalemate (…) and characterizing the system for its self-referentiality”.45 By and large, two complementary visions emerged from the parliamentary debate (Table 3.1): 1. The administrative reform is a strategic objective for Italy because of its functionality in the competitiveness of the productive system; 2. The participation of citizens and businesses is a tool for the empowerment of administrative action and the strengthening of democracy. The first narrative—which is certainly not new and echoes classic NPM objectives—had been linked, in the post-crisis contingency, to the idea that the administrative reform is a pillar of the economic recovery. The association between administrative reform and economic growth became orthodox among MPs.  MP Dorina Bianchi, NCD/AP.  MP Alan Ferrari, PD. 41  Ibidem. 42  Senator Roberto Cociancich, PD. 43  Senator Vito Crim, Five Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle). 44  Senator Giovanni Mauro, Great Autonomies & Freedom (GAL). 45  MP Gigli Gian Luigi, Solidary Democracy-Democratic Centre. 39 40



Table 3.1  “Management-” and “governance-”oriented ideas from the parliamentary narratives NPM Root/Word

GOV Meaning

Competitiveness, competitors, competition, to compete Cost* (Standard) cost/s Economi∗ Economic, economy, cost-effectiveness (In)efficac∗ (In)effective, (In) effectiveness (In)efficien∗ (In)efficient, (In)efficiency Merit∗ Merit, meritocracy Modern∗ Modernization, to modernize, modern Performance Performance Competi∗

Produttiv∗ Qualità

Productivity, productive Quality (of services)


Simplification, to simplify, simplified Streamlining, lean, to speed up Spending review Cuts, to cut Assessment, evaluation

Snell∗ Spending Tagli∗ Valuta∗





Collabora∗ Condiv∗

Cooperation To share, sharing


To coordinate, coordination Governance systems To interact, interaction To negotiate, negotiation

Governance Intera∗ Negozia∗ Partecipa∗, partnership Rete Società, associaz∗, comitat∗ Trasparen∗

To participate, participation, participatory, partnership Web, network Civil society, associations, committees Transparency, openness, accountability

Source: Own elaboration on codified data

Even those who did not appreciate the government proposal expected a reform of the PA to “stimulate growth and development, making the country less corrupt and more reliable”.46 Accordingly, the administrative reform was recognized as “an ambitious goal” that “rightfully” the government has set itself “to start a process of revival from an economic point of view”.47 The recipe still supposed that improving the management of  MP Baroni Massimo Enrico, Five Star Movement.  Senator De Petris Loredana, Left Ecology and Freedom (Sinistra ecologia e libertà).

46 47



the PA was essential to increase the quality of services for citizens and businesses, and that is a determining condition to make Italy more competitive. “We have been trying for years!”48 Simplification had been “the” tool for strengthening the effectiveness and efficiency of administrative action. Digitalization was then added: “The acceleration of digitalization (…) will affect the development of our country. It is significant that the rules on digital citizenship appear in the opening of the delegation bill, (…) an important choice for the future of our citizens.”49 In that way, for the Democratic Party, the reform “hits the point” and “sets up a more advanced model of PA, which must be leaner and, above all, more responsive to the needs of citizens and businesses”.50 The challenge for all organizations, PA included, is the “reduction of costs for the realization of quality products and services”.51 Generally, from MPs’ perspective, the model of a modernized PA continues to draw inspiration from the NPM approach, which, “with due adjustments” from the private sector, is still deemed to be a “compulsory choice” in the organization of administrative activities. They are convinced that, “in many countries where it has been assimilated, the entrepreneurial model has contributed to increase the productivity of public offices”.52 However, the amount of comparative references to other European experiences turned out to be greatly reduced in the parliamentary debate. Best practices were mentioned but especially to emphasize that the Madia reform “would propose a model of PA that is not in line with the most advanced European countries’ models”.53 By the way, as noted by Bezes (2018), “it seems reasonable to predict that managerial ideas and instruments will continue to define some of the major problems of the day in the future public organizations” (ivi: 955). Following Bezes, we ask to what extent, from this point of view, can policy problems also be linked to policy solutions. This notwithstanding, the opposition parties showed different perspectives regarding what the reform paths should have been in terms of content and method. We wondered whether obvious criticisms of the government were substantiated in alternative policy agendas. For example, government detractors accused it—from the right—of a lack of attention to meritocracy (“as for public employment, we need to give more  MP Mucci Mara, Misto-Alternativa libera-Possibile.  MP Dorina Bianchi, NCD/AP. 50  MP Ferrari Alan, PD. 51  MP Gigli Gian Luigi, Solidary Democracy-Democratic Centre. 52  Ibidem. 53  Senator Pelino Paola, Forza Italia. 48 49



recognition to merit”54). The absence of continuity from the previous Brunetta reform was complained about, whereas it was regarded on the contrary as containing initial measures to reward the best public employees, increase their productivity, evaluate their performances and contrast opportunistic behaviours: “next to prepared and scrupulous public employees, without any reward system, there are many others with little incentives and who are not subject to any serious evaluation procedure”.55 Further, the Madia reform would not have overcome important critical issues of the Italian PA, specifically “polycentrism” and “administrative fragmentation of competence”.56 Thus, a serious reorganization of functions and state apparatus was also judged to be absent. Beyond that, a second narrative was particularly conveyed by the Democratic Party. Orthodoxy is hereby confirmed by “efficient-ism” but in a responsible way: “Anyone of us would like a more efficient, high-­ output and result-oriented PA, but also based on personal responsibility, lifelong learning, transparency, evaluation.”57 This vision adds something fairly new to the previous approaches: “The objective is to transmit a more friendly idea of PA, (…) of wider participation of citizens and businesses in the construction of the common good. (…) Instead of being focused on structures and procedures, the reform (…) is aimed at making citizens co-­ participants in the administrative processes.”58 Which is the key to promote the involvement of stakeholders in administrative activity? Transparency was mentioned as the clue: “More information in the hands of citizens means involving them in controlling the PA action; this allows for a widespread control, more participation and democracy.”59 Again, the PA–citizen relationship was considered by everyone as a decisive policy objective, but the government’s approach was severely criticized for its “low rate of reformism” and the inconsistency with the constitutional principles60 because of the scope of the delegation, which was considered to be too broad and indeterminate.61  MP Nastri Gaetano, Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia).  MP Occhiuto, Forza Italia. 56  Senator Pelino Paola, Forza Italia. 57  MP Ferrari Alan, PD. 58  Senator Roberto Cociancich, PD. 59  Ibidem. 60  MP Stefano Quaranta, Left Ecology and Freedom. 61  Preliminary questions of constitutionality were also raised by the Northern League (Lega Nord), Forza Italia, the People of Freedom and the Brothers of Italy. The Five Star Movement 54 55



If, on the one hand, the introduction of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) would have responded to the need to give all citizens the widest possible access to PA documents (the so-called generalized civic access62), on the other hand, the “silence-is-consent” (silenzio-assenso) rule, which was suggested by the government as a tool to guarantee greater certainty of bureaucratic times for processes started unilaterally,63 was instead mistrusted by those who feared a reduction of participation in decision-making processes. Thus—especially from the left—the simplification of the Conferenza dei servizi was rather understood as a curtailment of democracy, a way to centralize power in the hands of the government, especially of the presidency of the Council of Ministers: “The efficiency of the PA consists of its meeting with the citizens, who should be involved in the decisions. Instead, the government proposal reduces the possibilities for participating—i.e. being active in discussions—within committees and associations.”64 That process was deemed to be in contrast to the ­devolution of the 1990s (heavily desired by the Northern League), “exclusively based on achieving the objective of rationalising public expenditure”.65 As a matter of fact, the oppositions—in this instance, both from the right and from the left—denounced the persistence of a public service approach that was still geared too much towards a spending review. Clearly nobody opposed the requalification of public expenditure, in the meaning of “better serving the country, in favour of the general interest and offering efficient services to the citizens”,66 for example through the elimination of organizational and procedural overlaps. “In recent years, an overall analysis of our central and local PA has never been made: a real spending review, a real elimination of duplications, a real simplification can only be achieved in that way.”67 just voted in favour. 62  This declination of the right-to-know corresponds to an extensive meaning of the principle of transparency, which concerns not only information on the organization and the activity of the PA but also any data and documents held by public authorities. 63  After 30  days from the notification of an act to a PA (90  days for administrations in charge of the environment, landscape, culture and health), the silence of a public office is considered as consent. In the case of disputes, the prime minister should decide, after a vote of the cabinet. 64  Senator De Petris Loredana, Left Ecology and Freedom. 65  MP Invernizzi Cristian, Northern League. 66  Senator De Petris Loredana, Left Ecology and Freedom. 67  MP Mazziotti Di Celso Andrea, Civics and Innovators (Civici e Innovatori).



Therefore, “what spending review are we talking about?”68 For instance, the measures to reduce the number of prefectures and chambers of commerce were very much disputed. “By resizing and overcoming [in addition to the provinces] the prefectures, who will be the interlocutor of the mayors in sensitive subjects such as order and security or the management of environmental emergencies?”69 The same risk was perceived for the rationalization of chambers of commerce, vital points for businesses, if the protection of territorial specificities had not been taken into due consideration.70 Additionally, the reduction of the compulsory contribution made by firms would have seriously undermined the financial sustainability of the chambers of commerce: “The benefit to businesses would be much lower than the costs, the survival of the chambers of commerce being seriously compromised because of that cut in contribution.”71 Heated conflict arose regarding the reorganization of police functions too, particularly concerning the (unclear) unification of the State Forestry Corp with other police bodies: “It will be a dismemberment; do not call it unification.”72 Even those politicians who voted in favour of the delegation bill disagreed over this measure because of its excessive vagueness.73 It must indeed also be said that, even in the presence of shared policy objectives, the Madia reform was especially criticized for the uncertainty of its implementation.

3.5   A Full and Blank Delegation? The Executive– Legislature Relationship The goal of reducing the costs of the PA was therefore, in principle, a bipartisan one. Nevertheless, for the oppositions, the measures proposed by the government did not make that goal credible enough. Moreover, the path of the delegated bill, already experienced as a tool in the hands of the government vis-à-vis the Parliament in previous administrative reform

 Senator Volpi Raffaele, Northern League.  Senator Bruni Francesco, Conservatives and Reformists. 70  MP Mucci Mara, Mixed Group-Free Alternative-Possible. 71  Senator Pelino Paola, Forza Italia. 72  Senator Crimi Vito Claudio, Five Star Movement. 73  MP Gigli Gian Luigi, Solidary Democracy-Democratic Centre; Senator Augello Andrea, New Centre Right-Union of the Centre (Nuovo Centro Destra-Unione di Centro); Senator Zeller Karl, Südtiroler Volkspartei. 68 69



processes, left ample room for uncertainty about future possible achievements. The opposition groups underlined all the risks of the “encyclopedic delegation”,74 already made the object of the preliminary questions of constitutionality addressed to the government but rejected by the parliamentary majority: “To fully produce its own effects, this reform still requires a lot of enacting decrees and this does not go in the right direction.”75 In accordance with the praxis, this delegation act extended the time limit within which the government could adopt “further” supplementary and corrective provisions of the implementing decrees: “This is the apotheosis of a parliament that abdicates to the government.”76 For comparison, some mentioned other cases of (supposed) policy failure: “More than a year and a half ago we approved the delegation law on tax reform. What happened to the delegated decrees? Where are they?”77 In point of fact, the adoption of a delegated decree sometimes becomes an “ordeal”,78 and the Renzi executive had to face a heavy legacy owed to the lack of enacting decrees by previous governments79: “The executive is in clamorous delay with the approval of several hundred implementing decrees,80 which are still waiting to see the light even since the Monti government. (…) It is absolutely crazy what this government is aiming for: reforming the entire machine of the State in just one year.”81 In total, the law approved 14 delegations and an additional quantity of potential corrective measures. The deadline for the approval of the implementing decrees ranged from a minimum of 90  days to a maximum of 18 months. Most of the delegations had to be approved within 12 months.  Senator Volpi Raffaele, Northern League.  Senator Pelino Paola, Forza Italia. 76  Senator Crimi Vito Claudio, Five Star Movement. 77  Senator Giovanni Mauro, Great Autonomies & Freedom. 78  The “reluctant” attitude of the parliament towards delegating legislative decisions to the government and the resulting procedural aggravation from this, notably in the case of law 124/2015, has been discussed by Mattarella (2017: 19–24). 79  We know that the wide use of delegated legislation to reform specific policy areas has been consolidated since the second half of the 1990s, when the government became the true protagonist of policy innovation. In the 17th parliamentary term, the greatest recourse to the delegated legislation was made by the Renzi government, in this way confirming its greater reforming ambition (Osservatorio sulla legislazione 2017). 80  The stock of implementing decrees inherited from the Letta and Monti governments amounted in total to 889 ( 81  MP Nastri Gaetano, Brothers of Italy. 74 75



Accordingly, the quite impressive degree of delegation also led some journalists to moderate their judgement, considering the reform still to be an open yard.82 Furthermore, among those who passed the law, there were some groups that expressed only partial satisfaction with the results obtained, “first of all in terms of feasibility of several policy options”.83 This is quite a customary attitude that can be observed when decision-making processes are aimed at setting up general rules applicable to vast policy areas, and this time the administrative reform barely inflamed political actors. Indeed, before being assessed as potentially “non-effective”, the Madia reform seemed to be rather “non-affective”. As underlined by Di Mascio and Natalini (2016), the absence of “virulent oppositions” to the approval of the law no. 124/2015 probably stemmed from the fact that its own specification was delegated to a significant number of decrees. Therefore, “many of the critical nodes have been postponed to future times”. The law was actually the unique “big” reform of the 17th parliamentary term to be approved without the necessity for the government to ask for a vote of confidence. Unlike the situation of the first reading, when the oppositions did not take part in the final vote with the aim of quitting the quorum (which was instead achieved),84 in the second reading, it was exactly the vote of the oppositions that made it possible to reach the legal number: if the opposition had not voted in the Senate, in fact, the reform would not have been passed.85 In a sense, after intense parliamentary work (overall the legislative process lasted for a year), the government’s behaviour also contributed to this first result, in light of the approval of amendments proposed by opposition groups too. “We recognize when the government knows how to change its starting positions”86; “the broad

82  Gianluca Luzi, “Renzi pushes on reforms. But the confrontation is just postponed”, La Repubblica, 5 August 2015; Stefano Folli, “The megaphone temptation”, La Repubblica, 6 August 2015; Luca Cifoni, “The state facing the challenge of efficiency”, Il Messaggero, 5 August 2015; Stefano Simonetti, “The vagueness of PA reform”, Sole 24 Ore, 4 August 2015. 83  MP Gigli Gian Luigi, Solidary Democracy-Democratic Centre. 84  Final vote in the Senate on 30 April 2015 (first reading): votes for 144; abstentions 1; votes against 0 (required votes to pass 145). 85  Out of 315 senators, 51 were unjustifiably absent, mostly from the biggest opposition groups, the Five Star Movement and Forza Italia. 86  Senator Giovanni Mauro, Great Autonomies & Freedom.



discussion helped to make small steps forward”,87 particularly with regard to the reorganization of police forces, the State Forestry Corp and the peripheral administration of the state (prefectures); “the only good news is the acceptance of our order that commits the government to absorb the State Forestry Corps into the Carabinieri Force”.88 Therefore, the prospect of further parliamentarization of the implementation phase (or, better, just of its legal enactment) provided parliamentary groups with more “ductile” behaviour (Pommier Vincelli 2017: 11); besides, majority groups appreciated the ameliorating and “qualifying points of compromise” reached “with the help of the oppositions”, for example regarding the issue of municipal secretaries and the reordering of the chambers of commerce.89 Nonetheless, at that stage, the Renzi executive was substantially criticized for remaining in midstream: for right-wing opponents, the Madia reform was not NPM oriented enough, and for those on the left, it was not participatory oriented enough, limiting the effort to protect the public interest and thereby democracy. Additionally, as said, the reform concentrated too much power in favour of the presidency of the Council of Ministers, particularly in the hands of the president as the centre of the executive. Indeed, that was in line with the most recent trends of institutional and constitutional reform, but, in contrast to the PA, modifications occurred with special intensity during the 1990s and at the beginning of the 2000s. In fact, the tendency to recentralize competences was discordant, given the requirement of autonomy of both single central administrations and local authorities. Of course, the balance between centralization and decentralization is a key question in the politics of administrative reform. We also have to consider that the stronger centralization was in line with the international trends in the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis to balance the impacts of the previous far-reaching NPM-oriented decentralization. Given its scope and the diffuse level of controversiality, the delegation to reorganize the central and peripheral administration of the state remained one of the most unsuccessful. Even though most of the enacting decrees were approved in compliance with the deadlines (Table 3.2), another significant setback occurred with regard to the architrave of top civil servants, whose decree was “aborted before delivery” (Mattarella 2017: 161). More generally, the  Senator De Petris Loredana, Left Ecology and Freedom.  Senator Pelino Paola, Forza Italia. 89  Senator Augello Andrea, NDC-UDC. 87 88

12 months (28 August 2016)

12 months (28 August 2016)

12 months (28 August 2016)

12 months (28 August 2016)

8 months (28 April 2016)

Art. 1.1 Art. 1.3∗

Art. 2.1

Art. 5.1

Art. 7.1

Art. 7.3

Legislative decree 26 August 2016, n. 179∗ Modifiche ed integrazioni al Codice dell’amministrazione digitale ∗ Legislative decree 13 December, n. 217 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 26 agosto 2016, n. 179

Implementing rule

Legislative decree 30 June 2016, n. 127 Norme per il riordino della disciplina in materia di Conferenza di servizi Legislative decree 30 giugno 2016, n. 126 Attuazione della delega in materia di segnalazione certificata di inizio attività (SCIA) Legislative decree 25 November 2016, n. 222 Individuazione di procedimenti oggetto di autorizzazione, segnalazione certificata di inizio di attività (SCIA), silenzio assenso e comunicazione e di definizione dei regimi amministrativi applicabili a determinate attività e procedimenti Review and simplification Legislative decree 25 May 2016, n. 97 of the provisions on Revisione e semplificazione delle disposizioni in materia di prevenzione corruption prevention, della corruzione, pubblicità e trasparenza, which modified Law publicity and transparency 190/2012 and the Legislative decree 14 March 2013, n. 33 Rationalization of expenses Not implemented. Reinserted into Law 103/2017 Reform of the related to wiretaps penal code, then executed by the Legislative decree 29 December 2017, n. 216

Changes to the Digital Administration Code to guarantee digital access to the data and services of the PA Reorganization of the Conference of services’ rules Identification of the proceedings subject to certified notification of start of activity (SCIA), silent assent, express authorization and prior notification

Time limit after the Content entry into force of the delegation law

Law provisions

Table 3.2  Delegations according to law 124/2015 reorganizing the PA








Art. 8.1 Art. 8.6∗

12 months (28 August 2016)

Modification of the discipline of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, of the ministries, of the national government agencies and of the national noneconomic public bodies

Legislative decree 4 August 2016, n. 169∗ Riorganizzazione, razionalizzazione e semplificazione della disciplina concernente le Autorità portuali di cui alla Legge 28 gennaio 1994, n. 84 Legislative decree 13 December 2017, n. 232 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 4 August 2016, n. 169 Legislative decree 19 August 2016, n. 177∗ Disposizioni in materia di razionalizzazione delle funzioni di polizia e assorbimento del Corpo forestale dello Stato ∗ Legislative decree 12 December 2017, n. 228 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 19 August 2016, n. 177 Legislative decree 27 February 2017, n. 43 Riorganizzazione delle amministrazioni pubbliche, concernente il Comitato italiano paraolimpico Legislative decree 29 May 2017, n. 95∗ Disposizioni in materia di revisione dei ruoli delle Forze di polizia ∗ Legislative decree 5 October 2018, n. 126 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 29 May 2017, n. 95 Legislative decree 29 May 2017, n. 97∗ Disposizioni recanti modifiche al decreto legislativo 8 marzo 2006, n. 139, concernente le funzioni e i compiti del Corpo nazionale dei vigili del fuoco, nonché al decreto legislativo 13 ottobre 2005, n. 217, concernente l’ordinamento del personale del Corpo nazionale dei vigili del fuoco, e altre norme per l’ottimizzazione delle funzioni del Corpo nazionale dei vigili del fuoco ∗ Legislative decree 6 October 2018, n. 127 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 29 May 2017, n. 97 Legislative decree 29 May 2017, n. 98 Razionalizzazione dei processi di gestione dei dati di circolazione e di proprietà di autoveicoli, motoveicoli e rimorchi, finalizzata al rilascio di un documento unico

(continued )





Renzi Gentiloni

Renzi Gentiloni

12 months (28 August 2016)

12 months (28 August 2016)

12 months (28 August 2016)

18 months (28 February 2017)

Art. 10.1

Art. 11.1 Art. 11.3∗

Art. 13.1

Art. 16.1 lett. a) & Art. 17

Table 3.2 (continued)

Simplification of the activities of research institutions Public employment

Reorganization of the functions and financing of Chambers of commerce, industry, crafts and agriculture Public management and performance evaluation of public offices





Legislative decree 20 June 2016, n. 116∗ Renzi Modifiche all’articolo 55-quater del decreto legislativo 30 marzo 2001, n. Gentiloni 165, ai sensi dell’articolo 17, comma 1, lettera s), della legge 7 agosto 2015, n. 124, in materia di licenziamento disciplinare ∗ Legislative decree 20 July 2017, n. 118 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 20 June 2016, n. 116 (due to the sentence of the Constitutional Court n. 251/2016) Legislative decree 25 May 2017, n. 74 Gentiloni Modifiche al decreto legislativo 27 ottobre 2009, n. 150, in attuazione dell’articolo 17, comma 1, lettera r), della legge 7 agosto 2015, n. 124, in materia di valutazione della performance Note: The innovations contained in the decree have been developed by the Guidelines n. 1/2017 and 2/2017 adopted by the Department of Public Administration with the support of the Technical Commission for Performance

Legislative decree 4 August 2016, n. 171∗ Attuazione della delega di cui all’art. 11, comma 1, lettera p), della Legge 7 agosto 2015, n. 124, in materia di dirigenza sanitaria ∗ Legislative decree 26 July 2017, n. 126 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 4 August 2016, n. 171 (due to the sentence of the Constitutional Court n. 251/2016) Disciplina della dirigenza della Repubblica (not implemented due to the sentence of the Constitutional Court n. 251/2016) Legislative decree 25 November 2016, n. 218 Semplificazione delle attività degli enti pubblici di ricerca

Legislative decree 25 November 2016, n. 219 Attuazione della delega di cui all’articolo 10 della legge 7 agosto 2015, n. 124, per il riordino delle funzioni e del finanziamento delle Camere di commercio, industria, artigianato e agricoltura

90 days (25 November 2015)

Local public services of general interest (consolidated text) Reorganization of the proceedings before the Court of Auditors Modification and abrogation of legal provisions that adopt non legislative implementing measures

Shareholdings of public administrations (consolidated text)

Source: Own elaboration from

Art. 21.1

12 months (28 August 2016)

Art. 16.1 lett. c) & Art. 19 Art. 20.1

12 months (28 August 2016)

12 months (28 August 2016)

Art. 16.1 lett. b) & Art. 18 Art. 16.7∗

Legislative decree 22 January 2016, n. 10 So-called Decreto taglia-leggi

Legislative decree 26 August 2016, n. 174 Codice di giustizia contabile

Legislative decree 25 May 2017 n. 75 Modifiche e integrazioni al D.lgs. 30 marzo 2001, n. 165, ai sensi degli artt. 16, commi 1, lettera a), e 2, lettere b), c), d) ed e) e 17, comma 1, lettere a), c), e), f), g), h), l) m), n), o), q), r), s) e z), della legge 7 agosto 2015, n. 124, in materia di riorganizzazione delle amministrazioni pubbliche Note: A number of decrees were adopted by the Ministry of PA to implement rules against absenteeism and develop the recruitment of public employees (concorsi) D.lgs. 19 agosto 2016, n. 175∗ Testo unico in materia di società a partecipazione pubblica ∗ egislative decree 16 June 2017, n. 100 Disposizioni integrative e correttive al D.lgs. 19 August 2016, n. 175 (due to the sentence of the Constitutional Court n. 251/2016) Testo unico sui servizi pubblici locali (not implemented due to the sentence of the Constitutional Court n. 251/2016)








entire section devoted to revising the profile of public employment, including the politician–bureaucrat relationship,90 was largely underdeveloped. In this case, the process of legal enactment of the reform package was formally hindered by a pronouncement of the Constitutional Court that judged some implementing decrees of the Madia reform to be constitutionally illegitimate because of the failure to respect regional prerogatives.91 Following this ruling, only some measures were then supplemented and corrected by the Gentiloni government, which, acting in continuity with the same Minister Madia, tried to complete the cycle. The overall attitude of most of the involved actors, both decision-­ makers and policymakers, was that of another missed opportunity: from the parliamentary debate and the connected public discussion elaborated throughout the entire duration of the 17th Legislature emerged a widespread belief that too many PA reforms remained dead letters and that progress was hardly ever monitored systematically. However, perplexities were also expressed around the idea of establishing a permanent coordination unit, a sort of “control room” gauging the outcomes of the adopted reforming measures. In fact, rather than new structures, it became more evident—truly more to technicians and scholars than to most politicians— that an appropriate use of regulatory quality tools (e.g. impact analysis) in the formulation phase of the policymaking could effectively help to prevent many implementation failures.92 In conclusion, given the recurrent weak point of implementation (see Chap. 6), the Madia reform was ambitious as regards the scope of intervention but without showing the necessary parsimony that should have derived from a deeper evidence-based approach for becoming, as well as quick, concretely transformative.

90  Here the Italian reform trajectory during the 1990s and the 2000s was characterized by “the expansion of the spoils system, the temporary appointments of all civil servants holding a position of ‘manager’, and the introduction in the systems of control of a specific type of ‘control’ by elected officials, supported by advisory bodies, over the top layer of the bureaucracy” (Ongaro 2011: 747). 91  Constitutional Court, Ruling 251/2016. 92  The opinions that the Council of State addressed to the government as regards the implementing decrees served as a concrete, not just legal-formal, administrative advice in that direction. For instance, the Council of State pointed out the lack of “factual” ex ante impact analysis in a number of acts.



References Bezes, P. (2018). Exploring the Legacies of New Public Management in Europe. In E.  Ongaro & S.  Van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management (pp. 919–966). London: Palgrave Macmillan. Bordignon, F. (2014). Matteo Renzi: A ‘Leftist Berlusconi’ for the Italian Democratic Party? South European Society and Politics, 19(1), 1–23. Borghetto, E., Visconti, F., & Michieli, M. (2017). Government Agenda-Setting in Italian Coalitions. Testing the «Partisan Hypothesis» Using Italian Investiture Speeches 1979–2014. Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche, 2, 193–220. Caiden, G.  E. (1976). Implementation—The Achilles Heel of Administrative Reform. In A. F. Leemans (Ed.), The Management of Change in Government (pp. 142–164). Institute of Social Studies, 1). Dordrecht: Springer. Capano, G. (2003). Administrative Traditions and Policy Change: When Policy Paradigms Matter. The Case of Italian Administrative Reform During the 1990s. Public Administration, 81(4), 781–801. Capano, G., & Pritoni, A. (2016). Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the ‘Most’ Reformist One of All? Policy Innovation and Design Coherence of the Renzi Government. Contemporary Italian Politics, 8(3), 289–302. Di Mascio, F. & Natalini A. (2016). The Reform of the Public Administration: Centralization and Reorganization. In M. Carbone & S. Piattoni (Eds.), Italian Politics: Governing Under Constraint (pp.  155–173). New  York, Oxford: Berghahn Journals. Marangoni, F. (2016). The Activity and Legislative Achievements of the Renzi Government After Two Years in Office. Contemporary Italian Politics, 8(2), 200–210. Marangoni, F., & Verzichelli, L. (2014). From Letta to Renzi: Preliminary Data Concerning the Composition of the New Cabinet and the New Executive’s Programme (With an Appendix Concerning the Legislative Activity of the Letta Government). Contemporary Italian Politics, 6(2), 178–190. Mattarella, B. G. (2017). Burocrazia e riforme. Bologna: il Mulino. Melis, G. (2017). I precedenti storici e le possibilità di successo. In E. D’Alterio & B. G. Mattarella (Eds.), La riforma della pubblica amministrazione. Commento alla Legge 124/2015 (Madia) e ai decreti attuativi (pp.  27–32). Milano: Il Sole 24 Ore. Ministry of Economy and Finance. (2015). 2014: A Turning Point for Italy. Structural Reforms in Italy Since September 2014. Retrieved September, 2018, from en/analisi_progammazione/strategia_crescita/2014_A_turning_point_for_ Italy.PDF.



OECD. (2015). Italy. Structural Reforms: Impact on Growth and Employment. Retrieved September, 2018, from Osservatorio sulla legislazione. (2017). La produzione legislativa nella XVII Legislatura (20 Ottobre 2017). Appunti del Comitato per la legislazione, n. 13, Camera dei Deputati. Retrieved February, 2018, from application/xmanager/pr ojects/leg17/attachments/documenti/ pdfs/000/001/134/CL013_20_10_2017.pdf. Pressman, J.I. & Wildavsky, A.B. (1973). Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in Oakland; Or Why It’s Amazing That Federal Programs Work at All. Berkeley: University of California Press. Pommier Vincelli, D. (2017). La ‘riforma Madia’ della Pubblica Amministrazione: contesto politico, analisi teorica e implementazione. Rivista Trimestrale di Scienza dell’Amministrazione, 3, 1–27. Sætren, H. & Hupe, P.L. (2018). Policy Implementation in an Age of Governance. In E.  Ongaro & S.  Van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management (pp. 552–575). London: Palgrave Macmillan.


Fighting Corruption Antonio La Spina

Abstract  After a presentation of the Italian situation until the Tangentopoli (Bribeville) scandals at the beginning of the nineties, we show that, contrary to what one could have expected, such scandals did not trigger the beginning of an anti-corruption policy in Italy; this actually started only 20 years later with the law 190/2012, which was influenced by the Merida Convention and other international norms. What later became the ANAC (an independent authority) was the main innovation of such policy. In recent years, we witness the extension and strengthening of the powers of the ANAC, in parallel with the adoption of new legislation concerning among other things criminal sanctions and offences, preventive measures against corruptive organizations and the protection of whistleblowers and undercover agents. Therefore, nowadays it can be said that an anti-­corruption policy exists and tends to be institutionalized. Keywords  Corruption • Clean hands • Independent regulation • National Anti-corruption Authority (ANAC) • Anti-corruption legislation • Public procurement

© The Author(s) 2020 S. Cavatorto, A. La Spina, The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy,




4.1   The International Level After the demise of colonialism, corruption in the new states—whose economic situation, as a rule, was backward—was not widely perceived as a problem. Moreover, it was officially known that many of the post-colonial rulers, apart from often being autocratic, were remarkably crooked. Nevertheless, they received official foreign aid and entertained economic relationships with foreign businessmen, partly because of their links with the former colonizers and partly because during the Cold War that was a function of their connection with one of the two blocks. This was sometimes justified also by the commonsensical idea that by “greasing the wheels” corruption might actually foster infrastructural investment and, more generally, economic growth. When the Cold War was coming to an end, a different approach began to catch on; international bodies such as the United Nations (UN), the World Bank (WB), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the EU and others reinforced their engagement (which already existed previously) in the fight against corruption. The well-known non-governmental organization Transparency International was established in Berlin in 1993 and began to disseminate to many countries in the world—also in the West—its Corruption Perceptions Index. The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions was adopted in 1997. The same year, the Council of the EU established a convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or those of its member states. The Council of Europe, together with other non-member states, approved the Criminal Law Convention on corruption and established the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in 1999. Now, the guiding idea is that systemic corruption is a threat against democracy, because it hinders socio-economic development and extracts resources which could otherwise be used to improve the condition of the citizens, especially the poorest ones. However, subjectively rational and greedy members of political, bureaucratic or entrepreneurial elites—who can have a hold on autochthonous natural resources, foreign aid or infrastructural projects—can be interested in maintaining a corrupt status quo (which can provoke underdevelopment), because it allows them to stay in power and become richer at the same time. Many projects were launched, and many valuable reports, manuals and guidelines were published, and are being issued even today. For the sake of brevity—and even more because we are concentrating on the Italian



case—it suffices to quote at least some items of the UN Convention against corruption adopted by the general assembly and then presented for signature in Merida in 2003. Italy signed it in 2003, but only ratified it six years later. All the provisions, also those belonging to criminal law, are obviously relevant. We must mention at least Chapter II, on preventive measures (which are strictly linked to both administrative reform and operating procedures of the public sector), and, more specifically, Article 5, which concerns, among other things, international cooperation, periodical evaluation of preventive efforts, civic participation, transparency and accountability; Article 6, which asks each state to ensure the existence of a devoted and independent body; Article 7, which requires the adoption of appropriate “systems for the recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion and retirement of civil servants”; Article 8 on codes of behaviour for public officials; Article 9 on “public procurement and the management of public finances”; and Article 10 on the duties of public reporting. The rationale of asking for independent bodies charged with the implementation of relevant preventive measures is intuitive to many, but will be briefly outlined here. Each public bureaucracy must obviously be committed on its own to eradicate the phenomenon. Nevertheless, if corruption is present in a given office, this can happen because bribe-takers are protected from above, they are able to intimidate their peers, the highest echelons are themselves personally involved, or those who are supposed to watch are negligent. An external and independent authority can supervise and challenge more effectively existing equilibria, provided that it is not a “paper tiger”, but rather a body that is endowed with appropriate legal tools and the necessary financial and human resources.1 1  According to Rothstein (2011) and Persson et al. (2013), many efforts aimed at reducing corruption in low-income countries were doomed to failure and actually failed because they followed an institutional top–down approach, based on the concept of benevolent “principals” engaged in correcting legal norms and procedures in order to check their “agents” more effectively, by limiting discretion and increasing accountability. What was supposed to be needed was a “good governance regime”. However, in some cases the principals themselves are crooked. Besides, corruption can be endemic. When this is the case, social actors expect it and behave accordingly, and this applies also to those actors who would prefer a corruption-free environment. It would be better, therefore, to see corruption as a collective action problem (whose solution is vulnerable to free riding), that should be tackled as such. According to some observers (besides Transparency International, among them Della Porta and Vannucci 2007; Vannucci 2009, 2018; Ruggiero 2010; Hine 2015), the Italian situation was also one of endemic corruption (accepted as “normal” by many people), often intertwined with the businesses of mafia-type organizations.



4.2   Corruption in Italy Until Tangentopoli Italy was unified in 1861. Corruption was significant, as shown by scandals—denounced by Napoleone Colajanni, Gaetano Salvemini or Giuseppe De Felice Giuffrida, among others—concerning the Banca di Roma in 1893 or the widespread electoral frauds (Ballini and Ridolfi 2002; Mana 2002; Noiret 2002; Ridolfi 2002).  Despite improvements, even today Italy remains one of the most corrupted countries (Figs. 4.1 and 4.2). In the historical period of the so-called First Republic, which lasted from 1948 to the beginning of the 1990s, clientelism (which is not equivalent to corruption and does not necessarily amount to a criminal offence) was widespread. Consensus was required by some patrons and their cohorts as a tit for tat for particularistic decisions about public resources (concerning funds, recruitment, permits, avoidance of supervision etc.). Understandably, the fight against corruption was not a priority (Della Porta and Vannucci 1997a, b; Della Porta 2005; Newell 2005; Chang et al. 2010; Hine 2015). Clientelism was not justified as a “rational” way to reap personal advantages (from the point of view of individual political/bureaucratic actors). It was, rather, presented in a systemic perspective, as expedient in order to uphold the ruling majority which, during the Cold War, was expected to act as a dam vis-à-vis the opposition. As a matter of fact, a fierce



lga Gr ria Ro eec m e Hu ani ng a Cr ary oa Slo tia va k R It ep aly ub Sp lic a L in Cz Li atv ec thu ia h a Re ni pu a Po blic la n M d al Cy ta Slo pru v s Po eni rtu a Es gal to Fr nia a Be nce lgi Au um st r Un G Irela ia ite er nd m d K a Ne ing ny th do Lu er m xe lan m ds bo Sw urg De ede nm n Fin ark la nd

100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

Fig. 4.1  Control of Corruption (2017) (percentile rank 0–100). Country’s rank among all countries in the world: 0 corresponds to lowest rank and 100 corresponds to highest rank. (Source: Own elaboration based on



7 6 5 4 3 2




va Hu k R ng ep ary u Cr blic oa tia Ro Ita m ly an La ia Cz ec G tiva h re Re ec pu e Bu bli lga c Po ria Slo lan ve d ni a M Lit a hu lta an i Sp a Cy ain Po pru rtu s Au gal st Fr ria a Be nce Un lg ite E ium d sto Ki n ng ia d Ire om De lan Lu n d xe m m ark b Ge ou rm rg Ne Sw any th ed er en la Fin nds la nd


Fig. 4.2  Favouritism in decisions of government officials (2017 (1–7 best)). In your country, to what extent do government officials show favouritism to wellconnected firms and individuals when deciding upon policies and contracts? 1 shows favouritism to a great extent; 7 does not show favouritism at all. Italy’s rank in 2017 was 118/137. (Source: Own elaboration based on

competition also happened inside parties, among different factions (correnti) and their political leaders (LaPalombara 1964; Golden and Chang 2001). The presence of at least three subnational levels of government (regioni, province, comuni, to which some other territorial entities should be added) multiplied the opportunities for improper use of public money. At the time of the so-called First Republic, the idea of independent institutions was usually welcomed with hostility and distrust. Before 1990, only two such bodies (the CONSOB for the stock exchange, securities and savings, and the ISVAP for the insurance sector) were established, but remained very weak and ineffective for many years (La Spina and Cavatorto 2008). The centrality of politics, elected representatives, and parties was extolled. “Particracy” (partitocrazia) was the ordinary approach to the management of the res publica. During the 1970s, the most alarming criminal threats were political terrorism and mafia-type organized crime. In particular, the fight against the latter was intensified with law 646/1982 (eventually adopted after the murders of communist Member of Parliament Pio La Torre and General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa) and then with a set of measures passed at the beginning of the 1990s, also after the Capaci and Via D’Amelio bombings (when judges Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino were killed). These



slaughters were deemed turning points which marked the beginning of the so-called Second Republic. The relevant acts adopted since 1982 have built a corpus that can be properly called an Italian anti-mafia sectoral policy.2 The focus on both terrorism and the reaction against Cosa Nostra is a further reason which explains why, notwithstanding several scandals (which did not shake the stability of the Italian party system: Sberna and Vannucci 2013), combating corruption was not a priority in the official agenda of the political system. In a crooked exchange, both parties often have an incentive to keep it covert. Therefore, when contemporary investigative techniques based on wiretapping and other methods used to intercept communications were not available, it was extremely difficult to prosecute such crimes. After the 1970s, a different approach to political engagement emerged, which was less ideological and more utilitarian, driven by the desire to obtain personal advantages (Golden and Picci 2006; Chang et  al. 2010). At the beginning of 1992, the inquiry called mani pulite (clean hands) started in Milan, on the basis of the claims of an ex-wife focused on the financial transactions of her ex-husband, a small-calibre local administrator, whose testimony generated a huge domino effect in the rest of the country. This happened because the activist public prosecutors of that tribunal induced several defendants to confess corruption crimes and denounce their accomplices. The main political parties that had ruled the country during the First Republic were devastated. Some of their most relevant leaders were personally ruined. The media also played a crucial role and extensively covered the inquiries relating to what was labelled Tangentopoli (Bribeville), concerning the fall of politicians who were formerly powerful and widely respected. A dramatic change took place in public opinion and attitudes, which in principle became much more sensitive towards issues such as personal integrity, proper use of public funds and the need for sound regulations. The judiciary was understood to play a “vicarious” role, given that traditional political parties (that had built the Italian Republic after World War II) had not been ready to reform themselves and the relevant rules. Some of the judges who had enjoyed sustained public exposure began political careers. Law 241, passed only in 1990, was inspired by both the US Administrative Procedure Act and French legislation. It was drafted by a committee chaired by professor Mario Nigro and introduced several 2

 Italian anti-mafia policy is dealt with extensively in La Spina (2004, 2017).



innovations concerning transparency, openness, responsibility, simplification, certainty of timings and acceleration of administrative proceedings. If bureaucratic activities became streamlined, participatory and accountable, this would by and large reduce opportunities for corruption. However, the actual application of many provisions of law 241 systematically met with resistance generated by old-fashioned bureaucrats, who today are still seldom willing to comply with it. In order to overcome such obstacles, the act was (often unsuccessfully) revised repeatedly, including by law 190/2012 concerning corruption, to which we will return later. In the same years, the perception of regulatory needs stemming from European integration suggested the adoption of an antitrust law and the strengthening of the CONSOB. In 1992, Italy was one of the protagonists when the Maastricht Treaty was framed and adopted. A referendum concerning electoral law was held in 1993. More than 82% of those who voted (77% of the electorate) indicated their preference for a majoritarian system. The new law was mostly majoritarian, with one quarter of the seats allocated on a proportional basis. As a consequence of Tangentopoli, the Parliament elected in 1992 was delegitimized and underwent its dissolution long before the ordinary expiration date. Together with the fall of the Berlin wall, the Maastricht treaty, the Sicilian slaughters and mani pulite, that referendum was regarded as the trigger of the Second Republic. The times seemed to be ripe for the birth of a proper anti-corruption policy. Nevertheless, as we will see, for almost two decades this promise, raised by the fall of the First Republic, proved elusive. Subsequently, the general public’s sensitivity to the problem underwent a sharp decline (Sberna and Vannucci 2013). When the scandals connected to Tangentopoli surfaced, the majority of the day did not manage to tackle the issue adequately. A few months before the dissolution of the Parliament, a long-awaited “framework law” (109/1994) on public works was passed which, among other things, implemented some EU directives and created a new body, the Autorità per la vigilanza sui lavori pubblici (AVLP), which was not endowed with real regulatory powers and was established several years later. Law 109/1994 raised opposition among many who belonged to the world of public works, who were used to contracting procedures without transparency, public notice and competition (Bologna and Del Nord 20003).

 See also Giorgio Santilli, “Dalla Merloni a oggi: vent’anni persi”, Sole 24 ore, 20/11/2015.




Hence, its actual application was blocked for several years by means of decree-laws. The Parliament elected in 1994 lasted only until 1996. Nevertheless, in 1995, when a “technical” cabinet was in charge, another independent body for the regulation of the energy sector—the Autorità per l’energia elettrica e il gas (AEEG)—was established by law 481, which also mentioned an authority for communications. This happened under European constraint, because the establishment of an independent regulator was a precondition for privatization and liberalization in that sector. The Autorità per le garanzie nelle comunicazioni (AGCOM) was actually created later, in 1997, on the basis of an analogous constraint. Another relevant public utility sector, transport, was not tackled  (La Spina and Cavatorto 2008). The Parliament elected in 1996 also formed a commission supposed to elaborate proposals on corruption. Another committee on the same matter was nominated by the Minister of Public Administration. Both formulated proposals of intervention. However, the only acts related to anti-corruption that were in fact adopted were the ratification of the above-mentioned OECD convention, a provision on the disciplinary consequences of the conviction of public officials, and legislative decree 231/2001 concerning the administrative responsibility of legal persons, companies, and associations for administrative violations connected with offences which included corruption. On the one hand, several laws approved after the general election of 2001 (on matters such as false accounting, amnesty for funds taken abroad, large public works, evidence gathered abroad, statute of limitations, legitimate suspicion and restrictions to the public prosecutor’s capacity to appeal) were justified as attempts to curb the excesses of judicial activism or to speed up the tardiness of public contracts. On the other hand, they were negatively portrayed by many critics, also with regard to the fight against corruption (Della Porta and Vannucci 2007; Newell 2005; Vannucci 2009). Instead, other decisions were made which related to this: the establishment under the presidency of the Council of Ministers of a High Commissioner officially charged with preventing and combating corruption and other illicit conducts inside public administrations; a not very impactful law on conflict of interests; the code of public contracts, which weakened some provisions of law 109/1994. Among other things, the latter increased, in principle, powers of the relevant authority, extended its jurisdiction to all contracts concerning goods and services, and renamed it accordingly (now AVCP).



The 15th Legislature, which began in 2006 and also lasted only two years, passed a measure aimed at reducing the penalties already inflicted for some crimes, including corruption-related ones. In 2008, at the beginning of the 16th Legislature, the High Commissioner was suppressed and substituted with a service for anti-corruption and transparency (SAeT) under the Ministry of Public Administration. Nevertheless, both the SAeT and the High Commissioner lacked staff, resources and powers. Legislative decree 150/2009, which will be discussed in detail in the next chapter, created the Commission for the Evaluation, Transparency and Integrity of Public Administrations (CIVIT).

4.3   The Anti-Corruption Law and the National Anti-Corruption Authority (ANAC) At the end of 2011, as a consequence of a severe worsening of the situation concerning public bonds and Italian sovereign debt and, more generally, of the national economic outlook, the Parliament chose to put its confidence in a technical cabinet. Some measures prioritized on the agenda and aimed at the reduction of public expenditure were strongly criticized after their adoption. With regard to our present topic, after a lengthy and vexing decision-­ making process which started in 2010 and underwent several revisions, law 190 was enacted as of November 2012.4 In the previous decade, several scandals (Sberna and Vannucci 2013; Locatelli et al. 2017; Grossi and Pianezzi 2018) had involved cliques composed of high-level civil servants, professionals, entrepreneurs, middlemen and politicians (the role of the latter, compared with that detected by mani pulite, now tends to be less central). However, the new act did not appear to be dictated by an urgent need to respond to a highly visible emergency, like some of the anti-mafia measures that reacted to slaughters and attacks against the State. As we have seen, Tangentopoli did not produce a new piece of legislation (which, in case it had been adopted, would have probably been a reactive one). Rather, in many respects, law 190/2012 exhibits a pondered and comprehensive approach, which recalls international conventions and obligations (Canestri 2014), and built the initial foundation of what had 4  This law is at the origin of the ANAC. Therefore, it is also significant with regard to independent regulation (Frazzica and La Spina 2018). The transport regulation authority was instituted by means of a decree-law.



the potential to become an anti-corruption policy, if properly implemented and extended. The drafters can be traced back to a loose community of policy specialists—judges, civil servants, scholars and professionals—who revolved around the Ministry of Justice and had already embraced a proactive approach to the fight against the mafia. We will come back to the role of expertise and advocacy coalitions in the concluding section. Besides a few rather controversial provisions which reframed or introduced some criminal offences (European Commission 2014) and also affected corrupt intercourses between private persons, most of the text is devoted to corruption prevention, which is supposed to imbue all of the public sector. The CIVIT was tasked with some relevant competences. Among these were the approval of the national anti-corruption plan, drafted by the Department of Public Administration (DFP), and the supervision and control of the actual compliance of public bureaucracies with the obligations introduced, backed by powers of inspection and removal of deviant behaviours or acts. In this initial phase, therefore, the CIVIT’s tasks included both performance evaluation and corruption prevention. Each central and local administration was asked to adopt and implement detailed and outcome-oriented anti-corruption plans, tailored to its own features and containing context analyses, risk assessments, and tools, such as the rotation of assignments. They were also requested to produce and apply specific codes of conduct and to select civil servants to be entrusted with a special responsibility of corruption prevention, which was also to be imbued throughout the whole organization. The obligations of disclosing, through websites, certain types of information about the uses of public money, works, procurements, assignments, recruitment procedures, managerial tasks and rewards, performance bonuses, and so on (already present in the act that had established the CIVIT) were further detailed. For the first time in Italy, there was an article on the protection of civil servants who decided to blow the whistle and denounce some abuse. Other provisions focused on mafia-type infiltrations. The law also delegated the adoption of a bundle of acts to the cabinet. Among these were those concerning obligations of disclosure, disciplinary violations and penalties, the capacity to be a candidate for political and European elections, assignments, incompatibility and ineligibility, and conflicts of interests. Legislative decree 33/2013, among other things, introduced a “civic access” that could be asked for by anybody, in order to force a public administration to disclose requested information



when its publication was mandatory. Other expected legislative decrees were subsequently enacted, and generated some notorious impacts and criticisms; they were accused of imposing excessively cumbersome and sometimes unnecessary duties. Legislative decree 33/2013 was actually simplified and integrated some years later by one of the delegated decrees of law 124/2015, legislative decree 97/2016, usually mentioned as the Italian “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA). This act introduced “generalized civic access”, which virtually covers (with certain limitations) all data and documents held by public administrations, even those whose publication is not mandatory. As we will discuss later on, other points, such as those pertaining to whistle-blowers, were lacking and needed further integration. More importantly, some of the new criminal provisions, such as the “unpacking” of concussion were very problematic. Other provisions, concerning self-­ laundering or reform of the norms about the exchange of votes, were absent (but were introduced a few years later). Therefore, some weaknesses and limitations were immediately apparent, and others emerged after the adoption of the delegated acts. On the whole, however, the new law did try to frame an organic reform. Pursuant to decree-law 101/2013—which was partly modified when it was converted by law 125/2013—the former CIVIT was renamed Autorità anticorruzione e per la valutazione e la trasparenza delle pubbliche amministrazioni (ANAC). The selection process of the commission (involving the Ministries of Justice and Interiors), the mode of appointment of the president and the duration in charge of the commissioners (by excluding a second mandate) were also modified. Raffaele Cantone, a public prosecutor who had been one of the protagonists of relevant investigations concerning the Camorra (the mafia-type organization embedded in Campania), was appointed to the presidency as of March 2014. After three months, decree-law 90/2014 (subsequently modified when it was converted by law 114/2014) suppressed the AVCP,5 merging it with the ANAC, which acquired the capacity of proposing a non-judicial solution of controversies about public contracts to interested parties. Apart from this, not formally binding opinions of general significance and models of invitations to tender issued by the ANAC began to perform a de facto 5  Over the years the AVCP increased its supervisory and regulatory tasks. However, according to the ANAC itself (2016, pp.  12–16), the AVCP was less effective than it might have been.



regulatory power. At the same time, decree-law 90/2014 deprived it of functions concerning the evaluation of administrative performance which were typical of the CIVIT, and “restituted” them to the DFP, which in turn lost competences with regard to transparency and anti-corruption, which were transferred to the ANAC. The same act introduced, among other things, some sanctioning powers, other powers to be exerted by the president of the ANAC alone (without the other commissioners), duties of notifications to the authority with regard to some illicit behaviours or variations during the implementation of public contracts, and the possibility for whistle-blowers to address their reports directly to the ANAC. Decree-law 90/2014 also contained an answer to some thorny issues, which were extensively covered by the media. The City of Milan was expected to host the global exposition “EXPO” in 2015. This implied relevant public contracts, which had been affected by corruption, just as had happened with another massive public work located in Venice, the MOSE (intended to control floods there). Judicial inquiries could have blocked the activities of the firms involved, so that it would have been impossible to meet deadlines and host the EXPO in 2015 as expected. Therefore, the ANAC was enabled to direct a preventive and mandatory check—labelled “collaborative surveillance”—on the relevant contracting entity, also in order to discourage undesirable economic agents from participating in the tenders. The outcome of this innovation was that the EXPO could indeed take place. According to some analyses, the new surveillance might have even accelerated the implementation of the whole project (Busetti and Dente 2017; ANAC 2016). Another new power granted by decree-law 90/2014 was that of putting a contract under external control (commissariamento), if the firm obtained it through corruption or was influenced by some mafia-type organization. More generally, having been restructured after the absorption of the AVCP, the ANAC was now much more capable of exerting an impactful regulatory power (Cantone and Carloni 2018). Over the next years, several other pieces of legislation widened the ANAC’s powers and jurisdiction. Its institutional website (ANAC 2018b) mentions 20 or so, among which were laws, decree-laws, legislative decrees (including also a regulation and a circular by the DFP) issued after 2012 and concerning a vast range of competences, as well as activities in the fields of anti-corruption and transparency, or public contracts. This reveals a quick-and-steady expansion of its strength and scope of intervention. For instance, law 69/2015 concerns both mafia-type organizations and



offences against public administrations (in the Italian criminal code this label includes various behaviours connected to actual or potential abuses carried out by public officials). Apart from encouraging the cooperation of corrupt persons with investigators and imposing restitution of the proceeds from their crimes, this law also asks public prosecutors and administrative judges to inform the ANAC about cases related to corruption. Another relevant act, which was drafted through an intense interaction between the Minister for Infrastructures and Transport and the ANAC, is the new code on public procurements introduced with legislative decree 50/2016, on the basis of the delegation contained in law 11/2016 (concerning the implementation of four relevant EU directives) and the abrogation of the former code adopted in 2006. The new code aimed to ensure efficiency and integrity in public contracts, which should be managed by modern, competent, outcome-oriented bureaucracies. In line with EU directives, it introduced several innovations,6 and also required a great number of secondary acts, which often involved the ANAC, whose range of action was again considerably widened. The authority therefore manages, among other things (ANAC 2018c), a national databank of public contracts, a connected observatory, the general register of contracting entities, a public national register for members of selection boards, and so on. In interactions with firms and public bodies, it can intervene directly in individual decisions, in order to impose rectifications and enforce sanctions upon the officials involved. It is also required to adopt guidelines which are supposed to be quicker and more flexible than the government’s regulations (regolamenti), as well as to issue opinions, pre-litigation advice, recommendations, invitations and other acts without sanction and which are not directly binding, which nonetheless can guide the behaviour of their addressees. The usual approach of Italian civil servants to the fields regulated by the ANAC is a formalistic and strictly legal one. In addition, the AVCP was mostly inspired by it. Similar to certain other independent institutions, 6  For example, the actual expertise of the commissioners; responsibility for procedures; the professional qualification of contracting authorities; the actual openness and competitiveness of tendering processes (also with regard to the number and features of participants); limitations to subcontracting; the reduction of judicial pleas; non-judicial  remedies for conflict resolution; the prerequisites of the projects drafted by the competitors; the financial guarantees; a system of bodies for certifying the quality and a rating of the legality and integrity of firms; concession contracts or in-house arrangements. For further information, see Cantone and Carloni (2018) and MIT (2016).



which in this respect are sometimes different from traditional Italian bureaucracies, the ANAC is gradually showing a more empirical orientation. For instance, it has organized a survey of a robust sample of Italian administrations (the foreign reader should consider that we have slightly less than 8000 municipalities, plus another 2000 entities of other types), in order to check whether and how they have complied with anti-­ corruption provisions. This allows us to see that, with regard to formalistic aspects (such as the adoption of any anti-corruption plan whatsoever, or the appointment of an official who is responsible for it), compliance is after all rather high. When, however, it comes to substantive elements, such as analysing the social, economic and criminal environment, locating and assessing the risks of corruption, selecting and applying appropriate tools in order to eliminate or reduce them—that is, the crux of prevention—most public entities do very little and do not proceed in the right way (ANAC 2015). This is what usually happens in Italy when administrative reforms are adopted. For many civil servants, it is difficult to understand what is required and why it is important, because they lack pertinent qualifications; furthermore, for some of them it is better to stick to the status quo, especially when inefficiency and ineffectiveness go hand in hand with rents, lack of controls and, often, corruption. Therefore, on the one hand, the above-mentioned ANAC report conveys sad news, testifying that the most relevant components of the recently launched preventive approach are still only on paper. On the other hand, there are two novelties: that the survey was carried out (and tends to be regularly repeated), putting a finger in the wound, and that its results are in the hands of a dedicated institution whose official goals, reputation and rewards—both material and symbolic—are connected to its visible capacity to challenge the existing situation. Another significant innovation, publicized at the beginning of 2018, is regarding the first applications of a methodology that is primarily aimed at assessing the existence and magnitude of the risks of corruption (ANAC 2018a; La Spina and Roberti 2018). This approach is based on the ex ante construction of lists of reliable and realistic prices for each element acquired by a public administration, which is compared with the price actually paid by a given bureaucracy, with the average price in that area, and also with the average of the prices accepted by the same supplier for the same element in other contracts. A variability of prices inside a certain range can be both reasonable and acceptable. If the differences are excessive, however, either there are robust reasons which justify them (that will be illustrated



by the relevant public organization), or such excesses signal at least a possibility of already consummated crooked exchanges. It is understandable that this mechanism of data collection might also exert a compelling preventive function. If it were properly implemented and generalized, both suppliers and buyers would know that any strange deviation from the acceptable range would automatically trigger an alarm bell. Therefore, unless they find an uneasy way to circumvent the system, they will be induced to pay realistic prices for the goods and services that they need. Hence, waste and corruption would sometimes not take place at all, or at least would decrease substantially if they had taken place previously. According to some commentators (La Spina and Roberti 2018), on the basis of systems of indicators analogous to those used by the prototypes, it would be possible to design dedicated software to be fed with relevant data, in order to both update price lists and signal the deviations to be analysed in depth on an impersonal basis. It must also be said that the resources given to the ANAC, with regard to funding, recruitment, staff and salaries, were gradually increased and stabilized. The authority also receives contributions from economic actors and public entities involved in public contracts.

4.4   Recent Developments According to Cassese (20177), preventive controls are not very useful and can have a paralyzing effect on bureaucrats’ mental attitudes, as well as on their decision-making processes (such as those concerning public contracts). That is why the number of such controls performed by the court of auditors (Corte dei conti) was strongly reduced in 1994. In Cassese’s view, the ANAC, which is charged with preventive tasks, generates inefficient and cumbersome burdens on all public administrations. Its areas of intervention overlap with those of other bodies, such as the DFP, the Corte dei conti, and the public prosecutors. More recently also Delsignore and Ramajoli (2019) argued that corruption prevention is prone to excesses, insofar as it unduly restricts discretion and can discourage civil servants from adopting quick, efficient and results-oriented decisions. Also, the General Prosecutor of the Court of Auditors (Galtieri 2017) stressed that the proliferation of uncoordinated controls and controlling bodies could generate confusion, waste and perverse effects. Therefore, 7

 See also Sabino Cassese, “Cantone a giudizio”, il Foglio, 24/1/2017.



his opinion was that the present situation should be reordered and simplified. However, the next year, both the president and the new general prosecutor of the Court of Auditors instead emphasized existing relationships of cooperation with the ANAC, as well as the synergy between the competences of the two institutions (Buscema 2018; Avoli 2018). The above-mentioned new code on public procurements enacted in 2016 provoked several criticisms and requests intended to modify it. Therefore, it was amended repeatedly. Some relevant aspects (concerning, among other things, the speeding up of procedures, rewards for professionals, more permissive requirements for firms and thresholds for the use of the lowest bid instead of the economically most advantageous offer) were soon addressed by the so-called corrective legislative decree 56/2017. This act brought back some limited competences to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, which, however, must act upon proposals formulated by the ANAC. legislative decree 50/2017 also suppressed the power of “binding recommendation” that had been introduced by the new code, which was aimed at removing activities carried out by some contracting entity when deemed illegitimate by the ANAC. This power had already been subjected to remarks by the Council of State, which had asked for it to be revised, fearing that it would have increased the number of lawsuits because it was possible to submit the binding recommendations to judicial review. Legislative decree 56/2017 abolished them altogether. Nevertheless, the cabinet of the day managed to reintroduce very quickly a somewhat equivalent check, granting the ANAC an additional power to file a lawsuit when a contracting party does not comply with its requests and, more generally, when it detects some illegitimate act. Also, its function of collaborative surveillance was refined by law 96/2017, which converted decree-law 50/2017. Although their legal nature provoked a lively debate among judges and scholars, in practice its binding or not-binding guidelines, pre-litigation advice and other so-called decisions of ‘soft law’ increased the ANAC’s regulatory functions substantially. Therefore, the steady expansion of the ANAC’s field of intervention was not significantly curbed, as this might have appeared at first sight. Overall, we can say that its powers were further enhanced. The topic of anti-corruption is, of course, related to public administrations and, therefore, to policy choices with regard to using the tools of administrative law. However, criminal law is also implied. In the Italian case, as already discussed, the fight against mafia-type organizations can also be relevant when corruption is concerned. We should also mention



some “preventive” anti-mafia measures, which can affect the properties of mobsters when they are deemed dangerous, even in the absence of a conviction or a criminal trial. Law 161/2017 reformed the so-called anti-­ mafia code, which is actually about preventive measures. Among many other things, and not without controversy, this new law extended the possibility of applying those anti-mafia preventive measures—such as the seizure or the confiscation of the proceeds from crime—to people who, on the basis of factual elements, were being investigated for one or more of certain crimes related to abuses which had actually been or could have been committed by some public official.8 However, given that in several cases such crimes are much less serious than those committed by mafia-­ type organizations, the provision was restricted to offences of the above-­ mentioned kind, provided that they are not committed by isolated individuals, but rather by associations which can be called corruptive (Perrone 2017; La Spina 2018). Such criminal groups are normally much smaller and less structured than mafia-type ones. In many relevant corruption cases, we actually find organized behaviours involving a plurality of crooked individuals. Although in Italy the latter type of corruption is perceived as widespread, for many reasons (including the statute of limitations and the duration of trials), it is relatively rare that white-collar criminals involved actually undergo a criminal sanction and spend some years in prison. Naturally, mafia members hate that their money, houses, estates and firms are seized and confiscated. However, to be a member of a mafia-type organization is often a lifelong choice that characterizes their social identity, self-esteem and the way they perceive themselves. Therefore, many of them can resist and continue to preserve their criminal history when their properties are seized or even if they are imprisoned for many years (although we also have a remarkable amount of cases in which the mobsters do the opposite and decide to collaborate with the anti-mafia enforcement agencies). On the other hand, participants in a crooked network are, most of the time, white-collar criminals who earn their living elsewhere, but also enjoy additional incomes obtained through bribes. Therefore, for them, the main reason for doing so is not a stubborn social identity, but rather—and straightforwardly—greed. This means that if corrupt persons come to fear that is the proceeds of their crimes can be taken away from 8  They were already applicable to inveterate criminals or to individuals who were unable to justify the origin of their assets.



them, the deterrent effect will be strong. Preventive measures for crooked networks could act as a functional equivalent of ordinary criminal penalties (which are seldom enforced, and whose power of deterrence is apparently low). Of course, it remains to be seen whether, how, how much and where the new provisions concerning corruptive associations will be actually applied (La Spina 2018). We already mentioned legislative decree 97/2016 (Italian FOIA), which extended and integrated the provisions of legislative decree 33/2013. Understandably, the path of implementation of such provisions is ridden with resistance and obstacles. The availability of a generalized civic access can be very helpful for whistle-blowers. The recent law 179/2017 aimed to improve the protection of those who blow the whistle against discriminatory and retaliatory actions, extending it to other categories of persons who belong to public bodies or interact with them. It also tried to expand somewhat the coverage of confidentiality, which encourages those who are considering the hard choice of denouncing an abuse. However, the identity of those who report must be disclosed at some point: during the trial concerning criminal offences or at some stage of the disciplinary proceeding. The ANAC is involved in both monitoring and encouraging recourse to civic access and whistle-blowing. The authority was also endowed with a new sanctioning power. Occasionally, public officials are involved in corrupt transactions. However, there are also many cases of civil servants and politicians who do not accept such proposals, and can therefore be threatened, physically injured and sometimes killed by individuals or criminal groups because of their decisions to resist. A group of local public administrations (mainly, but not only, municipalities), called Avviso Pubblico, was formed in order to monitor this phenomenon, heighten the attention of public opinion, and push for the adoption of dedicated acts. On the basis of its pressure, another recent law (105/2017) improved the protection of the victims of such intimidations and strengthened the instruments used to fight against them. The new majority formed by the Five Star Movement and the Northern League after the political elections that took place in 2018 approved the new anti-corruption law 3/2019 (labelled “sweep corrupts” in popular communications), with several innovations regarding matters such as the following: the extension of the usability of undercover agents (as foreseen by the Merida Convention signed in 2003); the ban on contracting with public administrations for individuals (whose employment or recruitment



in the civil service is also inhibited) and firms found guilty of corruption-­ related offences; the raising of some of penalties; the widened use of certain investigative techniques, specifically interceptions of communications; the responsibilities of legal persons; the extended and facilitated applicability, or the reformulation, of the provisions concerning some offences; the proceeds of crime; and the cooperation of offenders with prosecutors. In previous years, the idea of “inciting agents”—who were enabled to provoke the commission of offences in order to drive out crooked relationships—was criticized. The new act actually mentions undercover agents, who cannot be punished if they commit certain crimes in order to detect relevant evidence. The law also contains provisions regulating the disclosure and traceability of sums of money received by parties, and the relationships between the latter and foundations, associations and committees connected to them. The act was integrated by adding a separate and very controversial text about a topic that went well beyond the realm of corruption: that is, the statute of limitations. The new provisions were meant to exclude the possibility of limitations after the judicial decision of first degree, given that many criminals managed to escape conviction thanks to them. This option was criticized by the opposition of the day because it would allow a criminal trial to last indefinitely. Other criticisms pointed out that it might be ineffective, given that, most of the time, trials are terminated by limitation during the investigative phase, before the decision of first degree. Even if the new cabinet often emphasized the innovative as well as alternative character of its policies, when one considers the last seven years, it is possible to see that the new act undoubtedly introduces some useful tools which will probably be impactful, and is at the same time in line with the acceleration and expansion occurring in the specific field of anti-­ corruption after the introduction of law 190/2012.9 However, we can also detect some signs of discontinuity. A provision of the budgetary law passed at the end of 2018 has substantially lifted—from €40,000 to €150,000—the threshold under which public bodies are allowed to assign a public contract without an open and competitive call for bids. This provision was already symptomatic of some impatience about the recent code of public contracts and the vast competences 9  This point was made also by the Minister of Justice, the proponent of the “sweep corrupt” act (Virginia Piccolillo, “Italia all’avanguardia sulla corruzione”, Corriere della sera, 14/11/2018).



bestowed by it upon the ANAC. Explicit aversion against the regulation of public contracts and the role played by the ANAC therein was subsequently shown by the decree-law 32/2019 (the so-called Sblocca-cantieri, literally aiming at unblocking construction sites), then converted into law 55/2019. This was intended to substantially relax the impact of the code on public contracts. The application of some relevant provisions of such a code—officially aimed at preventing corruptive exchanges and improving the quality of decision-making processes—was suspended until the end of 2020, and the ANAC’s powers were restricted in several respects.

4.5   Concluding Remarks We have seen that, for many decades, the corruption issue was not on the agenda in Italian politics. Even after the Tangentopoli scandals, a proper reaction with focused policy choices was lacking. Counterintuitively, law 190/2012 was passed in a phase when the perceived emergency was the crisis of the sovereign debt, not corruption. The new powers given to the CIVIT and the whole apparatus of prevention were no doubt a promising beginning, but they encountered forceful resistance aimed at hindering their impact. We also mentioned that the effects of law 109/1994 were delayed and downsized. Eventually, it was substituted by the 2006 code on public contracts, inspired by a less-innovative approach. The AVLP, even when it was turned into the AVCP and officially strengthened, did not play a very effective role. Therefore, the launch of an anti-corruption policy deserves to be carefully analysed and explained, because it was ex ante very difficult and unlikely. Since the adoption of law 190/2012, we have actually registered an evident tendency towards the enrichment and reinforcement of anti-corruption. Several cabinets (led by Monti, Letta, Renzi, Gentiloni, respectively) maintained an evident continuity in this regard. Their supporting political coalitions were similar (albeit not identical). They also faced competition from an unprecedented political force, the Five Star Movement, which depicted the old establishment as plagued by dishonest and corrupt elites. Both of these critical ideas and the actual building of an anti-corruption policy since 2012 can be partly seen as a delayed effect of the mani pulite phase. For sure, both the ANAC and its visible leadership were another crucial factor behind this trend. Once an independent body is established and becomes capable of developing a strategy of its own, it will try to expand its legitimacy, resources and fields of intervention (La Spina and Cavatorto



2008). It can officially act as a policy entrepreneur, by suggesting innovations to amend existing legislation (La Spina 2020). Some new scandals, such as those related to the EXPO or the MOSE, supplied opportunities which were actually taken advantage of. All the commissioners who were chosen have a juristic legal background. Nevertheless, the ANAC exhibited some orientation towards outcomes, more than what might have been expected when legal rationality prevails (La Spina 1989). Scholars of policymaking processes have highlighted the interplay of multiple streams of problems, solutions, opportunities, arguments, strategies of the relevant participants and advocacy coalitions (Kingdon 1984; Sabatier 1988; Majone 1989; Mintrom 1997). The most recent theorizations tend to unpack policy subsystems, communities and processes, by distinguishing advocacy coalitions from epistemic communities composed by specialists. Also “instrument constituencies” must be considered, whose participants tend to support certain solutions/tools that could be attached to a range of different problems (Voß and Simons 2014; Simons and Voß 2018; Howlett and Cashore 2009; Mukherjee and Howlett 2015; Béland et al. 2018). Actual policy processes should be seen as interplays between these different types of actors, which can sometimes overlap with each other in concrete cases (La Spina 2020). The latest development in the Italian fight against corruption shows that all three components are actually present. We see grassroots groups belonging to civil society (such as, among others, Transparency International, Riparte Il Futuro, #VociDiGiustizia,, Libera, Avviso Pubblico, FOIA for Italy and Diritto di Sapere) trying to build advocacy coalitions in order to push for reforms, but also monitoring their implementation. We also see an epistemic community which interacts with UN bodies, the World Bank, the OECD, the GRECO and the EU Commission and Parliament, also on the basis of the strength and prestige of the Italian anti-mafia tradition. Some of these specialists use empirical social sciences and evidence-based approaches, and are oriented towards outcomes (see, for instance, Golden and Picci 2005, 2006). We can also speak of some instrument constituencies: those that focus on preventive measures concerning the proceeds of crime or, rather, on anti-corruption tools suggested by international conventions, such as Merida. In some cases, the same entity (e.g., Transparency International) plays a role in advocacy, has representatives participating in the epistemic debate and identifies itself with some typical instruments (such as the methodology and the resulting indexes based on corruption perception).



This multiplicity of actors and viewpoints, coupled with the coverage that the topic of malfeasance constantly receives both from traditional media and from new social media, as well as the different political personalities, actually produced, up to a certain point in time, continuous pressure for the expansion of anti-corruption.10 Whether the amount of corrupt transactions is actually diminishing is, of course, another story that we cannot deal with here.

References ANAC. (2015). Rapporto sullo stato di attuazione e la qualità dei piani triennali di prevenzione della corruzione nelle amministrazioni pubbliche 2015–2017 (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from https:// www.anticorr tal/rest/jcr/repositor y/collaboration/ Digital%20Assets/anacdocs/Attivita/Pubblicazioni/RapportiStudi/Anac. RappAttuazionePianiPrevenzioneCorruzionePA.dic2015.pdf. ANAC. (2016, February 1). Piano di riordino. As Approved with a Decree of the President of the Council of Ministers (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from PianoRiordinoAnac.scansione.pdf. ANAC. (2018a). Efficienza dei contratti pubblici e sviluppo di indicatori di rischio corruttivo (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from efficienza.corruzione.29.01.18.pdf. ANAC. (2018b). Normative Requirements (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from Trasparente/DisposizioniGenerali/AttiGenerali/RiferimentiNormativi. ANAC. (2018c). Services (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from https:// Avoli, A. (2018, February 13). Relazione orale del Procuratore generale della Corte dei conti, Inaugurazione dell’anno giudiziario 2018 (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from documenti/documenti_procura/procura_generale/relazioni_anni_giudiziari/ relazione_orale_avoli_ag2018.pdf. 10  Law 3/2019, adopted by the bipartite coalition created in 2018, was drafted rapidly because it was one of the priorities of the Five Star Movement, but also because of its consistency with the views of the relevant advocacy coalition and instrument constituencies, inside a policy subsystem whose participants were often favourable to most of the new tools.



Ballini, P.  L., & Ridolfi, M. (Eds.). (2002). Storia delle campagne elettorali in Italia. Milano: Paravia Bruno Mondadori. Béland, D., Howlett, M., & Mukherjee, I. (2018). Instrument Constituencies and Public Policy-Making: An Introduction. Policy and Society, 37(1), 1–13. Bologna, R., & Del Nord, R. (2000). Effects of the Law Reforming Public Works Contracts on the Italian Building Process. Building Research & Information, 28(2), 109–118. Buscema, A. (2018, February 13). Discorso per la cerimonia di insediamento del Presidente della Corte dei conti, Inaugurazione dell’anno giudiziario 2018 (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from export/sites/portalecdc/_documenti/chi_siamo/presidente_buscema/discorso_insediamento_presidente_buscema.pdf. Busetti, S., & Dente, B. (2017). La vigilanza collaborativa a EXPO Milano 2015, ovvero i vantaggi della complicazione. Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche, 1, 19–47. Canestri, D. (2014). The 2012 Italian Anti-Corruption Law in Light of International Best Practices. Journal of Financial Crime, 21(3), 264–309. Cantone, R., & Carloni, E. (2018). Corruzione e anticorruzione. Dieci lezioni. Milano: Feltrinelli. Cassese, S. (2017). Se la politica soffoca le politiche. Mondoperaio, 5, 61–64. Chang, E. C. C., Golden, M. A., & Hill, S. J. (2010). Legislative Malfeasance and Political Accountability. World Politics, 62(2), 177–220. Della Porta, D. (2005). Political Parties and Corruption: Ten Hypotheses on Five Vicious Circles. Crime, Law & Social Change, 42, 35–60. Della Porta, D., & Vannucci, A. (1997a). The Resources of Corruption: Some Reflections from the Italian Case. Crime, Law & Social Change, 27, 231–254. Della Porta, D., & Vannucci, A. (1997b). The ‘Perverse Effects’ of Political Corruption. Political Studies, 45, 516–538. Della Porta, D., & Vannucci, A. (2007). Corruption and Anti-Corruption: The Political Defeat of ‘Clean Hands’ in Italy. West European Politics, 30(4), 830–853. Delsignore, M. & Ramajoli, M. (2019). La prevenzione della corruzione e l’illusione di un’amministrazione senza macchia. Rivistra trimestrale di diritto pubblico, 1, 61–75. European Commission. (2014). Italy. Annex 14 to the EU Anti-Corruption Report, Brussels, 3.2.2014 COM(2014) 38 Final. Frazzica, G., & La Spina, A. (2018). Independent Regulation in the Contemporary Italian Legal System. In B. Iancu & E. S. Tănăsescu (Eds.), Governance and Constitutionalism. Law, Politics and Institutional Neutrality (pp.  175–189). London: Routledge. Galtieri, C. (2017, June 27). Corte dei conti—Sezioni Riunite in sede di controllo, Giudizio sul rendiconto generale dello stato 2016, Requisitoria orale del Procuratore generale. Rome (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from


S. CAVATORTO AND A. LA SPINA procura/giudizio_di_parifica/giudizio_parificazione_2016_requisitoria_orale_ galtieri.pdf. Golden, M. A., & Chang, E. C. C. (2001). Competitive Corruption: Factional Conflict and Political Malfeasance in Post-war Italian Christian Democracy. World Politics, 53(4), 588–622. Golden, M. A., & Picci, L. (2005). Proposal for a New Measure of Corruption, Illustrated with Italian Data. Economics & Politics, 17(1), 37–75. Golden, M. A., & Picci, L. (2006). Corruption and the Management of Public Works in Italy. In S.  Rose-Ackerman (Ed.), International Handbook on the Economics of Corruption (pp.  457–483). Williston, VT: Edward Elgar Publishers. Grossi, G., & Pianezzi, D. (2018). The New Public Corruption: Old Questions for New Challenges. Accounting Forum, 42, 86–101. Hine, D. (2015). Public Ethics and Political Corruption in Italy. In E. Jones & G.  Pasquino (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Italian Politics (pp.  608–620). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Howlett, M., & Cashore, B. (2009). The Dependent Variable Problem in the Study of Policy Change: Understanding Policy Change as a Methodological Problem. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, 11(1), 33–46. Kingdon, J. (1984). Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies. Boston, MA: Little Brown. La Spina, A. (1989). La decisione legislativa. Lineamenti di una teoria. Milano: Giuffrè. La Spina, A. (2004). The Paradox of Effectiveness: Growth, Institutionalization and Evaluation of Anti-Mafia Policies in Italy. In C. Fijnaut & L. Paoli (Eds.), Organised Crime in Europe: Conceptions, Patterns, and Policies in the European Union and Beyond (pp. 641–675). Dordrecht: Springer. La Spina, A. (2017). The Organisational Features of Organised Crime: The Mafia as a Professional Bureaucracy. In S. Carnevale, S. Forlati, & O. Giolo (Eds.), Redefining Organised Crime: A Challenge for the European Union? (pp. 251–266). Oxford and Portland: Hart. La Spina, A. (2018). Associazioni di stampo corruttivo e politica di contrasto alla criminalità organizzata. Rivista italiana di politiche pubbliche, 1, 5–24. La Spina, A. (2020). Politiche pubbliche. Analisi e valutazione. Bologna: il Mulino. La Spina, A., & Cavatorto, S. (2008). Le autorità indipendenti. Bologna: il Mulino. La Spina, A., & Roberti, F. (2018). Il contrasto alla mafia e alla corruzione: una panoramica sugli sviluppi recenti. Rivista economica del Mezzogiorno, 32(3), 419–447. LaPalombara, J. (1964). Interest Groups in Italian Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.



Locatelli, G., Mariani, G., Sainati, T., & Greco, M. (2017). Corruption in Public Projects and Megaprojects: There is an Elephant in the Room! International Journal of Project Management, 35(3), 252–268. Majone, G. (1989). Evidence, Argument, and Persuasion in the Policy Process. New Haven: Yale University Press. Mana, E. (2002). Le campagne elettorali in tempi di suffragio ristretto e allargato. In P. L. Ballini & M. Ridolfi (Eds.), Storia delle campagne elettorali in Italia (pp. 89–136). Milano: Bruno Mondadori. Mintrom, M. (1997). Policy Entrepreneurs and the Diffusion of Innovation. American Journal of Political Science, 41(3), 738–770. MIT—Ministero delle Infrastrutture e dei Trasporti. (2016). The New Public Procurement and Concession Contracts Code Has Entered Into Force (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from Mukherjee, I., & Howlett, M. (2015). Who Is a Stream? Epistemic Communities, Instrument Constituencies and Advocacy Coalitions in Public Policy-Making. Politics and Governance, 3(2), 65–75. Newell, J. L. (2005). Corruption-Mitigating Policies: The Case of Italy. Modern Italy, 10(2), 163–186. Noiret, S. (2002). L’organizzazione del voto prima e dopo la Grande guerra (1913–1924). In P. L. Ballini & M. Ridolfi (Eds.), Storia delle campagne elettorali in Italia (pp. 137–167). Milano: Bruno Mondadori. Perrone, P. (2017). Le misure di prevenzione patrimoniale agli indiziati di reati di corruzione (Online). Retrieved November, 2018, from Persson, A., Rothstein, B., & Teorell, J. (2013). Why Anticorruption Reforms Fail—Systemic Corruption as a Collective Action Problem. Governance, 26(3), 449–471. Ridolfi, M. (2002). «Partiti elettorali» e trasformazioni della politica nell’Italia unita. In P. L. Ballini & M. Ridolfi (Eds.), Storia delle campagne elettorali in Italia (pp. 65–88). Milano: Bruno Mondadori. Rothstein, B. (2011). Anti-Corruption: The Indirect ‘Big Bang’ Approach. Review of International Political Economy, 18(2), 228–250. Ruggiero, V. (2010). Who Corrupts Whom? A Criminal Eco-System Made in Italy. Crime, Law & Social Change, 54, 87–105. Sabatier, P. A. (1988). An Advocacy Coalition Model of Policy Change and the Role of Policy Orientated Learning Therein. Policy Sciences, 21(2–3), 129–168. Sberna, S., & Vannucci, A. (2013). ‘It’s the Politics, Stupid!’. The Politicization of Anti-Corruption in Italy. Crime, Law & Social Change, 60, 565–593.



Simons, A., & Voß, J.  P. (2018). The Concept of Instrument Constituencies: Accounting for Dynamics and Practices of Knowing Governance. Policy and Society, 37(1), 14–35. Vannucci, A. (2009). The Controversial Legacy of ‘Mani Pulite’: A Critical Analysis of Italian Corruption and Anti-Corruption Policies. Bulletin of Italian Politics, 1(2), 233–264. Vannucci, A. (2018). Costi di transazione e meccanismi di governance nel mercato della corruzione. Rivista italiana di politiche pubbliche, 1, 25–64. Voß, J. P., & Simons, A. (2014). Instrument Constituencies and the Supply Side of Policy Innovation: The Social Life of Emissions Trading. Environmental Politics, 23(5), 735–754.


Obstacles to Performance Evaluation and Improvement Antonio La Spina

Abstract  This chapter presents the initial situation of public bureaucracies in Republican Italy. Then it illustrates the various unsuccessful attempts aimed at introducing performance assessment and improvement tools. Legislative Decree 29/1993 was followed by Legislative Decree 286/1999, subsequently followed by Legislative Decree 150/2009. Many bureaucracies succeeded in obstructing and frustrating the implementation of such acts. The most recent is Legislative Decree 74/2017. External independent watchdogs could have been an appropriate solution, in principle. However, this has not been the case either with the CIVIT (which was very weak and lasted only 5 years, as far as independent performance evaluation is concerned), or with real life OIVs, at least so far. Keywords  Performance • Performance assessment • Independent bodies for performance evaluation (OIVs) • Performance rewards • Public managers • Commission for the Evaluation • Transparency and Integrity of Public Administrations (CIVIT)

© The Author(s) 2020 S. Cavatorto, A. La Spina, The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy,




5.1   Some Early Features of “Intractable” Public Bureaucracies in Republican Italy Several elements coalesced to form a typical bureaucratic syndrome during the so-called First Republic. In the first decades after the unification of the country, higher civil servants were mostly from Piedmont or Tuscany. Some years before the World War II, however, a very different trend emerged, due both to the desire of Southern intellectuals to find a tenured job in the civil service (with or without a public competition) and an inclusive strategy followed by political leaders such as Giolitti, who were willing to obtain the electoral support of the social groups and territories to which the new entrants belonged. At the beginning of the Republican era, the official attitudes of many public bureaucrats were legalist, unresponsive to external influences and oriented towards protecting their spheres of competence from political and social interferences, that nevertheless were actually present and quite salient (Cassese 1977; Santoro 2014; Putnam 1973). Party government and legislative decisions played a relevant role. The Italian Parliament was engaged in producing a huge amount of laws. Most of these resulted in “petty” statutes (leggine, elsewhere called “pork barrel” measures), generating benefits for some restricted social groups. Very frequently, the beneficiaries of some particular acts (with regard to recruitment, tenure, salaries, pensions, career, organization, powers etc.) were civil servants. Another consequence of such massive and messy legislation was that bureaucrats came to enjoy, in practice, a remarkable decisional range, due to the difficult interpretation of that complex normative texture, which might have also created some room for corruption (Cantelli et al. 1974; Golden 2003; Di Palma 1977; La Spina 1989; Golden and Picci 2008). The post-war economic miracle was vibrant in the most industrialized areas of the Northern regions. Many Southerners continued to head to the public sector, with regard to both central administrations and local ones, looking for secure posts and often hoping to come back to their hometowns sooner or later. Often, recruitment took place without competitive examinations and in connection to political patronage, much more than to objective needs, as shown by the detection of unfulfilled workloads or shortages of expertise (Cassese 1977, 1981, 1993; Golden 2003; Capano (2011); Santoro 2014). This used to be typical of several Southern European countries (but some of them substantially changed their approach over time; Sotiropoulos 2004; Gualmini 2008; Galanti



2011). Career paths and salaries were strongly linked to seniority. Politicians were not willing to disturb the individual expectations of the highest echelons of the civil service. They were also interested in increasing their consensus by expanding the ranks of administrative personnel, mainly in terms of lowly qualified positions (that were obviously the most rewarding allocations, from the perspective of electoral support). Ministers also needed a selected staff composed of personally loyal and skilled people, capable of delivering policy proposals, monitoring political opportunities and helping to programme and steer the activities of the offices. These hand-picked personnel were frequently found among state councillors (whose official tasks are uttering formal advice and performing judicial reviews on acts adopted by public bodies). Therefore, their substantive weight was remarkably increased (Cassese 1981, 1993; Santoro 2014; Piattoni 2015; Di Mascio and Natalini 2013). As a consequence of the above-mentioned factors—which cannot be dealt with more extensively here—we can say that overall selection, training, socialization and esprit de corps were not very relevant for some of the typical Italian public employees. Their motivations were unrelated to criteria such as specialization, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, quality, simplification, efficiency, performance and effectiveness. A situation of widespread clientelism favoured the adverse selection of some quotas of personnel, coupled with their adverse socialization. Individual bureaucrats were not, in fact, answerable when results were lacking. The system of controls was essentially based on ex ante checks concerning the formal legitimacy of acts, procedures and budgetary requirements, rather than an office’s productivity and outcomes. The latter aspects of administrative activity were virtually ignored or overlooked by all of the experts that were directly involved or consulted, whose backgrounds were almost exclusively juridical. Even those civil servants who exhibited a more pronounced awareness of their roles basically saw this as the conscientious application of normative requirements, regardless of their real impact in the world outside bureaucracy. We can conclude this section by underlining that, according to the ideal/typical picture just outlined, the notion of performance evaluation and effectiveness improvement were alien to the actual organization and functioning of bureaucratic apparatuses, as well as to the mentality of their employees. Therefore, any attempt at tackling such issues was doomed to confront often underlying—but nonetheless stubborn—resistance. The Italian civil service was an almost intractable rubber wall.



5.2   The Waves of Administrative Reform After other official reform proposals that had been produced since 1950 (Santoro 2014), in 1979 the minister of public administration of the day1 presented a report which also contained some remarks about productivity and related indicators (Rapporto sui principali problemi della amministrazione dello Stato). Its impact was mainly cultural. Later on, in 1993, the times seemed to be ripe for some wide-ranging and impactful innovations, because the technical cabinet led by Ciampi was pushed in this direction by the Tangentopoli scandals. After the adoption of legislative decree 29/1993, an extensive report (Rapporto sulle condizioni delle pubbliche amministrazioni; see Cassese 1994; Capano 2011; Ongaro 2009; Mele 2010; Savino 2015; Santoro 2014), supported by statistical data, was published by the Ministry of Public Administration in the same year. Among the various innovations of that phase (that reveal some influence of the school of thought labelled new public management), we can mention the privatization of the employment relationships of most civil servants, the generalized requirement of managerial control, the reduction of preventive controls exerted by the Court of Auditors (legislative decrees 20 and 24 adopted in 1994), and the creation of offices responsible for communicating with the public (Ongaro 2011; Mele and Ongaro 2014). It is possible that the main pillar supporting the whole reform was the distinction between the political element, which was supposed to set the goals, and the managerial one, which was responsible for the results. On this basis—coupled with the emphasis on the quality of services, customer satisfaction and managerial control—the improvement and evaluation of bureaucratic performance became, in principle, a priority. As we already said (Chap. 1), another ambitious reform programme was launched by law 59/1997, which aimed at bureaucratic simplification, transferral of powers to subnational levels of government, and administrative reform (Bassanini 2000, 2010). As far as our present topic is concerned, the most important delegated act was legislative decree 286/1999, specifically focused on the various types of controls, with regard to the monitoring and evaluation of costs, performances and outcomes. Quality standards, the measurement of actual quality levels and the protection of customers were addressed too. Dedicated internal units for “strategic control” were introduced; these were to be engaged in the evaluation of 1

 Massimo Severo Giannini, a scholar of administrative law.



the directors’ actual performance, on behalf of the departments’ political heads, who were requested to issue an annual directive concerning the actions to be taken and the results to be reached. In principle, this mechanism was supposed to institutionalize the distinction between the responsibilities of political organs and those of public managers, whose accountability and performances had to improve substantially as a consequence of this. Also, law 150/2000 tackled information and communication activities of public administrations and established that all of them had to detect the quality of services and consult the citizens about their levels of satisfaction. Appointments, careers and monetary rewards were to be strictly connected to performance. Legislative decree 80/1998 rendered the position of top-level civil servants temporary, so that they could be evaluated on the basis of the amount and quality of results reached. This act enabled political principals to exert a spoils system and also extended the possibility of recruiting external managers—even people not belonging to the civil service. The spoils system was further extended and strengthened by the new majority that took office in 2001, through Law 145/2002. The Constitutional Court deemed it legitimate, although it limited its application to certain positions, and also fixed minimal and maximal limitations for the duration of appointments. If executives employed in a ministerial department are responsible for the improvement of productivity and effectiveness according to a strategic plan (which, by definition, must focus on medium- to long-term goals), but their appointment is not long enough, it will be almost impossible for them, on the one hand, to modify in depth the actual functioning of a given office. On the other hand, given that they were chosen or confirmed by the political principal essentially because of their personal and political reliability, and will continue their career path mostly on the basis of the same criterion, it can be expected that there will be a strong incentive for the nominees to focus on the short term, and especially on the more or less narrow needs of their political principals, often avoiding less visible and/or conflictual decisions and innovations concerning performance. Therefore, the set of constraints, penalties and rewards stemming from the spoils system actually proved counterproductive to performance improvement and seriously weakened the perceived standing of top-level bureaucrats (Cassese 1999, 2002; Cassese and Mari 2001; Ongaro 2009; La Spina 2010).



Legislative decrees 29/1993 and 286/1999, together with other acts adopted in the same period, contained all the principles and provisions that were necessary in order to introduce and institutionalize systematic performance evaluations and improvements in the Italian civil service. However, they were not taken seriously. Internal control units were part of the staff of political principals (who had appointed top managers and were interested in their docility) and acted on fiduciary and confidential grounds. Therefore, independent advice was openly excluded. At the same time, decree 286/1999 abstained from regulating the kind of expertise and, more generally, the subjective features required in order to be a member of such relevant units. The regular result of the above was that performance-related pay was not distributed according to meritocratic assessments. Almost all managers in almost all public administrations were regarded as high performers, on the basis of “inappropriate”—an understatement—indicators, often consisting of the sheer fulfilment of office duties. Goals were neither challenging nor appropriate, so  that business-as-usual could be cosmetically presented as deserving the allocation of rewards. Furthermore, frail, unstable and sometimes-incompetent top managers were possibly interested in obtaining the support of most of their lower-level executives, by exchanging their cooperation and acquiescence for favourable assessments. The formulation of quality standards and citizens’ charters did not involve stakeholders, clients and communities of citizens on a systematic basis. Most of the time, customer satisfaction was not detected. Internal control units did not act as leverage for change. They were mostly formed by people whose administrative culture and views on performance were basically homogeneous with the status quo, and often devoid of the competences and skills necessary for the proper and fruitful execution of evaluative tasks. The fact that public managers were engaged in showing their allegiance according to ongoing political equilibria was presumably also not conducive. The new requirements were either overlooked or complied with in a ritualistic way, in order to show a formal allegiance and reap the available benefits. This generated hugely perverse effects. Not only was the newly established evaluation system largely ineffective, but its actual operation eventually “taught” civil servants a wrong and anti-educative lesson: that is, that any reformist novelty can be subverted in such a way that its official aims are practically rendered ineffective. Overall, the performance of many public bureaucracies remained poor (Capano 2003; Bassanini 2018; Tardiola 2009; Ongaro and Valotti 2008; Ongaro 2009;



Antonelli 2010; La Spina 2010; Galanti 2011; Savino 2015; Etica 2017; Chiarini 2018). Dissatisfaction was widespread, because not only did public administrations appear impermeable to innovations which should have been almost revolutionary in their intentions, but they were also hindering the growth of economic activity. The popular perception, as well as the opinion of the scientific community, was that many public employees were not actually engaged in tasks that were useful according to the official goals of the organization, so that they actually did very little or nothing at all, and not necessarily by their own will. This was one of the consequences of massive recruitment guided by clientelistic reasons, rather than by careful analyses of organizational needs. Therefore, the poor performance of many bureaucracies could have had something to do with inefficiencies, favouritism and maladministration, which we discussed in the previous chapter. Consistent with this premise, there was a need to highlight and redeem areas of waste and inefficiency, using leverage which should be, by necessity, external to the ordinary civil service: an independent body. A group of professors of labour law, administrative law and constitutional law, together with some civil service executives, proposed the establishment of an authority for the “evaluation of public structures and personnel” (AVSPP) in 2006,2 which was expected to incorporate the High Commissioner for Anti-Corruption, the committee of guarantors which presided over the measures to be taken on the basis of insufficient performance of public managers, the data bank, the technical committee and the observatory created by legislative decree 286/1999. This AVSPP, led by qualified and independent personalities, should have acted in order to enhance the accountability, transparency and technical adequacy of evaluations—also through the active involvement of social and economic stakeholders or their organizations (such as the associations for consumer protection). It was also required to expose cases of superabundance of 2   Such scholars and specialists were coordinated by Pietro Ichino—who also wrote newspaper articles and kept a blog on his website—and Bernardo Giorgio Mattarella (see in particular P.  Ichino “Aspetti tecnici della proposta sui nullafacenti della PA”,, 8/9/2006; P. Ichino “Amministrazioni pubbliche: la politica degli annunci e la dura lesina della riforma”, 2009,; P. Ichino & B.G. Mattarella, “Il progetto di legge per l’istituzione dell’authority sul impiego pubblico”, Corriere della Sera, 12/12/2006; Bill on “transparency and efficiency assessment and the performance of PAs and their employees. Delegation to the government regarding performance evaluation of PAs and their employees, and accountability, Senate, AS 746, presented in 2008).



staff or excessive underperformance. The focus was not only on productivity and results, but also on the correct use of public money. More specifically, the AVSPP should have regulated the prerequisites for the appointment of the members of the evaluative bodies of each administration, as well as the modes of their operation. These units were expected to be independent vis-à-vis the administrations to be evaluated, and to perform stringently some sensitive and crucial tasks, regarding productivity, overstaffing, waste, pay for performance, and minimum qualitative and quantitative levels of service. The AVSPP was to organize annual public meetings with clients, experts and media in order to highlight performance levels from a variety of points of view, and had some powers of direct intervention.

5.3   The Commission for the Evaluation, Integrity and Transparency of Public Administrations (CIVIT) The proposal concerning the AVSPP was publicized when the government of the day was based on a centre–left majority and led by Prodi. The next centre–right majority, which took office in 2008, passed delegation law 15/2009,3 endorsing some of the elements of the proposal, and subsequently adopted legislative decree 150/2009. The public debate surrounding such acts was sustained and almost always focused on the “sluggards” who were supposedly haunting some public administrations. However, the “sanctions” now provided did not amount to staff reductions and layoffs, as envisaged by the original proposal of the AVSPP, but were rather based on the introduction of certain generalized categories. In other words, any administration was required to position each of its employees in one of three segments (top 25%, medium 50%, low level 25%) after an assessment of their individual performances. 3  Among other things, law 15/2009 announced the intention to restrict the spoils system (also in line with the decisions of the Constitutional Court), by reducing the number of appointments which can be conferred to managers coming from outside the civil service, by asking for a proper performance assessment when appointments are revoked and by introducing some incompatibilities. However, legislative decree 150/2009 did not implement consistently all the relevant provisions of law 15/2009. Other acts (such as decree law 78/2010 converted by law 122/2010) aimed to reduce managerial autonomy and expand the scope of political influence again. More specifically, the political authority can avoid continuing an existing appointment when it has expired, even if the manager had not received unfavourable evaluations.



Those belonging to the lowest 25% would not receive any incentive payment (and would also probably be labelled as sluggards, suffering a reputational loss as well). Had the managers circumvented such a requirement, this would have blocked the whole mechanism of performance evaluations and rewards. This was an evident reaction against the well known  way performance “measurement” had been done to that point. On the one hand, the declared willingness to address idleness and inappropriate evaluations was very popular and gained a vast audience through the media. On the other hand, it obviously met with the fierce hostility of insiders, who accused the three segments rule of being mechanical and unfair. Eventually, these specific provisions were not applied in practice, as a consequence of an agreement with the unions (Oliveri 2011), followed by legislative decree 141/2011. Legislative decree 150/2009 also established a new national body—the Commission for the Evaluation, Transparency and Integrity of Public Administrations (CIVIT)—which was obviously inspired by the AVSPP. Compared with it, however, its powers and range of action were much less drastic and much more limited: it carried out no direct interventions at all, and had mostly hortatory and advisory competences. The CIVIT issued guidelines, could request some information, and defined the requisites of the appointees to the newly created independent bodies for performance evaluation (OIVs). Internal control units/services pursuant to legislative decree 286/1999 were in fact supposed to be superseded by OIVs, whose members were expected to possess relevant professional skills and experience in fields such as management, performance or human resources evaluation. The OIV’s duty was, on the one hand, to monitor and assess the actual performance of an administration, also with regard to its top-level civil servants and, on the other hand, to guarantee as watchdogs the actual fulfilment of the CIVIT’s recommendations. An OIV was supposed to act as the CIVIT’s longa manus. The independence and expertise of the members of such bodies, therefore, were crucial for the reform’s success. Legislative decree 150/2009 then described and regulated in a clear and precise way the elements and phases of the performance management cycle, with regard to objectives, indicators, standards, resources, expected results (preferably quantitative targets), responsible persons and so on (La Spina 2020). Each administration was required to adopt and regularly update various documents: a system for the measurement and evaluation of its performance (that must include, among other things, customer



satisfaction detection as well as service standards), triennial performance plans, retrospective annual performance reports and a triennial transparency and integrity plan (the latter, as we have seen in the previous chapter, was later suppressed in order to be integrated into the anti-corruption plan). Apart from the provisions focusing upon the already-mentioned individual performances and rewards, the rest of the act dealt mostly with labour relations. However, OIV members are chosen by the political echelon of an administration—the same one that also manages the spoils system. This makes their supposed independence rather problematic. A possible counterbalance against a choice of “controllers” based on sheer docility towards the needs of political principals (and in some respects also those of the bureaucratic community) could have been supplied by a preliminary skimming of candidates, so as to produce stringent lists of robust professionals with reputations of independence and rigour, who would have felt a certain loyalty to the independent body that had selected them. One of the first resolutions issued by the CIVIT (Delibera 4/2010) had to do with the requested qualifications of OIV members. On the one hand, the commission mentioned the possession of degrees in economics or engineering only (which is certainly debatable). However, on the other hand, the commission also regarded as eligible people endowed with other degrees, if they had completed a post-graduate course in the relevant fields, or even if they had at least seven years of pertinent experience in their field. This allowed the recruitment of many members from the old services of internal control who, nevertheless, bore a great deal of responsibility for the failure of the previous reform insofar as they had indulged a distribution of rewards unconnected to actual performance assessment and improvement. One could argue that people who had endorsed or tolerated such choices were exactly the type of candidates who should have rather been carefully excluded. The same resolution also stressed that an OIV member could be chosen from the employees of the administration to be supervised. It also mentioned two elusive elements, such as the attitude towards work in groups and the capacity to treat problems in a balanced way, which could be used as criteria for preferring people who were not troublemakers, but rather inclined to an approach in terms of quieta non movere. Some subsequent resolutions (CIVIT’s Delibere 88/2010; 3/2012; 89/2010; 104/2010; 112/2010; 114/2010; 1/2012) contained necessary guidelines and instructions on salient topics such as quality standards



or systems of performance measurement and evaluation, offering examples of foreign and domestic best practices. After examining the documents produced by a relevant set of administrations (especially at the central level: Delibere 89/2010; 114/2010), the CIVIT noticed that, in most of the cases, the tasks specified by legislative decree 150/2009— tasks which, we repeat, in principle were not new, because their essential features had already been made compulsory by legislative decrees 29/1993 and 286/1999—were either neglected or executed in formalistic and ritualistic ways. More precisely, as shown by the above said CIVIT’s Delibere (especially by the  89 and  114 ones,  the use of the appropriate approach among administrations was only sporadic.4 The connection between results reached and incentive pay was not clear. Timings, objectives, indicators and measurements were lacking, vague or inappropriate. The targets were not seldom  very easy to reach. There was often no motivation for the choice of indicators. Outcome indicators were typically inappropriate or absent. Goals were frequently generic and not distinctive. The distinction between strategic and operational goals was sometimes absent (in the sense that some operational goals were regarded as strategic) or blurred (the strategic goal was sometimes just a sum of operational goals). Some goals were indicated without corresponding indicators, some indicators were chosen without revealing their rationale, an overwhelming share of indicators were of the binary type (saying that something was “done” or “not done”), and many other indicators just concerned progress states of some projected action. Targets (i.e., the desired quantitative level of some designed indicators to be reached in a given span of time) were very frequently absent or, rather, they were defined as indicators. The expected value of several targets, especially when connected to binary or progress indicators, was 100% (this was possible, according to the CIVIT, either because the action was easy, trivial, not challenging, or because the underlying logic of the processes was misunderstood). Basic data were lacking. Some documents were either too short or too long. Some indicators were 4  The actual use of performance tools by Italian public administrations presented in the remainder of this paragraph was already and more extensively treated in the unpublished paper by A.  La Spina “Quality, output and outcome indicators in public administration: methodological issues and actual applications in performance improvement” for the Symposium “The paradigm shift from output to outcome measures in the public sector”, 7th Azienda pubblica workshop, “Theory and Experience in Management Science”, Palermo, 25-26-27 May 2016.



not mentioned in the general documents, but rather in some departmental internal acts. Information on actually achieved results (apart from the expected ones) was frequently not available. The same applied to consultation, stakeholder involvement and, more specifically, customer satisfaction surveys, which were mentioned but, in fact, neither implemented not correctly integrated into the system of performance evaluation. The findings of some other reports referred to the following years, up to 2014, which were much more significant when assessing the consequences of legislative decree 150/2009. The CIVIT (2012; also ANAC 2014) later found that strategic goals were scarcely connected to assigned budgetary resources; that large ministries with peripheral offices often failed to set specific goals for them; that, in many cases, the objectives given to firstlevel executives were not clarified; that goals should have been defined in such a way to make explicit what administrations wanted to achieve for the stakeholders; that, most of the time, how clients had to be involved in the definition of quality standards and to monitor actual quality was not specified; that the different dimensions of quality were frequently overlooked; that the level of programmed performance supposed to be reached was not justified on the basis of time series and benchmarks; and that sometimes there were only general indicators, so that service users were not able to link them to individual outputs delivered to them.5 In some cases, administrations used the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) to improve their performance. This approach, as is well known, is based on self-evaluation, which is supposed to find areas of weakness and strength, and foster continuous organizational improvement. Self-evaluation is perhaps successful in other national settings or if the organizational leaders are stable, motivated and strongly engaged in innovation, but it is misleading when we face endemic resistance to change, which is typical of most Italian bureaucracies.

5  Occhilupo and Rizzica (2016) analysed the performance-related components of the wages received by Italian executives in 2012 and detected the flattening of such rewards, which are mainly linked to the age of the executive, rather than to other aspects (such as specific experience or skills). There are some differences, but these are mostly related to the criteria and practices followed by the different ministries, not to the merits of individuals, especially when first-level executives are concerned (some more variability can be observed for second-level executives). Some ministries are more “generous” than others. Goals programming, as well as managerial and organizational autonomy, appears to be lacking. See also Rebora (2015).



Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the administrations monitored by the CIVIT (2012; ANAC 2014), mostly backed by their OIVs, declared that their goals had been reached. After the above-mentioned initial adoption of a permissive stand on the crucial issue of the OIV members’ prerequisites and, albeit its powers being extremely circumscribed, it is evident that the CIVIT was trying to become more assertive and insightful, heading towards some sensitive issues, such as the ones just mentioned. As we already know, the attribution of some new demanding functions implemented by law 190/2012 could have marked a turning point in this direction. However, after a while, performance evaluation was separated from transparency and integrity. This decision was taken when delegation law 124/2015 was drafted. The solutions envisaged in that next phase and how things actually transpired is the subject of the next sections.

5.4   Public Managers and Performance Assessment After the Administrative Reform of 2015 In Chap. 3, we discussed how the strategy concerning public administrations was announced in 2014 and carried on afterwards. On the one hand, as we reported, the declared intention was not to adopt an epoch-making administrative reform, but rather to focus on several necessary maintenance interventions (Mattarella 2017). On the other hand, delegation law 124/2015 was actually rather ambitious and embraced several fields of the public sector at large with regard to all levels of government. A vast number of delegated acts were required, but the policymakers chose a rather tight timing in order to make sure that the normative process remained in the control of the original proponents. Public consultations and interactions with the regions and other territorial bodies were also activated. According to the “style” of the government of the day, led by Renzi (La Spina 2016; Ventura 2015; Campus 2016), an administrative reform had the advantage of tackling, without a significant allocation of new funds, some of the well-known competitive disadvantages of the Italian socio-­ economic systems (underlined by the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and many others), connected to a wasteful, inefficient, unduly complex, cumbersome, particularistic, often corrupt and “old” public sector. One well-known problem was an excess of nominally managerial positions. The promise of



modernization and rejuvenation using technologies, red tape reduction and generational handover was appealing, and well in tune with the views of one of the instrument constituencies (formed by economists specialized in managerial sciences and tools) that surrounded the policymakers. There was an emphasis—also present, albeit with some important differences, in another notorious and controversial reform concerning education—on the role of managers (to be chosen on the basis of a centralized selection according to meritocratic criteria made by ad hoc committees), temporary appointments and evaluations based on results. One of the original leading ideas of the proposal was that all public sector executives should be recruited through open competitive examinations, followed by dedicated courses (corsi-concorsi), and that all the recruitment should be managed by the National School of Administration (SNA). The final version, however, mentioned both this recruitment channel and the “normal” public competition and allowed for selections without the SNA’s involvement. Article 11 of law 124/2015 instituted a unitary “system” based on three categories (ruoli): executives belonging to state bureaucracies, to regional offices or to local ones. The aim was to create national “markets” within each category, so that only the best managers would be picked. Three national committees were also provided for, whose members had to be highly qualified, independent, honourable, upright, without conflicts of interests and whose operations were expected to be based on performance evaluation systems. Therefore, these independent selection committees would have the opportunity to settle nationally homogeneous criteria to be followed by candidates willing to be shortlisted in order to maintain or obtain an appointment. The shortlists were to include managers with homogeneous qualities as a preliminary step to the appointment of top-level executives. The spoils system would have been maintained, but it could have been applied, in principle, only to civil servants deemed meritorious and therefore eligible. With regard to lower-level executives (not appointed by the political echelon, but rather by the top-level managers that the political principals had, in turn, nominated), the committees would have performed a control after their appointment. Hence, the superabundant total number of executives could have been downsized. Those without an adequate assignment would have received reduced pay or been shifted to lower-level positions. Law 124/2015 (Art. 17, letter r) also aimed at the simplification of the general rules for the evaluation of civil servants; the rationalization and



integration of evaluation methods (in view of a better policy evaluation); separate systems for the evaluation of the results of organizations and individual employees, respectively; the strengthening of processes of independent evaluation concerning the efficiency and quality of services and activities, including the impacts produced by them; the reduction of the planning documents also required through a better integration with the budgetary cycle; and a better coordination of the regulations concerning evaluation and internal controls. The reform effort, therefore, was officially aimed at substantially ameliorating some of the weak points of the Italian civil service that we have outlined in the previous sections: recruitment; a mismatch between assignments, capacities, activities and salaries; a lack of homogeneity with regard to administrative culture and performance assessment; inadequate orientation towards outcomes; and the low quality of some executives (Melis 2014, 2015, 2017; Mattarella 2017; Neri 2017). During the policymaking process that was conducive to law 124/2015, and also after its approval, public managers confronted those choices which affected their interests. One of the arguments used was that the new system was not to be trusted, because it would have paved the way for appointments which would have been made not on the basis of merit, but rather mainly for political and/or particularistic reasons. All the available positions would have become unstable and, therefore, precarious. Also, the possibility of outright firing would have become more realistic.6 A draft of the delegated act devoted to this topic was adopted by the Council of Ministers later than several other legislative decrees. An extensive opinion of the Council of State (Parere 02113/2016)7 on the one hand stated that the new regulation and modes of appointment of public managers were innovative and aimed at solving some real and entrenched problems of Italian bureaucracies. On the other hand, the risk of an undue and excessive weakening of the impartiality and capabilities of executives was to be avoided. Therefore, some “unescapable preconditions of feasibility” (part I, § 5.1) were to be fulfilled.8 The opinion (capo III, § 9) then 6  Alessandro Boscati “Ddl Pa, i dubbi dei giuristi, Boscati: ‘Aumenta legame fiduciario coi partiti’”, Il Fatto quotidiano, 7/4/2015 (see also Boscati 2014); Roberto Mania, “La rivolta dei dirigenti ‘Volete licenziarci per dare i nostri posti a chi è lottizzato’”, La Repubblica, 17/3/2015; La Spina (2016). 7  Some analogous suggestions had also been briefly made by Melis (2015). 8  Such an analysis of feasibility typically involves the application of the methods of empirical social sciences, such as legal sociology, science of administration and policy analysis and eval-



pointed out that the framework established by the legislative decree 150/2009 was flawed by some weaknesses: the impossibility to impose a timely programming of objectives on reluctant political principals; the possible heterogeneity between evaluations made about equivalent activities and outcomes by different administrations; the frequent misunderstanding of the very concept of performance, that cannot overlap with simple compliance with legal duties (something that should be taken for granted), but should rather highlight the managers’ skills and the new results that they are able to obtain. In this respect, the opinion stresses that law 124/2015 aptly foresaw separate measurement systems for organizational results and individual ones, respectively. Therefore, it would have been necessary to put in place and experiment with an effective evaluation mechanism based on the objective and ongoing analysis of merits and performances, by taking into consideration also the OIVs’ tasks. This should have been done not afterwards but, rather, before—or at the very least in parallel with—the adoption of the new regulation under consideration. Otherwise, the likelihood of appointments or continuations mostly based on political preferences (a spoils system “in disguise”) would have been increased. The opinion also dealt with the expected requisites of the members to be included in the relevant national committees, who should have been not only independent and highly skilled, but also engaged on a full-time basis. In this regard, according to the Council of State, it would have also been required to allocate sufficient financial resources in order to support some demanding tasks, such as the activities of those committees and the implementation of the data bank which was needed in order to create the desired market competition among managers. Several other remarks were also made about the cooperative relationships with other levels of government (such as that of the regions); the role of the National uation. In Italy, the idea was advanced by Bettini, who spoke of the need for an “administrative coverage” of legislation (1976, 1977, 1990). From 1999 onwards, the drafts of legislative bills, legislative decrees and other regulatory acts issued by central administrations of the state are expected to be supported by an ex ante regulatory impact assessment, which includes feasibility evaluation. Therefore, the Council of State, when formulating their due opinion about drafts of legislative decrees, also examined such assessments. In this particular case, it specified that the remarks concerning feasibility preconditions were not “extra-legal”, given that if it is objectively impossible that “some of the mechanisms” introduced actually work, then this would undermine the legitimacy of the proposed new rules, implying a violation not only of the law of delegation, but also of some constitutional provisions (Parere 02113/2016, 5.1).



School of Administration; the credentials required in order to be granted an appointment or its extension; the problems related to terminations of appointments for organizational reasons; the winners of competitions for corsi-concorsi and the suggested revision of their initial status; the details of the procedures concerning top-level and lower-level managers; the duration of the appointments; the varying roles of the three national committees, their members and the related selection process; the appointment of persons from outside the administration; its limitations and preconditions; failure to reach the expected results; the situation of executives without a corresponding assignment; and so on. With regard to other acts delegated by law 124/2015, cabinet as policymaker had already received significant objections from the Council of State. For instance, in the case of the legislative decree on the so-called Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (that we mentioned in the previous chapter), according to the opinion issued (Parere 00515/2016), the original draft at some points was not perfectly in line with the principle of civic access. However, this interaction provided an opportunity to revise some critical elements, so that an improved version was eventually approved as legislative decree 97/2016. Some adjustments could also have been virtually made upon the policy choices concerning public managers, although the time span after the Council of State’s utterance was only one and a half months. The first draft was actually revised in many respects, but some issues (such as the connection between appointments and an effective performance assessment, and the general precariousness of assignments) were in fact not addressed by the final version,9 which had to be approved by the Council of Ministers one day before the final deadline. This happened at the end of 2016, on November 25th. On that very same day, the Constitutional Court, with Decision 251,10 deemed unconstitutional Art. 11 of law 124/2015, on the grounds that it failed to request and obtain an ad hoc agreement between the state and the regions, given that the rules about the personnel of the latter were affected. As a consequence of this Decision 251, the cabinet withdrew the relevant legislative decree. After some days, a proposed constitutional reform, which 9  The text of the draft legislative decree on public management submitted to the council of ministers for his approval is available here: testo-del-decreto-legislativo-sulla-dirigenza-pubblica-entrato-in-cdm/. 10  This decision provoked a lively debate, with severe criticisms, favourable positions and more balanced assessments. See, among others, Barbareschi (2017), Bifulco (2017), Mattarella (2017) and Melis (2017).



concerned, among other things, some competences of the regions and had been submitted to a popular referendum, was rejected. After the suppression of the CIVIT, a regulation—the DPR 105—was adopted in 2016. It concerned the CIVIT’s functions related to performance measurement and assessment in the public sector, consequently attributed to the DFP (one of the departments of the presidency of the council). According to DPR 105, the DFP is responsible for promoting and coordinating, among other things, the reduction of administrative burdens; the use of indicators; the integration between planning activities concerning performance and economic–budgetary planning, respectively; the accessibility, comparability and gradual homogenization of measurement systems; the diversification of requisites according to organizational features and size; the improvement of the connections between the performance cycle, internal controls and anti-corruption duties; and the enhancement of independence of performance assessment. On the one hand, the fact that 23 years after legislative decree 29/1993 it is in such a way officially declared that all the above things are still to be done and that the DFP has to stimulate them, is telling evidence of the extremely low impact of several waves of administrative reform. On the other hand, the leverage that the DFP can exert is mild, to say the least: indicating contents and features of the relevant documents, monitoring, issuing guidelines, promoting experimentations and best practices, publishing reports periodically, promoting a network of external evaluators and a connected portal in order to “valorize” relevant experiences and impacts, involving regions and municipalities, and so on. With specific regard to the OIVs, the DFP expresses orientations, manages a national register of persons eligible to be appointed, verifies their activities and, through peer review, promotes the rationalization of their formats, rewards and training needs.11 DPR 105 also established an advisory technical ­committee for the 11  The national list of people eligible to be OIV members is regulated by a decree of the Minister of Public Administration issued on 2 December 2016; it stipulates a requirement of a laurea (a master’s degree, without distinction of fields) and a field experience for a certain number of years. The result is, again, that if a person is not a competent evaluator (e.g. with regard to the assessment of indicators, their weights, available evidence and consultation techniques) or has actually demonstrated not to be sufficiently attentive to such aspects, but has anyway served as a member of an internal control service and/or an OIV for enough time, he/she would be entitled to be included in the register. The same decree also foresees that the people enrolled in this national register will be required to improve their qualifications by earning training credits through attendance at seminars, conferences, and courses.



methodologies of performance measurement and assessment. There are no sanctions, no powers to substitute or keep under surveillance bureaucrats that fail to comply with the guidelines or do not perform sufficiently, no blanket coverage, and no realistic way of  streamlining and standardizing the actual performance levels of public organisations.12 It must be noted, however, that it would have been out of place to expect all the above critical aspects to be addressed and solved by a secondary act devoid of the force of a statute, which is not the most appropriate legal tool. A good opportunity might have been the adoption of the relevant delegated decree of law 124/2015. In fact, this was what legislative decree 74/2017—which modified in several respects Legislative Decree 150/2009—was about. As we have seen, the reform of performance assessment might have aptly preceded that of the appointments of public managers. However, not only was this not the case, but the latter was eliminated as a consequence of the Constitutional Court’s Decision 251. Legislative decree 74/2017 was formulated and eventually adopted after this twist. It focused on some of the practically possible adjustments, leaving the basic structure of the performance assessment system, framed by the 2009 act, unaltered. In this regard, it is again instructive to read the opinion of the Council of State on the first draft (Parere 00917/2017). It pointed out that in the real world an administration could have avoided adopting the fundamental performance plan without incurring any sanction; could have refused However, if OIV members are expected to be independent experts, they are supposed to be already very competent in the field of evaluation. A different approach to the construction of the register would be to screen the applicants through an exam, focusing on their actual expertise, and their attitudes and lived experiences regarding independence in the evaluation of administrative activities. 12  The DFP’s relevant office ( manages the Performance Portal ( One can find there, among several other information, the guidelines for the systems of performance measurement and assessment, performance plans and performance assessments reports (which substitute the previous guidelines issued by the CIVIT), the documents (such as quality standards) uploaded by some compliant public bodies, the project RiformAttiva, the announcement of prizes granted to a few selected OpenGov Champions or Digital Agenda high performers, as well as the first annual (January 2019) and bimonthly reports issued, since March 2018, by the office itself. However, the latter reports just show how many public administrations are formally in line with the various requirements related to performance evaluation. They do not inquire either how much their activities were executed properly, or, ultimately, whether their performance is actually improving.



to disclose to the OIV the data and results of internal managerial control systems; or could even have failed to include in the assessment of their executives’ performance the extent to which the results indicated by the annual directive and by the performance plan were actually fulfilled by the organizational units they managed. Evaluations could have been based only on the self-declarations made by the managers to be evaluated. In fact, the final version of legislative decree 74/2017 included some provisions aimed at correcting these glaring defects. It also contains further propositions on the consultation of citizens and other final users in the process of performance measurement. Now they can directly interact with the OIV, which is also required to check whether customer satisfaction is actually detected and properly publicized. However, clients’ involvement was also foreseen rather clearly already in legislative decree 150/2009, together with the need for customer satisfaction surveys. Such reiteration and specification unmistakably prove that these previous provisions often remain unheeded. Legislative decree 74/2017 formally abolished the controversial three categories of performers (high-level segment 25%, ordinary-level segment 50%, low-level segment 25%) announced by legislative decree 150/2009, and also simplified the production of documents related to performance. It must also be said that the decree aimed to enhance the role of the OIVs through their closer participation in the programming process, by asking them to suggest, when needed, ameliorative corrections of objectives and indicators, also in the presence of unforeseen events, or to formulate binding advice upon the system of performance measurement and evaluation that each administration is expected to adopt. On the one hand, this strengthens the OIVs when they face both political principals and public managers. It is also a retrospective incorporation of what already had happened de facto in some administrations. On the other hand, this approach can be questioned in the perspective of a proper allocation of checks and balances. If an OIV is, by definition, an independent body whose task is to check whether such strategic choices are articulated in a methodologically correct way and how these are implemented by public managers (D’Alessio and Zoppoli 2017; Nicosia 2018), and at the same time participates in the framing of objectives and targets that fall under the responsibility of the political principals, then it is no longer sufficiently detached and independent.



Certainly, the distinction between a technical validation—which pertains, for instance, to the methodological soundness of the indicators chosen, or the reliability of the data used—and actual participation in the choice of objectives (which is a much more “political” activity) can be sometimes rather subtle, but nevertheless exists. Therefore, if an OIV is properly self-restrained when goal-setting is at stake, and validates a system of performance measurement and assessment only with regard to aspects such as the definition of outputs, quality or outcomes, relevant indicators, techniques and routines to be followed, correct imputation of activities to organizational units, and so on, it could still remain independent. Nevertheless, the risk of blurring the line between independence and direct involvement is present, in addition to the fact that OIVs still continue to be appointed by the political echelon of administrations.

5.5   Concluding Remarks Throughout this chapter we have observed a tendency that is more or less as follows: a certain act mentions certain duties to be observed by public officials; such duties are actually circumvented, so that the next act specifies them with more details; then, the second act is also not complied with, so a third act, which is even more specific, is introduced; and so on. This is what happened with legislative decree 29/1993, followed by legislative decree 286/1999, followed by legislative decree 150/2009, and followed by legislative decree 74/2017. Many bureaucracies succeeded in obstructing and frustrating the implementation of each of these acts. They paid lip service to them when necessary but, in fact, tried to continue to work according to their standard informal operating procedures (Figs. 5.1 and 5.2). If a set of rules is not effective, especially inside a public administration, this could happen because those who are responsible for enforcing them are counter-interested. Therefore, “deviant” behaviours are encouraged or at least go unpunished. In such a situation, any new attempt to fix the rules properly is in itself meritorious, but can be doomed to fail. External independent watchdogs acting as leverages of innovation and homogenization could be a solution, in principle. However, this has not been the case so far with real life OIVs, as we are used to know them, nor is it easy to believe that their nature will change substantially, given the present existing structure of disincentives and opportunities.



80 60 Total good


Total bad


Don't know

0 Italy


Fig. 5.1  Provision of public services (2017) (%). QA1a. “How would you judge the current situation in each of the following? The provision of public services in [OUR COUNTRY]”. Only in Greece a higher percentage of respondents (85%) believe that the provision of public services in their country is “total bad”. Seven countries follow Italy: Croatia (66%), Romania (63%), Spain (58%), Bulgaria (54%), Portugal (53%), Slovakia and Cyprus (50%). On the contrary, a majority of respondents think their country’s public services are good in 19 EU member states, with levels of satisfaction ranging from 46% in Poland and 54% in France, to 90% in the Netherlands. Satisfaction exceeds 80% in Luxembourg (87%), Finland (86%) and Austria (81%). (Source: Eurobarometer Standard 88 (Autumn 2017)) 50% 40% 30%



Oecd average

10% 0%



Fig. 5.2  Satisfaction and confidence on the national government (% of citizens expressing confidence/satisfaction). Data for “national government” refer to the percentage of “yes” answers to the question: “In this country, do you have confidence in each of the following, or not? How about national government?” (Source Gallup World Poll). (Source: Own elaboration from OECD Government at Glance (2013, 2017))



References ANAC. (2014, February). Relazione sulla performance delle amministrazioni centrali 2012. Rome. Retrieved from Antonelli, V. (2010). I dirigenti e le riforme amministrative. In V.  Antonelli & A.  La Spina (Eds.), I dirigenti pubblici e i nodi del cambiamento. Scenari e prospettive in Italia e in Europa (pp. 163–178), Rome: Luiss University Press. Barbareschi, S. (2017). La Riforma Madia ‘a pezzi’: tra proceduralizzazione e interventi degli organi costituzionali. Il punto della questione,, 20. Bassanini, F. (2000). Overview of Administrative Reform and Implementation in Italy: Organization, Personnel, Procedures and Delivery of Public Services. International Journal of Public Administration, 23(2–3), 229–252. Bassanini, F. (2010). Vent’anni di riforme del sistema amministrativo italiano (1990–2010). Astrid Rassegna, 4 (English version). Retrieved from http:// Bassanini, F. (2018). L’amministrazione pubblica in Italia. Riforma fallita, riforma tradita, riforma incompiuta? Astrid Rassegna, 16, 1–16. Bettini, R. (1976). «Inapplicabilità amministrativa» e necessità di una «copertura amministrativa» delle leggi. Rivista trimestrale di scienza dell’amministrazione, 23(2), 199–217. Bettini, R. (1977). Due principi per una progettazione legislativa: la copertura amministrativa delle leggi ed il ricorso alle scienze sociali nel procedimento legislativo. Studi parlamentari e di politica costituzionale, 10(38), 37–47. Bettini, R. (1990). Il teorema della copertura amministrativa delle leggi. Sociologia del diritto, 17(1–2), 25–38. Bifulco, R. (2017). L’onda lunga della sentenza 251/2016 della Corte costituzionale., 3. Boscati, A. (2014). La politica del Governo Renzi per il settore pubblico tra conservazione e innovazione: il cielo illuminato diverrà luce perpetua? Center for the Study of European Labour Law Massimo D’Antona, WP 228. Retrieved October, 2018, from La-politica-del-Governo-Renzi-per-il-settore-pubblico-tra-conservazione-einnovazione-il-cielo-illum/5174.aspx. Campus, D. (2016). Lo stile del leader. Decidere e comunicare nelle democrazie contemporanee. Bologna: il Mulino. Cantelli, F., Mortara, V., & Movia, G. (1974). Come lavora il Parlamento italiano. Milan: Giuffrè. Capano, G. (2003). Administrative Traditions and Policy Change: When Policy Paradigms Matter. The Case of Italian Administrative Reform During the 1990s. Public Administration, 81(4), 781–801.



Capano, G. (2011). L’evoluzione storica della pubblica amministrazione. In G. Capano & E. Gualmini (Eds.), Le pubbliche amministrazioni in Italia (2nd ed., pp. 27–57). Bologna: il Mulino. Cassese, S. (1977). Questione amministrativa e questione meridionale. Milan: Svimez, Giuffrè. Cassese, S. (1981). Grandezza e miserie dell’alta burocrazia italiana. Politica del diritto, 12(2–3), 219–261. Cassese, S. (1993). Hypotheses on the Italian Administrative System. West European Politics, 16(3), 316–328. Cassese, S. (1994). La riforma amministrativa all’inizio della quinta Costituzione dell’Italia unita. Foro Italiano, 117, 249–272. Cassese, S. (1999). Italy’s Senior Civil Service: An Ossified World. In E. C. Page & V.  Wright (Eds.), Bureaucratic Elites in Western European States: A Comparative Analysis of Top Officials (pp.  55–64). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cassese, S. (2002). Il nuovo regime dei dirigenti pubblici italiani: una modificazione costituzionale. Giornale di diritto amministrativo, 12, 1341–1347. Cassese, S., & Mari, A. (2001). L’oscuro ruolo dell’alta dirigenza italiana. Politica del diritto, 32(1), 3–19. Chiarini, R. (2018). The Reform of Public Employment in Italy between Continuity and Change. Rivista trimiestrale di scienza dell’amministrazione, 4. Retrieved January, 2019, from RTSA_4_2018_Chiarini.pdf. CIVIT. (2012, December). Relazione sulla performance delle amministrazioni centrali anno 2011. Rome. Retrieved from D’Alessio, G., & Zoppoli, L. (2017). Riforma della Pubblica Amministrazione: Osservazioni sugli schemi di decreti legislativi attuativi dell’art. 17 della legge n. 124 del 2015. Astrid rassegna, 5. Di Mascio, F., & Natalini, A. (2013). Analysing the Role of Ministerial Cabinets in Italy: Legacy and Temporality in the Study of Administrative Reforms. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 79(2), 328–346. Di Palma, G. (1977). Surviving Without Governing. The Italian Parties in Parliament. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: California University Press. Etica, P.  A. (2017). Sul fallimento delle riforme amministrative nel segno della privatizzazione. Nuova Etica Pubblica, 5(9), 254–262. Galanti, M. T. (2011). Is Italian Bureaucracy Exceptional? Comparing the Quality of Southern European Public Administrations. Bulletin of Italian Politics, 3(1), 5–33. Golden, M. A. (2003). Electoral Connections: The Effects of the Personal Vote on Political Patronage, Bureaucracy and Legislation in Postwar Italy. British Journal of Political Science, 33, 189–212.



Golden, M. A., & Picci, L. (2008). Pork-Barrel Politics in Postwar Italy, 1953–94. American Journal of Political Science, 52(2), 268–289. Gualmini, E. (2008). Restructuring Weberian Bureaucracy: Comparing Managerial Reforms in Europe and the United States. Public Administration, 86(1), 75–94. La Spina, A. (1989). La decisione legislativa. Lineamenti di una teoria. Milan: Giuffrè. La Spina, A. (2010). La dirigenza pubblica italiana davanti alle sfide del ventunesimo secolo. In V. Antonelli & A. La Spina (Eds.), I dirigenti pubblici e i nodi del cambiamento. Scenari e prospettive in Italia e in Europa (pp.  253–267). Rome: Luiss University Press. La Spina, A. (2016). Concezioni del policy style e leadership: il caso del governo Renzi. Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche, 1, 23–46. La Spina, A. (2020). Politiche pubbliche. Analisi e valutazione. Bologna: Mulino. Mattarella, B.  G. (2017). Burocrazia e riforme. L’innovazione nella pubblica amministrazione. Bologna: il Mulino. Mele, V. (2010). Innovation Policy in Italy (1993–2002): Understanding the Invention and Persistence of a Public Management Reform. Governance, 23(2), 251–276. Mele, V., & Ongaro, E. (2014). Public Sector Reform in a Context of Political Instability: Italy 1992–2007. International Public Management Journal, 17(1), 111–142. Melis, G. (2014). La dirigenza pubblica in Italia: anello (mancante) di congiunzione tra politica e amministrazione. Scienza e politica, 26(50), 95–110. Melis, G. (2015, July). Molte luci e qualche ombra sulla riforma della PA. Retrieved October, 2018, from Item/News:NEWS_ITEM:2910. Melis, G. (2017, December). La riforma della pubblica amministrazione. Retrieved December, 2018, from http://www.amministrazioneincammino.luiss. it/2017/12/29/la-riforma-della-pubblica-amministrazione/. Neri, S. (2017). Il tentativo di riforma della dirigenza pubblica: alla ricerca di una élite amministrativa. In S. Neri & A. Venanzoni (Eds.), La Riforma Madia alla prova dei decreti attuativi (pp.  119–129). Roma: School of Government, Luiss Academy. Nicosia, G. (2018). I soggetti della valutazione (percorsi di apprendimento organizzativo). In M. Esposito, V. Luciani, A. Zoppoli, & L. Zoppoli (Eds.), La riforma dei rapporti di lavoro nelle pubbliche amministrazioni (pp. 329–355). Torino: Giappichelli. Occhilupo, R., & Rizzica, L. (2016). Incentivi e valutazione dei dirigenti pubblici in Italia. Banca d’Italia, Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional papers), 310. Retrieved October, 2018, from



Oliveri, L. (2011, February). La parola fine sulla riforma Brunetta. Retrieved July, 2018, from la-parola-fine-sulla-riforma-brunetta/. Ongaro, E. (2009). Public Management Reform and Modernization. Trajectories of Administrative Change in Italy, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain. Cheltenham: Elgar. Ongaro, E. (2011). The Role of Politics and Institutions in the Italian Administrative Reform Trajectory. Public Administration, 89(3), 738–755. Ongaro, E., & Valotti, G. (2008). Public Management Reform in Italy: Explaining the Implementation Gap. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 21(2), 174–204. Piattoni, S. (2015). Bureaucracy. In E. Jones & G. Pasquino (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Italian Politics (pp. 159–170). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Putnam, R. D. (1973). The Political Attitudes of Senior Civil Servants in Western Europe: A Preliminary Report. British Journal of Political Science, 3(3), 257–290. Rebora, G. (2015). Riorientare il Ciclo delle Performance, possibili linee evolutive per le amministrazioni centrali dello Stato. In C. Dell’Aringa & G. D. Rocca (Eds.), L’eccellenza nelle pubbliche amministrazioni. Valutare oltre gli adempimenti formali (pp. 159–185). Rome: AREL. Santoro, P. (2014). Deboli ma forti. Il pubblico impiego in Italia tra fedeltà politica e ammortizzatore sociale. Milan: Franco Angeli. Savino, M. (2015). Le riforme amministrative: la parabola della modernizzazione dello Stato. Rivista trimestrale di diritto pubblico, 45(2), 641–690. Sotiropoulos, D.  A. (2004). Southern European Public Bureaucracies in Comparative Perspective. West European Politics, 27(3), 405–422. Tardiola, A. (2009). Dai controlli interni al controllo diffuso? Prime valutazioni sulla riforma. Rivista elettronica di diritto e pratica delle amministrazioni pubbliche—, 11. Retrieved October, 2018, from Ventura, S. (2015). Renzi & Co. Il racconto dell’era nuova. Soveria Mannelli: Rubbettino.


Conclusions: Still Risking Implementation Gaps Sabrina Cavatorto and Antonio La Spina

Abstract  Continuity and differentiation elements in the administrative reform cycles are considered from the perspective of implementation, and its gaps. The reformist seasons of the last 25 years mostly shared the same principles, goals and weaknesses in their implementation phases. The vicious cycle of administrative reforms has not been defused: the widespread disagreement in the policy community against further waves of comprehensive reform is an indicator of a persistent low degree of practical implementation, and rather of the prevalence of contradictory effects with respect to reforming principles and goals, like the performance evaluation introduced by statute in 2009. Creeping resistance within administrations is a constant presence, apparently unaffected by several waves of normative innovation. Notwithstanding the recent call for “concreteness” of the Five-Star Movement and League “government of change”, we find that the lack of empirical, in-depth organizational analysis gives the real measure of current complexity to be dealt with. Keywords  Implementation • Managerial autonomy • Politicization • Top civil servants • Independent authorities

© The Author(s) 2020 S. Cavatorto, A. La Spina, The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy,




6.1   Exogenous Pressures Without Convergence Public policies—including administrative reforms—are more and more influenced by several supra-national, cross-national and global factors which are not in control of nation states. Some international organizations (such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) can suggest or—under certain conditions—request certain reform paths. When among such institutions there is consensus about some contents of the reforms that are deemed necessary (as it was apparently the case on new public management (NPM) in certain historical phases), the influence that they can exert is supposed to become stronger (La Spina 2020). Private bodies, such as rating agencies or institutional investors, can also have an impact on domestic choices (although they are more interested in budgetary and economic policies). Other ratings—like those of the Doing Business reports published by the World Bank—are more focused upon the attractiveness and investment climate exhibited by each country, which are of course tied, among other things, to the functioning of public administrations (PAs). International economic competition is a driver for change in regulation and public administration. Domestic economies are dependent on the contingencies of global economic cycles. This is especially evident during downturns, which can offer unusual opportunities for certain reform packages concerned with structural adjustment. As we have seen in this book, such packages can cover administrative reforms. International epistemic communities, composed of scholars, think tanks and experts of a given field, can also be rather influential (Haas 1992; La Spina 2020). Policy options which are considered successful tend to be imitated abroad. Ideas are relevant. “Perhaps the single most important source of ideas and policy innovation are practices that prevail elsewhere. The fact that a policy has worked—or at least is perceived to have worked— somewhere can be a powerful reason to copy it” (Rodrik 2014: 204). Certain public bodies (such as independent regulators) participate in international networks and therefore feel a pressure to conform to what is estimated normal or dutiful by their foreign peers. The same can happen with the directors of some ministerial departments. The most important exogenous influence, which often amounts to a constraint, is exerted by the EU. This happens through legislation, budgetary discipline, cohesion funds, action programmes and



recommendations. For instance, the directives on public procurement were intended to have a direct impact on a crucial activity of public bureaucracies. The imposition of austerity as a response to the risks of default after the 2008 recession affected the size of public employment, salaries, performance pay, recruitment and collective contracts (Di Mascio et  al. 2013; Di Mascio and Natalini 2014). Cohesion policy addresses administrative modernization and capacity-building through the supply of dedicated financial resources (European Commission 2017a, b). Some EU action programmes, like the one on administrative burdens measurement and reduction, were also focused on administrative culture and innovation (European Commission 2012). We might go on at length. What was sketched above is enough to show that also with regard to administrative reform certain salient sources, factors and decision-making powers are more and more exogenous to nation states. Furthermore, it could be argued that, generally speaking, such external pressures push towards policy convergence, defined by Knill (2005: 768; see also Holzinger and Knill 2005; Drezner 2005) as “any increase in the similarity between one or more characteristics of a certain policy (…) across a given set of political jurisdictions (…) over a period of time. Policy convergence thus describes the end result of a process of policy change”. We can also suppose that the more some domestic policy is divergent from the exogenous accepted standard, the more forceful will be the pressure aimed at obtaining convergence. Overall, when the emphasis is on the need to recover reliability and budgetary discipline, performance improvement could understandably become less central (Kickert et al. 2013; Di Mascio et al. 2013). It must also be said that reforms inspired by public management in certain countries were less successful than expected (De Vries and Nemec 2013; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2017; Van Dooren and Hoffmann 2018). Internal resistances (also by professionals, see Bezes et  al. 2012) as well as domestic societal features can play a role in retarding or distorting convergence (Jordan 2005; Lenschow et  al. 2005), which cannot be complete and immediate. Nevertheless, convergent policies in some of the most important sectors are increasing, in connection to the diminishing sovereignty of nation states. All the exogenous influences just mentioned—ranging from the OECD’s recommendations to the contents of the Merida convention, and of course to what was asked by the EU—played a role in the Italian case. However, some of the developments that we have hitherto highlighted



also tell a different story, as we showed in the various chapters of this book. With regard to anti-corruption, for example, convergence was actually absent until 2012. With regard to public procurement, EU legislation notwithstanding, the Merloni law was first suspended and then superseded in 2006 by a code of public contracts which was much less convergent. The new code adopted in 2016 was not welcomed by everybody. Then it has been partially revised and is undergoing other substantial changes. As far as public managers and performance evaluation are concerned, we have witnessed a gap between the official provisions of several legislative decrees and the real functioning of flesh-and-blood public bureaucracies. The “end result” of all these efforts is still far away from convergence. Even when it was possible to use cohesion funds which had been earmarked for administrative modernization, they were sometimes granted on the basis of formal, extrinsic compliance (the official adoption of certain norms), without checking whether real administrative behaviours had been actually modified. This “taught” concerned bureaucrats a perverse lesson: that certain requirements could have been circumvented, that symbolic innovation was sufficient and that it was possible to get away with it, or even being rewarded for it (La Spina 2007). We can conclude that, at least with regard to administrative reforms, and more specifically to performance improvement, Italian policymaking in the last three decades has exhibited an official endorsement of their need, but did not managed to guarantee the actual fulfilment of convergence. Why? This is the question we continue to ask. It is precisely to the implementation failures that this conclusive chapter is devoted. The vicious cycle of administrative reforms in Italy is also explained with a focus on the most recent developments from the 18th legislature (started on 23 March 2018). The commitment of the Five-Star Movement and the League “government of change” to achieve the “concreteness” of existing regulation regarding the PA governance, instead of changing it in a comprehensive way, has been hence especially taken into consideration.  The coalition agreed on an independent Prime Minister, although close to the Five-Star: the private law professor Giuseppe Conte, almost unknown to the public. Yet, the same commitment to the “concreteness” of the implementation, in continuity with previous waves of comprehensive administrative reforms, was confirmed by the Five-Star-­ Democratic Party (PD) coalition, which unpredictably succeeded the sudden collapse of the Conte I government (August 2019), letting Prime Minister Conte survive in his role (Conte II).



6.2   Overcoming the Lack of Implementation with (What Kind of?) “Concreteness” With regard to the PA, the “government of change” (1 June 2018-4 September 2019) intended first of all to intervene on the failure of implementing existing laws. In Italy some administrations implemented innovations, but others did not. This is why the modernization rate of the Italian PA as been judged low, because of the lack of homogeneity of implemented reforms, as well as the heterogeneity of the administrations themselves. The latter makes regulatory efficiency a complex problem per se. According to the new minister for public administration of the Conte I cabinet, Giulia Bongiorno (a lawyer, centre-right MP from 2006 to 2013, elected in 2018 to the Senate with the Lega, but as an independent), no new “maxi” reform was needed, just the application of the “reasonable” and “shared” laws that already exist in Italy: “I want to be an implementing legislator”1; “some good things have been done, and I don’t reject them because they were made by the left; instead, where I see gaps, I have to intervene”.2 Hence the issue of putting norms into practice more clearly entered the policy agenda: since “practical implementation walks on the legs”, the M5S-League government’s “concreteness” law3 has  addressed the problem of PA’s different speeds in the way it established a team of specialized subjects (Unit of “concreteness”, i.e. Nucleo) for the improvement of PA organizational efficiency. On that account, the Nucleo is now aimed at supporting the diffusion of best practices from “top-level” administrations—“that in fact there are”—to those in difficulty (Ibidem). Moreover, the Nucleo is expected to act as a “tutor” who intervenes where needed to recommend organizational remedies. Consequently, the Nucleo’s added value should first be on the side of organizational action: “The Nucleo of concreteness has the sole purpose of helping, collaborating, 1  Parliamentary hearing on the programmatic lines of the Minister Giulia Bongiorno (Joint Chambers 26/9/2018). 2  Prosecution of the parliamentary hearing of the Minister Giulia Bongiorno (Joint Chambers 13/2/2019). 3  Senate Bill 920 was approved in first reading by both the Chambers, then discussed in second reading in the Senate for the final approval by the assembly on 12 June 2019 (the date was postponed due to the European elections) ( Schede/Ddliterl/50887.htm). The law was linked to the 2019 public finance manœuvre and entered into force in July (law 56/2019 “Interventions for the concreteness of public administration”).



indicating corrective actions (…) It does not want to interfere, it wants to help” (Ibidem). However, the “concrete” actions for the efficiency of public administrations have been not identified on a case-by-case basis. Rather, they are expected to be described in a three-year action plan (i.e. the “plan of the concrete actions”), prepared, centrally, by the Department of Public Administration.4 Anyhow, the information available has not allowed to clarify what the specific contents of this plan will be and how materially the activation of the Nucleo will be realized. In addition, according to the current legislation, the same policy objectives must be already included in the “Performance Plan”, which is to be drawn up by each PA (see Chap. 5), obligation to which still not all PAs fulfill.5 Besides, hardly same level of operational detail could be reached by a plan only elaborated at the central level. The Nucleo’s profile of organizational support risks then to be sacrificed within a top-down regime, which includes disciplinary—although presented as “not punitive”—actions. As a matter of fact, in order to overcome administrative inertia and contrast organizational inaction, in the minister’s design “a managerial responsibility has to be triggered”. Afterwards, “it is right that those who do not comply (with the Nucleo’s recommendations), they will suffer the consequences”, namely being registered in a “black list” of defaulting administrations (Ibidem). At present, it is also worth mentioning that the compliance of the administrative action is (ex post) supervised by the “Inspectorate for the public function”, acting together with the Financial Guard (Guardia di Finanza), the military police force under the authority of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (Fig.  6.16). The Nucleo should instead verify (in itinere, and consequently recommending corrective operational measures) the practical implementation of the provisions on organization and ­functioning, especially to promote transparency and digitalization, as well as on human resource management, in order to increase the efficiency of public administrations. But uncertainty about the boundaries of the two  Law 56/2019, Art. 1, Par. 2.  The monitoring by the Department of Public Administration calculated that, as of 1/3/2019, only 26% of administrations (N = 80) fully complied with the deadline of 31 January, publishing the “Performance Plan 2019–2021” ( 6  Since 2017, the Inspectorate also implements that part of the Madia law devoted to strengthen the sanctions against low productivity and absenteeism of public-sector employees, the “idlers” or furbetti del cartellino (legislative decree 116/2016). 4 5


2,000 1,500

1690 1438




1633 1167

1,000 500 0














disciplinary dismissals

Fig. 6.1  Compliance checks by the Inspectorate for the public function and “severe” sanctions. (Source: Own elaboration from

bodies’ scope of intervention, due to risk of overlaps, was object of widespread criticism during the parliamentary examination, even from the institutional and stakeholders’ hearings.7 Strong opposition was also expressed by the regions and the autonomous provinces in the Unified Conference, because of the perceived excessive interference in the organization of regional offices.8 On the contrary, accompanying organizational actions have been widely welcome.9 Anyhow, on the Nucleo’s functions, the Minister Bongiorno spoke of “so much confusion in interpretation, at times perhaps wanted”, and insisted that it differs from the Inspectorate, with which it is albeit expected to cooperate. To “transfer” the organizational models, “we need someone surely doing the job” (Idibem). Yet, after all, nothing has been specified as for the expertise of the Nucleo’s components. Not surprisingly, for the many critical issues raised, the new PA minister of the Conte II government, the 36-year old Fabiana Dadone (Five-Star), has announced that she does not exclude to put the profile of the Nucleo under re-consideration.  See for instance the Court of Auditors’ opinion (Senate 26/11/2018).  Extraordinary Meeting 31/10/2018. 9  Among the most recent participatory contributions, the “ForumPA 2018 White Paper on PA innovation” recommends a “legislative moratorium” in favour of forms of organizational change sustained by the digital transformation ( 7 8



The fight against absenteeism likewise has become a confirmed political priority. At any rate, the connection between the “presence in service” of public employees and the effective improvement in the quality of administrative action is unlikely to be obvious. Therefore, even though it was ascertained that the progressive introduction of biometric surveys and the video surveillance of accesses does not violate—but just under certain conditions10—the privacy policy, as the public discourse about the introduction of “fingerprints” in the public employment had also complained, the new rule does not cope with the issue of the effectiveness of PA organizational structure: Without appropriate attributions of competences and a systematic performance evaluation by the top managers, that actually are critical issues, public employees should be “fixed” in their place to do what? On grounds of which motivations?11 Measures  have been withal put in place so as to accelerate “targeted recruitments” in the following areas: digitalization, organization and administrative simplification, quality of services, structural funds management and investments, public contracts, audit and inspecting activity, public accounting and financial management. “If we make targeted, intelligent assumptions, it means restarting the PA, those offices that are sometimes deprived of personnel, as in the very crucial field of justice” (Ibidem). Accordingly, the generational turnover is confirmed,12 as the Renzi government already planned (see Chap. 3), but within the new budgetary constraints established by the M5S-League executive, which imposed another block on recruitments (albeit defined as “technical”, i.e. just for accounting purposes by reason of EU fiscal coordination) for the duration of almost the whole year 2019 (Table 6.1), aside from the following sectors: law enforcement agencies, the fire corps, school and health.13 Simplified procedures to speed up recruitments (Fig. 6.2) have been also mentioned, making the public concorsi more frequent (yearly), thus abolishing the rankings of eligible candidates, to be called in the longer run. As

10  As made clear by the Italian Data Protection Authority (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali), heard in the Senate (26–27/11/2018). 11  The same minister admits that if “we let them in, we have to make them work; yet, in the meantime, we have not cut resources, but invested” (Parliamentary hearing, Joint Chambers 13/2/2019). 12  The costs should cover 100% of retirements. 13  In the same areas, the 100% turn over’s quota is not applied; sector regulations already in force prevail.



Table 6.1  Turn over quotas in central PA (% of expenditure equal to that relating to personnel who left the previous year) 2014 20% Decree-law 2015 40% 90/2014 (Art. 2016 60% 3, Par. 1) 2017 80% 2018 100% 2019

25% 25% 25% 100%

Stability Law 2016 (law 208/2015, Art. 1, Par. 228); for the year 2019, Budget law 2019 (law 145/2018, Art. 1, Par. 399) blocked recruitments until 15 November

3,500 3,400 3,300 3,200 3,100 2008










Fig. 6.2  Total staff employed by public administrations per year (thousands of units). The Annual Account shows the data on the consistency and costs of PA personnel and constitutes the official source of information for decisions regarding public employment. (Source: General State Annual Account 2017)

already established by the Madia reform,14 the concorsi must be centrally managed by the Department for PA, which is asked—now by the law, not “solely” by ministerial guidelines, which actually are said to be well functioning15—to provide a recruitment website (Portale del reclutamento), with candidates’ individual electronic pages (Fascicolo del candidato). Reasonably this rule, transparency oriented, has been relaunched by the new Minister Dadone. Within certain limits, but again in  great continuity with the existing norms (i.e. law 114/2014), mobility has been encouraged, both territorially and between public institutions, that operate at the international level 14  In April 2018, minister Madia approved the “Guidelines on recruitment procedures”, published on the official journal—Gazzetta Ufficiale—on 12/6/2018. The minister’s directive executed the legislative decree 75/2017, which modified the 2001 consolidate text on public employment (see Chaps. 3 and 5). 15  As shown by a certain number of hearings during the parliamentary debate.



too, or between the public and private sectors. A similar web portal was devoted in 2015 to the same purpose16; however, it seems no more updated now. On the same point, we can conclude that if so many websites are launched but not systematically implemented, they for sure will increase a sense of fragmentation instead of transparency. In terms of implementation, one of the most significant effort, confirmed over time since the Bassanini’s reform cycle in the late 1990s, has been simplification.17 By definition, as an institutionalized policy goal, simplification could—and should—be a never-ending story, featuring systemic-­ wide challenges, now more intensively reframed through the digitalization imperative. “Administrative simplification is an obscure activity (…), which will never be a topic for parliamentary debates, (…) or press coverage; yet, it must absorb the greatest energy nowadays, from central to local administrations” (Ibidem). This component of Madia’s inputs, in continuity with the past, was explicitly shared by Minister Bongiorno and, after her, also agreed by Minister Dadone (see also Table 6.2). At the same time, the Conte I executive continued on the path of legislative simplification passing “urgent provisions on support and simplification for businesses and the PA” through the decree-law 135/2018, then converted into law 12/2019, which was highly contested by the oppositions due to its prominent omnibus profile, for example even including a norm about the extension of the Alitalia loan, strictly linked to the budget law approved shortly before. Besides, always in connection with the 2019 budget law, on 28 February 2019, the Council of Ministers approved further ten delegating bills providing simplifications and codifications in a vast number of policy fields (public procurement, civil code and military order comprised). The scope of this legislative delegation was very ambitious and described a medium-long term perspective. Being the parliamentary exam at the very beginning at the time of our analysis, it was too early to make assessments or forecasts. Anyhow, it deserved to be pointed up that nearly all hearings during the parliamentary discussions relating to administrative reforms in the 18th Legislature, along with the public discourse that emerged from most of the speeches in the 2019 ForumPA—that is, the Italian annual convention  The monitoring of the “Agenda for simplification 2015–2017” estimated that 98% of actions were realized (as reported by the Economic and Financial Document, DEF, 2018). See also and 16 17



Table 6.2  Designing PA change through EU structural resources (2014–2020) Priority Axes

Specific objectives

1 Building administrative and institutional capacity for modernizing the PA

#transparency #simplification #effectiveness #efficiency #legality 2 Developing e-government, #open-gov interoperability and support #e-gov for the implementation of the Digital Agenda 3 Strengthening multilevel #multilevel governance in public governance investment programmes 4 Technical Assistance





European Social Fund (ESF)

387,567,271 €


European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) European Social Fund (ESF)

89,962,230 € 12

251,120,639 €


52,105,182 € 7 780,755,322 100 €

As known, the projects are co-financed: 75% by the EU and 25% by the member state Source:

devoted, since 1990, to the topic of innovation in the public sector18— expressed scepticism towards any new legislative proposal that ignores a targeted and in-depth analysis of public organizations, as the Madia law even established, again without adequate implementation so far. In her impetus towards concreteness, Minister Bongiorno extensively recognized that “the legislator’s limit is the effectiveness of what is done inside (emphasis added) the offices: this is the public manager’s job”.19 On that account, “the reform of reforms” still consists of innovating the top management profile and effectively working to redesign the public employees competencies and skills. “I want passionate managers, (…) making others grow, (…) soliciting, helping, rewarding, and sharing objectives” (Ibidem). Not a different attitude was expressed by the Minister Dadone in 18  In 2019, events were about “PA as a creator of public value” (https://forumpa2019. Since a while, the ForumPA narrative has been articulated along five keywords: digitalization, rejuvenation, simplification, communication and merit. The context of action is that of sustainability. 19  Parliamentary hearing, Joint Chambers 13/2/2019.



the beginning of her mandate. She stressed – and soon realized – a more consultation-oriented approach aimed at “re-starting from the people, and the work organization”.20 Under the necessary umbrella of digital transformation,21 the search for convergent policy solutions in that no longer postponable direction makes us understand the attention that has been recently devoted, although in the “legalist” Italian PA, to behavioural-oriented approaches.22 Actually, the effects of such a vogue require to be concretely monitored  in the medium term, as the empirical science of administration would properly suggest.

6.3   The Crux of the Top Management Reform, When Looking at the Future Owing to the long politicization’s tradition of Italian PA, human resources management was the area where the gap between reform design and implementation has been larger (Ongaro and Valotti 2008). 20  Parliamentary hearing on the programmatic lines of the Minister Fabiana Dadone (Chamber of Deputies 11/12/2019). The Conte II cabinet has inaugurated the first governmental Italian digital platform devoted to public consultation and participation processes ( 21  Pillars of this policy strategy have been granted by structural funds in the context of the Operative Programme (OP) on “Governance and Institutional Capacity” for the 2014–2020 period ( the Department of PA is responsible for the Digital Agenda and modernization processes, such as simplification or performance evaluation (for instance, the project RiformAttiva supports the implementation of innovative actions at the territorial level; Cloudify NoiPA is focused on the digital transformation of human resources management at all level of government; the Delivery Unit is devoted to simplification and red tapes’ cuts); the Ministry of Justice is especially delegated to the enforcement of civil justice, as also recommended by the European Council (see Chap. 2). 22  Under the Gentiloni government, a working group was formed at the presidency of the Council of Ministers with the purpose of developing a research plan to apply behavioural sciences in the management of administrative processes (Secretary General decree of 13 September 2017). To confirm the perspective, the National School of Administration (SNA) began offering courses on modern “nudging” techniques to public civil servants and managers, and also funded university masters on that topic. Furthermore, a course on “Cognitive Sciences and Behavioral PA” has been launched as an action under the OP Governance 2014–2020 in the field of cohesion policy to promote “a better interaction between administrations and the beneficiaries of the interventions, with the final recipients, and among public employees involved in the management of the operational tools” (



A central pillar of the Madia reform was that on the top management, whose proposal was however rejected by a sentence of the Constitutional Court in 2016 (see Chaps. 3 and 5), then not reformulated by the Gentiloni government. Why is this component of the PA reform so difficult to achieve? It is well known that large part of Italian top executives did not agree on the new perspective,23 for corporate, clearly defensive24 reasons that the current government would seem to welcome more openly.25 This means that bureaucratic politics consistently matters when reforms are at issue. For the time being, ten years after its introduction (legislative decree 150/2009, see Chap. 5), the performance evaluation system has been widely considered “the” administrative reforms’ failure. It is diffusely believed that “the reform of reforms” has to be restarted from there. Again, the then Minister Bongiorno in front of the Parliament: “The top management reform is one of those things that had no results so far. The effort now is to create evaluators who are third parties. (…) Everyone will say that in some way we want to create a sort of control over the top management; (…) but the reform is not a punishment! (…) if the objectives are homemade, they do not make any sense; at the same time, if evaluations are mild, they cannot really help the PA; (…) if I had an excellent PA, then I would understand all these 100% (i.e. full score)” (Ibidem). But this is not the situation. The problem of performance is thus first of all organizational, before than individual, having produced direct wage effects, hence having been

23  A joint document raising doubts about the draft of the Madia law’s implementing decree was—among others—presented in October 2016 to the Committee for Constitutional Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies by two associations of public managers, together with the Association Nuova Etica Pubblica. Particularly critical also a document published in July 2017 by Nuova Etica Pubblica, which complains about the Madia reform as a policy failure ( 24  On “defensive bureaucracy”, see Battini and Decarolis (2019). An interesting research panel was carried out by FPA (May 2017) “Burocrazia difensiva. Come ne usciamo?” (https:// 25  As it can be seen from the hearings realized at the beginning of the exam of the Senate Bill 1122 “Delegation to the Government for PA improvement” (April–May 2019): the professional associations expressed themselves in a quite auspicious way (



mostly—and ineffectively—characterized as self-referential.26 On the contrary, a “competent” organization could encourage a clearer distinction between political direction and high-level managerial (i.e. technical) activity, although the two are in the field intricately linked. Indeed, the historian of public administration Melis (2015: 284–285) suggests that the privatization of employment relationships brings with it a direct and personal connection between managers and their political principals (see also Battini and Cimino 2007; Antonelli and La Spina 2010). This tendency can be either accepted as unavoidable or curtailed (like the Italian Constitutional Court did in the past). One of the objectives of new public management (NPM) was that of “reasserting political control over the administration” (Van de Walle 2018: 2). Therefore, in principle politicization of top managers is not incompatible with a rather high degree of managerial autonomy. Pollitt and Bouckaert (2017: 58–60) nevertheless argue that in some countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom (which used to be among the most well-known champions of NPM), the careers of “mandarins” in ministerial departments most of the times are neatly separated and relatively insulated from politics. When explaining variation in European public sectors, Van de Walle (2018) found that in Italy, as well as in Spain and Portugal, perceived managerial autonomy is the lowest, but he also confirmed that “(the lack of) managerial autonomy and politicization—i.e. regular political interference—are different concepts” (Ivi: 13).27 Indeed, he found clear findings related to structural factors, such as organization’s type and size, and the hierarchical position of the respondent, even in cases where the interaction frequency with the responsible minister is high. Additionally, already Ongaro and Valotti (2008) added confidence to the fact that behavioural factors may influence differences in the implementation of public management reforms, although in turn influenced by 26  Among others, a critical assessment of the current situation by Enrico Deidda Gagliardo (Member of the Performance Technical Committee at the Department of PA) taking part in the ForumPA 2019, together with Marco De Giorgi (Director General, Office for Performance Evaluation, Department of PA) ( event-details/?id=8521). 27  The data set contains information on top managers in central governments (see the COCOPS project already mentioned in Chap. 1: “Managerial autonomy” refers to autonomy that managers perceive to have in making decisions about issues like budget allocations, hiring and firing, and contracting out (Ivi: 3).



the administrative tradition and the politico-administrative context dominating the country. According to Melis (2015: 291–292), administrative reforms in Italy were often and mostly seen in terms of “personnel policy, systematically ignoring (…) organization, service productivity, relationships with citizens”. Moreover, in his view the choices made were frequently instrumental “to clientelistic, electoral and anyway contingent objectives”: there are too much public managers, insufficiently shielded against political interferences, and de facto unaccountable with regard to objectives, results and merit. As we have seen in the previous chapter, all these topics were actually tackled several times, at least since 1993. However, it cannot be denied that the real functioning of Italian public bureaucracies still exhibits the critical aspects mentioned by Melis. Particularism, inefficiency and resistance to change tend to coalesce, obstructing the path of performance improvement. As we have already shown, Republican Italy lacked for decades an anti-­ corruption policy, which was launched and then strengthened in parallel with the creation and institutionalization of an independent authority. Even when the given status quo is resistant and blocked, it is possible, under certain conditions, to imagine and actually use an exogenous lever for change. This does not necessarily mean that the changes produced will always be appropriate, or long-lasting, as suggested by the recent decisions concerning the code of public contracts and the relevant ANAC’s competences. The planning of anti-corruption has many elements in common with the planning and evaluation of performance. Nevertheless, as we have seen, performance evaluation was taken away from the authority for public administration. Unlike what later became the ANAC, the CIVIT had been initially established without powers. However, the same had happened in the past also in the cases of other independent bodies. Over time they gradually grew stronger and enlarged their range of action. Had the CIVIT lived enough time, perhaps it could have gone through a similar path. For instance, it could have tried to homogenize the way similar public organizations design their performance plans, implement them and evaluate the ensuing results. Such an approach would, among other things, relieve some of the burdens of performance planning and evaluation, so that the justified complaints of many administrations would be met. As we have seen, an attempt at homogenization was made through the creation of some central commissions for managerial appointments, but it was defeated.



The independent bodies for performance evaluation (OIVs) were expected to be a crucial lever for performance improvement. However, the way their members are chosen as well as the nature of the principals to which they owe their appointment are not necessarily conducive to independence and expertise. The relevant provisions remained mostly ineffective “because the introduction of performance evaluation tools is mostly left to spontaneous decisions of political echelons, without appropriate supervision, monitoring, and sanctioning in case of failed implementation” (Merloni 2018: 92). The OIVs have to confront politicians, public managers, civil servants, endowed with resources that range from funds to legal powers, or political influence. If they were chosen by an independent authority and were directly answerable to it, this could enhance their level of both independence and technical competence, by shielding them vis-à-­ vis some particularistic pressures stemming from the administrations that they are supposed to evaluate. It might even be discussed whether a new independent authority could also administer sactions and exert powers of direct intervention, like the AVSPP proposed in 2006. Independent bodies as a policy tool have advantages and disadvantages. In some political systems, they enjoy a certain legitimization by public opinion and political elites. The opposite can be true for some other systems, at least in certain periods of their political history  (La Spina and Majone 2000). Understandably, having to address the extremely resilient Italian bureaucracies, an authority for public administration would need a robust and continued popular and political support, with regard to both its tasks and its independency. This used to be unlikely (although not impossible) in the past. On the one hand, it is very difficult to forecast whether such a support will be found in the future.  On the other, the Italian administrative system (like many others) was seriously shaken by the Covid-19 emergency. This has had devastating consequences, but at the same time has increased and sharpened citizens’ expectations towards the public sector. Therefore, a favourable occasion has emerged for wide-­ ranging and impactful reforms, that could interrupt the long chain of mistakes made in the past.



References Antonelli, V., & La Spina, A. (Eds.). (2010). I dirigenti pubblici e i nodi del cambiamento. Roma: Luiss University Press. Battini, S., & Cimino, B. (2007). La dirigenza pubblica italiana tra privatizzazione e politicizzazione. Rivistra trimestrale di diritto pubblico, 4, 1001–1034. Battini, S., & Decarolis, F. (2019). L’amministrazione si difende. Rivista trimestrale di diritto pubblico, 1, 293–320. Bezes, P., Demazière, D., Le Bianic, T., Paradeise, C., Normand, R., Benamouzig, D., Pierru, F., & Evetts, J. (2012). New Public Management and Professionals in the Public Sector. What New Patterns Beyond Opposition? Sociologie du travail, 54, e1–e52. De Vries, M., & Nemec, J. (2013). Public Sector Reform: an Overview of Recent Literature and Research on NPM and Alternative Paths. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 26(1), 4–16. Di Mascio, F., & Natalini, A. (2014). Austerity and Public Administration: Italy Between Modernization and Spending Cuts. American Behavioral Scientist, 58(12), 1634–1656. Di Mascio, F., Natalini, A., & Stolfi, F. (2013). The Ghost of Crises Past: Analyzing Reform Sequences to Understand Italy’s Response to the Global Crisis. Public Administration, 91(1), 17–31. Drezner, D.  W. (2005). Globalization, Harmonization, and Competition: The Different Pathways to Policy Convergence. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 841–859. European Commission. (2012). Action Programme for Reducing Administrative Burdens in the EU—Final Report. Strasbourg. European Commission. (2017a). Quality of Public Administration—A Toolbox for Practicioners. Theme 9: Public Administration Reform—Making Positive Change Happen. Luxembourg: Publication Office of the European Union. European Commission. (2017b). Quality of Public Administration: A Toolbox for Practicioners. Some Considerations on Managing Thematic Objective 11. Luxembourg: Publication Office of the European Union. Holzinger, K., & Knill, C. (2005). Causes and Conditions of Cross-National Policy Convergence. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 775–796. Jordan, A. (2005). Policy Convergence: A Passing Fad or a New Integrating Focus in European Union Studies? Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 944–953. Kickert, K., Randma-Liiv, T., & Savi, R. (2013). Fiscal Consolidation in Europe: A Comparative Analysis. COCOPS Working Paper 7.2. Retrieved February, 2019, from Knill, C. (2005). Introduction: Cross-National Policy Convergence: Concepts, Approaches and Explanatory Factors. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 764–774.



La Spina, A. (2007). Politiche per il Mezzogiorno e riforma amministrativa. Rivista Italiana di Politiche Pubbliche, 3, 5–39. La Spina, A. (2020). Politiche pubbliche. Analisi e valutazione. Bologna: Mulino. La Spina, A., & Majone, G. (2000). Lo Stato regolatore. Bologna: Mulino. Lenschow, A., Liefferink, D., & Veenman, S. (2005). When the Birds Sing. A Framework for Analysing Domestic Factors Behind Policy Convergence. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 797–816. Melis, G. (2015). Fare lo Stato per fare gli italiani. Bologna: Mulino. Merloni, F. (2018). Costituzione repubblicana, riforme amministrative e riforme del sistema amministrativo. Diritto pubblico, 1, 81–120. Ongaro, E., & Valotti, G. (2008). Public Management Reform in Italy: Explaining the Implementation Gap. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 21(2), 174–204. Pollitt, C., & Bouckaert, G. (2017). Public Management Reform. A Comparative Analysis—Into the Age of Austerity (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Peter M. Haas, (1992) Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination. International Organization, 46 (1): 1-35. Rodrik, D. (2014). When Ideas Trump Interests: Preferences, Worldviews, and Policy Innovations. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 28(1), 189–208. Van de Walle, S. (2018). Explaining Variation In Perceived Managerial Autonomy and Direct Politicization in European Public Sectors. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 85(4), 1–18. Van Dooren, W., & Hoffmann, C. (2018). Performance Management in Europe: An Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone? In E.  Ongaro & S.  Van Thiel (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Public Administration and Management in Europe (pp. 207–225). London: Palgrave.


A Agenda setting, 16, 44, 50, 51 Amato, Giuliano, 6, 6n6, 11n18 Anti-corruption legislation, 29, 83–89, 92 Audit, 12, 134 Austerity politics, 12, 43–45 B Bassanini, Franco, 8–10, 10n14, 11n16, 11n17, 11n18, 11n19, 12n20, 15, 51, 104, 106, 136 Benchmarking, 25 Berlusconi, Silvio, 6, 8, 9, 9n12, 11n16, 11n19, 47n8, 51n14 Bongiorno, Giulia, 131, 131n1, 131n2, 133, 136, 137, 139 Brunetta, Renato, 9, 9n11, 10, 12n20, 13, 62

C Calderoli, Roberto, 9 Cassese, Sabino, 7, 7n8, 8, 12n19, 89, 102–105 Ciampi, Carlo Azelio, 6–8, 6n6, 6n7, 11n17, 11n18, 104 Clean hands (Mani pulite), 80, 81, 83, 94 Commission for the Evaluation, Transparency and Integrity of Public Administrations (CIVIT), 83–86, 94, 108–113, 118, 119n12, 141 Compliance, 9, 12, 55, 67, 84, 88, 116, 130, 132, 133 Consultation, 31, 52–58, 52n15, 53n21, 112, 113, 118n11, 120 Conte, Giuseppe, 136 Continuity, 4–6, 8, 10, 48, 48n8, 62, 72, 94, 135, 136

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


145 © The Author(s) 2020 S. Cavatorto, A. La Spina, The Politics of Public Administration Reform in Italy,



Corruption, 5, 16, 29, 30, 33, 49, 49n11, 76–96, 102 Crisis-induced change, 30 Culture, 3, 9, 13, 29, 63n63, 106, 115, 129 D Decision making, 2, 4, 13, 46, 51–58, 51n14, 63, 66, 83, 89, 94, 129 Delegation, 6n7, 8, 54–58, 54n25, 61, 62, 64–72, 87, 107n2, 108, 113, 116n8, 136 Diffusion, 2, 3, 24, 25n3, 131 Dini, Lamberto, 6n6, 6n7, 8 Domestication, 16, 24 E Epistemic communities, 95, 128 European Institute of Public Administration (EIPA), 31, 36n27 Europeanization, 24 European Monetary Union (EMU), 8 European Public Administration Network (EUPAN), 30–32 European Semester, 32, 32n18, 33n23, 37, 55 European Union (EU), 8, 16, 24, 25, 25n4, 26n5, 28n10, 30–38, 31n15, 32n18, 33n22, 33n23, 37n28, 46, 49, 55, 76, 81, 87, 122, 128–130, 134, 138 Executive-legislature relations, 16, 64–72 Expert knowledge, 16, 24, 26 F Financial management, 11, 134 Fiscal crisis, 23–38

G Great Recession, 6, 16, 26 I Ideas, 1, 7n8, 10n15, 25, 25n3, 26, 31, 32, 44, 52, 53, 59–62, 72, 76, 79, 93, 94, 114, 116n8, 128 Impact analysis, 56, 72, 72n92 Implementation, 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 13–15, 17, 28n8, 28n12, 29, 30, 32, 33, 35, 38, 44, 45, 45n1, 48, 51, 58, 59, 64, 67, 72, 77, 86, 87, 92, 95, 116, 121, 128–142 Independent authorities, 77, 141, 142 Independent bodies for performance evaluation (OIVs), 17, 109, 110, 113, 116, 118, 118–119n11, 120, 121, 142 Independent regulation, 83n4 Innovation, 3, 9, 10, 15, 16, 30, 51, 58, 65n79, 81, 86–88, 92, 95, 104, 105, 107, 112, 121, 128–131, 137 International organizations, 24, 25, 128 Italy, 5, 6, 7n8, 8, 9, 10n13, 10n14, 12–17, 25, 28–30, 28n11, 32, 32n20, 33, 33n22, 35–37, 45–49, 47n8, 52, 52n16, 53, 55, 58, 59, 61, 77–84, 88, 91, 95, 102–103, 116n8, 122, 130, 131, 140, 141 M Madia, Marianna, 16, 44, 48, 49n11, 52, 52n17, 53, 57, 57n34, 58, 61, 62, 64, 66, 67, 72, 132n6, 135–137, 135n14, 139, 139n23 Managerial autonomy, 108n3, 140, 140n27 Modernization, 7, 12, 13, 16, 25, 25n3, 27, 44, 49, 51, 114, 129–131, 137n21


Monti, Mario, 6, 6n7, 46n4, 49n11, 65, 65n80, 94 Multilevel governance, 24 N Napolitano, Giorgio, 6 Narratives, 16, 26, 44, 49, 51, 57–60, 62, 137n18 National Anti-corruption Authority (ANAC), 16, 33, 56n33, 83–90, 83n4, 92, 94, 95, 112, 113, 141 Neo-Weberian State (NWS), 13, 44 Network, 14, 25, 26, 30–32, 91, 92, 118, 128 New public management (NPM), 2, 4, 7, 12–15, 25, 26, 31, 44, 59, 61, 67, 104, 128, 140 O Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 9n10, 25–30, 45, 52n15, 76, 82, 95, 113, 122, 128, 129 P Participation, 2, 13, 29, 31, 52, 59, 62, 63, 77, 120, 121 Party politics, 16 Performance, 3, 4, 7n8, 8, 9, 10n13, 11n17, 12, 12n20, 13, 16, 17, 26, 31n16, 33n22, 36, 62, 84, 86, 102–121, 129, 130, 134, 137n21, 139, 141, 142 Performance assessment, 28, 28n12, 108n3, 110, 113–121, 119n12 Performance rewards, 62, 84, 105, 109, 110, 112n5 Policy change, 7n8, 13, 26, 46n3, 51, 129 Policy frames, 16, 24 Policy learning, 24n2


Policy options, 66, 128 Policy tool, 38, 142 Politicization, 138, 140 Privatization, 4, 7, 11, 82, 104, 140 Prodi, Romano, 8, 11n17, 51n14, 108 Public governance, 29 Public managers, 11, 47n6, 48, 105–107, 113–121, 130, 137, 139n23, 141, 142 Public procurement, 7, 33, 33n22, 55, 56, 77, 87, 90, 129, 130, 136 R Renzi, Matteo, 6, 15, 16, 29, 33, 44–56, 46n3, 47–48n8, 50n12, 51n14, 52n17, 58n38, 65, 65n79, 66n82, 67, 94, 113, 134 S Spending review, 26, 28, 47n8, 49, 63, 64 Standard setting, 25 T Technical executive, 6 Top civil servants, 67 Tradition, 5n4, 10n15, 95, 138, 141 Trajectories, 4, 5n4, 6–12, 10n13, 16, 24, 44, 72n90 Transnationalization, 16, 24 U United Nations Development Programme (UNPD), 26 W World Bank (WB), 25, 26, 76, 95, 113, 128