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Cutting costs of Italian Authorities: a Lost Opportunity to Improve State’s Effectiveness

Now. Italy’s is in the right path of cutting politician’s costs. There is a request coming from society to cut perks to high-ranked politicians, both local and state, officials, heads of independent authorities. Let’s focus on the latter.

The Budget Law proposed by Mr. Monti has selected 9 authorities and Commissions and reduced the number of persons in the board from 56 units to 31, almost a 50% cut. Many of these agencies will now consist of 3 Directors compared to a previous average of 6. A pity, my first reaction, we did not take his chance to foster gender empowerment by requiring that at least 1 of the 3 was a woman.

Anyway, that is a nice cut, of very little relevance once you look at the amounts of money saved and you compare them with the level of global spending. It is even made smaller by the fact that these lower numbers will be reached slowly over time, when these positions expire and will not be renewed.

There are however additional advantages: a lower number of cars and drivers to drive these people around and some saved administrative staff expenses and work-time. Most of all, a less complex process of negotiation among Commissioners in these bodies might ensure a more rapid agreement and more effective decision-making aptitude. However this too might not be true if those who are to leave are the best members of the Board and the worse are left with greater power (always under the assumption that an equally good guy would have arrived to replace the one leaving in the absence of cuts).

And here we come to what really bothers me. As usual, when we deal with public sector, we look at the input in the process (including expenses) and never at the output (including quality of performance). Who are this people that we are cutting? How have they done? Did they really deserve to be cut? More importantly, how did their Institution fare compared to what was expected from it?

Take the Italian Antitrust Authority. Has its mission been accomplished so far with the effectiveness we wished for it? Take the Italian Authority for Public Procurement: has it done the same? Take CIVIT the Authority on Transparency: what has it done so far? And why didn’t we take this occasion to force the creation of an Anticorruption Agency with vastly increased powers?

These are 4 hugely important authorities for our country and the occasion should have been taken to reinforce their powers and their accountability. Zero on this. A lost occasion.

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