Reconstruction in Italy: We need transparency and monitoring activities 

It’s true, “Italians do their best in moments of emergency.” Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said it after the earthquake that devastated central Italy on 24 August. Italy’s President echoed the Prime Minister and we all tell it to ourselves every time that the images remind us that we are a country that rolls up its sleeves after a disaster.

Yes, social solidarity exists and it is sincere. What has been lacking are seriousness and responsibility. We recognise that we cannot always appeal to the hearts of people. Primarily we should discuss our commitments to adopt strict regulations and then respect and enforce them.

The same approach to crisis management that was adopted in L’Aquila in 2009 is simply not acceptable. Seven years have passed. How many promises were made immediately after the disaster? We cannot even count them anymore. One above all: reconstruction promises. Seven years have passed and L’Aquila is still a huge construction site.

During all this time we found evidence of mafia infiltration and corrupt practices that have paved the way to disaster. All of this was avoidable. The same happened on L’Aquila’s rubble, which became a fertile ground for speculations that do not take into consideration the pain of those who have lost everything, nor the efforts and the solidarity of which we are all proud.

Our Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre recorded a story of the reconstruction work in L’Aquila. In 2015, an anonymous whistleblower exposed the internal mismanagement in the consortium that dealt with building their new home. It was a company which entrusted its work to manufacturers and other companies already under investigation for the use of substandard building materials.

If the contracts and public procurement awards for reconstruction have become easily subjected to robbery, corruption and illegal practices, it is down to the lack of transparency afflicting our country.

There are tools, such as Integrity Pacts, which ensure greater transparency and a fairness of tenders. They contribute to the realisation of successful projects and allow the public to save money and respect their scope. They are also a strong deterrent against corruption, before, during and after the development of the projects. This allows a constant monitoring by civil society and citizens.

Prime Minister Renzi announced that “[t]he reconstruction will take place in the most transparent way, with the help of structures that we recently created, such as the Anti-Corruption Authority and through online transparency. Every Euro of aid and expenses will be verified and tracked. Starting with the money sent by text messages to the Italian civil protection. The most important thing is that all we have to keep alive the presence of communities in the territory. Every place has a soul, they are not just postcards from beautiful tiny villages.”

Therefore, we need transparency, monitoring activities and participation: the worst enemies of corruption, which have to be seriously and effectively adopted and implemented.

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