Transparency, anticorruption and integrity culture
Transparency is the ability of a government and of an administration to make accessible data and information to citizens, in a way in which they can participate to the public debate consciously. Transparency is an important tool to reduce asymmetric information between public authority and general public, moreover it represents the instrument through which public administrations and governments promote disclosure of the results related to policies and to decision-making processes’ integrity.
The public integrity refers to an established alignment and to a constant compliance with shared ethical values, principles and rules, in order to defend and prioritize public interest as opposed to public interests.
From the Open Government point of view, the access to data and information held by public administrations constitutes a tool with the aim of making known the activities and decision-making processes, reducing asymmetric information with citizens, firms and stakeholders. In the absence of this tool, on one hand, the general public is not able to monitor the actions of a public decision-maker, the quality of a work or the efficacy of a policy (lack of accountability), on the other hand, public administrations could not have all the information useful to plan and implement effectively public policies. The symmetric information is made possible through the provision of data and information; therefore, it allows to promote more appropriate forms of participation to decisions and more effective mechanisms of control on decision making processes’ integrity, on the quality of public expenditures and on the efficacy of public policies.
The transparency can be “pro-active” (pro-active disclosure) and “reactive” (reactive disclosure). The first is made through publication of data, documents and information in compliance with a duty arising from the law, the latter takes place by submitting a request of access (i.e., generalized civic access introduced by the Legislative Decree 97/2016) to data, information and documents held by the public administration.
The reactive transparency is made by different mechanisms of access to data and documents held by the public administration provided for by the rules. One of these mechanisms is represented by the above-mentioned generalized civic access.
The use of data in the detection of corruption phenomena is widely recognized as one of the most effective mechanisms to understand where and how corruption occurs and to fight it with increasingly refined measures. Many of OGP’s initiatives at international level are based on the openness and reuse of data for surveillance and detection of corruption.
The transparency of data and information, therefore, plays a fundamental role in the prevention of corruption, but also for the promotion of a culture of integrity and, specifically, of the integrity of public decision-making processes.
Transparency, anti-corruption and culture of integrity in the National Action Plans for open government
The initiatives contained in the National Action Plans must affect areas that prioritize integrity and safeguard public decision-making processes from undue interference of special interests, at all levels.
In 2021, OGP launched the Open Response + Open Recovery + Open Renewal campaign, a “call to arms” from the OGP Summit recommending to orient future actions and commitments in the National Action Plans towards the challenges ahead, which include anti-corruption, participation and defense of civic space.
In the last 10 years, 91 OGP member states made more than 700 actions in terms of promotion of public integrity, prevention and fight of corruption. 57% of these actions have been considered ambitious, while 21% of them have improved the quality and operation of democracy.
The results show that the value of the “open” approach in this area goes well beyond the effects of individual initiatives: some Member States use it to integrate their policies on preventing and fighting corruption within multi-sectoral and inter-ministerial strategies. Through the contribution of the Multistakeholder Forum, Governments have the opportunity to let Civil Society Organizations (OSC), national and local governments, and the private business community to interact in a single environment. In addition, at the international level, a process of continuous and community learning is taking place among the different actors involved: for example, following the Anti-Corruption Summit held in London in 2016, about 20 countries belonging to OGP have incorporated the commitments made within their Action Plans, with the aim of increasing the accountability of national decision-makers and providing transparency to the actions’ results.
OGP is the ideal context in which to discuss how to operationalize the decisions and commitments made in the various global forums currently active on the topic of anti-corruption: the G7, the UNGASS Conference (held in June 2021), the G20 Forum (October 2021), concluding with the OGP Global Summit in December 2021 and the Summit for Democracy promoted by the United States.
On the anti-corruption side, it is up to each country to build a comprehensive strategy that integrates the promotion of public integrity with the fight against and prevention of corruption. It is not only a matter of bringing to light the dynamics of corruption, but of building and maintaining mechanisms that can reduce the current information asymmetries. It is necessary to abandon the approach linked to anti-corruption as a practice for bringing out criminally relevant phenomena and choose, for the future, the promotion of a culture of integrity in public decision-making processes.
In Italy, also given the particular post-pandemic context, interest is evidently focused on the transparent use of the funds of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) and the economic measures adopted in response to COVID-19. The open government method represents the main antidote against the distorted use of these resources, which should be invested in the short term, respecting precise commitments and leading to transformative results.
In this perspective, in the process of co-construction of the 5th National Action Plan, relevant commitments for the prevention of corruption in Italy have found space. These commitments have the aim of supporting, in the implementation phase of the NRRP, a strengthening of the strategic plan, supporting the main actors in the prevention of corruption (Officers of the prevention of corruption), also through a greater involvement of civil society, public administrations and institutions.
In the area of promoting public integrity, of contrasting and preventing corruption, attention is paid to the following areas of intervention:
- promotion of integrity of public decision-makers;
- transparency of effective owners;
- protection of whistle-blowers;
- transparency of expenditures and opening up of public contracts;
- relaunch of corruption prevention policies;
- strategic coordination of policies for preventing and combating corruption;
- recovery of assets of illicit origin and social reuse of confiscated assets.