Libellula – a civic monitoring lab and a format to build and sustain a local civic monitoring coalition

Libellula is a laboratory for civic monitoring of local public spending and a format to build and sustain a local civic monitoring coalition. The first lab is based in Messina, Sicily. Moving from monitoring a specific case, Libellula aims at building a civic multi-stakeholder coalition which, while monitoring, simultaneously cultivates skills and capabilities of those involved to advocate for transparent and collaborative public spending in order to address the misuse of public money.

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Libellulae (dragonflies) are insects characterized by large, multifaceted eyes, each of which relies on many lenses and points to different directions. Metaphorically, in our project, this is exactly what civic monitoring should be: a multi-stakeholder coalition connected by a common project which is also able to tackle problems and challenges from different perspectives and according to different skills. As a laboratory for civic monitoring on public spending, Libellula addresses the problem of a chronic misuse and waste of public resources, which is a critical problem in economically disadvantaged territories, like ours.

Southern Italy trails the rest of Italy on most development indicators. Development funds could reduce this gap. The large portfolio of funds dedicated to Italy, combined with chronic misuse of funds and corruption stories, explain why this is a hot topic in our country, and in our city as well.
Integrity Pacts (IPs) represent the tool recently devised by the European Union to address this problem. There is an EU Commission ongoing pilot program “Integrity Pacts - Civil Control Mechanism for Safeguarding EU Funds” which aims at providing a valuable tool for citizens to collaborate in safeguarding public spending, thus enhancing a stronger participation of civil society in the process of spending EU Funds. The pilot results so far have been promising: in terms of dissemination, we succeed in building a model that reuses the EU pilot program methodology and provides sustainability for the IP implementation.

An initial, experimental implementation is ongoing in Messina. The University of Messina, on our invitation, has officially committed to sign the IP and is participating with this commitment in the Italian Open Government National Action Plan. Libellula can therefore officially count on a local organisation that opens a pilot public procurement - the new University Library, a contract worth about 2.5 million euros - to civic monitoring practices. The signature on the pact is expected by the end of April.
The new feature in our experimentation is the ways of ensuring the IP sustainability. In Messina we built a legal framework that ensures the use of the small percentage of the total amount of the pilot procurement that is  monitored to be used to fund the IP implementation. The University of Messina agreed on such a model and the small percentage will co-fund Libellula and its activities. The project is also funded by The Open Society Initiative for Europe.

The final goal of the project is to show that in dysfunctional, slow-growing contexts, participation applied to public spending processes is a valuable investment for public administrations because its cost is largely repaid in direct (avoided losses, expenditures’ impact) and indirect (fastening of growth) terms. Specifically in economically problematic contexts this investment in civic engagement benefits a large spectrum of local communities. It benefits local administrations and local communities alike, since it provides an innovative tool to prevent inefficient spending of public resources and thus it enhances chances for economic growth and development. It benefits local communities, and specific actors of the local community, since it allows citizens to actively take part in projects involving their territory. In this sense, civic monitoring by means of IP on ineffective municipal spending could be a valuable way to foster the local transition to open government. By finding resources where these are misused, this model allows to sustain civil society at the local level, thus being a stable intermediate body to link local governments with citizens.

At this stage, Libellula is already structurally institutionalized with a specific commitment into the Italian OGP National Action Plan. As it will be demonstrated after, this model could be easily replicated in various local contexts showing signs of sensitization of civic monitoring practices both on the political and the civil society side. In order to promote replication, together with Transparency International Italia, ActionAid and Amapola - the main Italian stakeholders in the IP fields, already involved in the EU Commission program - we are contributing to building a national coalition around IP, composed both by public administrations willing to experiment with open government practices and locally based civil society. The Municipality of Palermo and the Sicilian Region already committed, on the invitation extended by the Parliament Watch Italia, to implement IP in the Italian NAP. Other local contexts, such the Simeto Valley (near Catania, in Sicily) and the Municipality of Padova could join soon. They are joining Milano, Cagliari, Sibari and Madonie, where IP are already implemented in the EU Commission framework.

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Year: 2019
Organisation Type: Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO)

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