Court of Auditors on MiBACT: emergence, understaffing, delays on resources

The Court of Auditors approves an investigation into the MiBACT's Cultural Heritage Protection Fund, noting several critical issues: interventions devoted to the logic of emergencyism, staff shortages, delays on the allocation of resources (moreover, meager).

The Central Section for Control over the Management of State Administrations of the Court of Auditors approved, in Resolution 15/2020/G of Dec. 22, an investigation into the Cultural Heritage Protection Fund, the fund established by Law no. 190/2014 (the 2015 Stability Law) in the estimates of the Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Heritage and Tourism, with an initial allocation of 100 million euros for each year from 2016 to 2020 (later reduced, with dl 109/2018, by 10 million for 2019 and another 10 for 2020, and re-increased with additional resources by an additional 103 million euros for 2019 and 73.3 for 2020, for a total of 193 million for 2019 and 163.3 for 2020), then allocated to chapter 8099 of the state budget: The objective of the fund, subject to the opinion of the parliamentary committees and transmission to the Interministerial Committee for Economic Planning (CIPE), is to do maintenance and conservation of the country’s cultural heritage, identifying the priority interventions to be carried out, the resources to be allocated to each intervention, and the relevant timetable.

However, thesurvey found several critical issues. The report begins by highlighting how the MiBACT’s work is often guided by “the logic of the emergency nature of the interventions and their exclusively maintenance character of the cultural heritage; a critical profile, moreover, not attributable to a lack of diligence and professionalism of those who take care of the artistic heritage, but, rather, to scarce financial resources, which are meager compared to the extent of the cultural heritage present in our country.” And again, according to the Court of Auditors, “the type and complexity of the protection and conservation of public property, the management of interventions has mostly appeared marked by a logic of emergency not linked to that virtuous circuit of a ’multi-year planning’ that had originated the establishment of the Fund itself.” For this reason, the survey says, “more multi-year planning should be pursued, not forgetting to match adequate tools in terms of both economic and human resources that would allow its effective implementation.”

The Fund for Cultural Heritage Interventions had been envisioned as a tool to get away from the logic of the emergency nature of interventions and their exclusively maintenance-oriented character, and that it would be able to carry out a procedure from the territory towards the center that is complex, rigorous and different from ordinary planning, as well as monitoring of program implementation by MiBACT’s central offices on the basis of timetables. The Court of Auditors, however, noted several critical issues, first among them the fact that the fund is still “oriented in the perspective of interventions of an emergency nature as evidenced, in general, by the reading of the projects activated in the territory in which mostly maintenance purposes (ordinary and extraordinary) prevail, with a character of urgency and/or securing and recovery of the heritage, in almost all sectors (archives, libraries, museums etc.).”

But that’s not all: according to the Court of Auditors, there are also “delays in the allocation of adequate resources,”“along with the consideration that, given the size of the cultural heritage, in our country, investment often takes on the nature of ordinary predictability.” Still, the articulation of the MiBACT on the territory, according to the Court of Auditors, “requires a necessary and close coordination between the different levels of government (State and Regions) especially in the planning phase of interventions: in this sense the operational methods introduced for the detection of the needs of the territory with the contribution from the Regional Secretariats and the peripheral offices are in the direction of carrying out a survey of specific needs but (the same element of criticality arises here) there is a need for certain financial resources oriented within an overall strategic framework as well as to implement the technical-scientific skills of the administrative staff highlighting, moreover, the large shortage of staff present at MiBACT.”

With regard to the interventions planned for the three-year period 2016-2018 and for the years 2019 and 2020, information on the timing of implementation, or the so-called chronoprogram, was missing. The Corte dei Conti then notes, moreover, that in the three-year period 2016-2018, the original program was reshaped several times and, “except for the purposes Security and Art bonus, there is no knowledge of the motivation that led to revise, in terms of integration and / or update and / or assumption of new interventions, the programming, or the cause of the defunding (e.g. failure to identify the contractor and / or criticality in the implementation of the work subject to grant).” MiBACT, heard by the Court of Auditors, made it known that the revision of the interventions provided for in the original programming was carried out “only as a result of documented and justified requests from the peripheral ministerial structures promoting the interventions themselves and in theprocess followed, albeit partially simplified - in order not to further aggravate the procedural timeline - involved, always, the different institutional subjects, such as the Superintendencies, the Regional Secretariats, the competent General Directorates, the technical-scientific Committees, and, finally, the Control Bodies.” Finally, it is learned that, for the three-year period 2016-2018 and for the biennium 2019-2020, “the opinion of the Higher Council on planning does not appear on file,” and that even the remodulations “have not been placed under the scrutiny and verification of either the body or the CIPE,” in addition, for the biennium 2019-2020, “it is reported that the deadline of January 31 has not been met.”

What should MiBACT do, in conclusion, according to the Court of Auditors? Two points seem unavoidable, as stated in the final lines of the report: the first is “the path of sharing on the territory with local autonomies,” and the second is to take into account “the survey of needs not abstracting it, however, from a national strategic vision that knows how to give back to the country and to the community a cultural heritage restored also through a less fragmentation of the dedicated financial resources and an effective planning and monitoring of the necessary interventions.” In essence: closer relations with the territory, less fragmented resources, more effective planning and monitoring.

Pictured: the headquarters of the Court of Auditors. Ph. Carlo Dani

Court of Auditors on MiBACT: emergence, understaffing, delays on resources
Court of Auditors on MiBACT: emergence, understaffing, delays on resources