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Is Civil Society Self-Regulation an Effective Means of Accountability? The Case of the Roman Third-Sector and the Scandal “Mafia Capitale”

Tue, July 10, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Room, 8A 20


In December 2014, the “Mafia Capitale” scandal revealed a network of corrupt relationships between politicians, managers of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and criminals operating in Rome. Threatened by strict government regulation and critical public opinion, Il Forum del Terzo Settore (‘FTS’) – a reputable and established network of CSOs based in Rome - adopted of a code of conduct named La Carta dei Valori (July 2015). This inter-organisational self-regulatory initiative requires CSOs belonging to FTS to disclose a series of information on their websites, putting particular emphasis on the concept of transparency. However, self-regulatory instruments have been often criticised as they do not offer any compliance and enforcement mechanisms, leading to inconsistent implementation. Moreover, there is little empirical evidence about the effectiveness of self-regulation in making CSOs more accountable to their stakeholders, especially their beneficiaries. Starting from these observations, the purpose of this paper is twofold. On the one hand, it aims to analyse the extent to which La Carta dei Valori addressees the issue of beneficiaries’ accountability, evaluating critically its regulatory structure and motivational drivers. On the other hand, it aims to understand whether self-regulation can be an effective tool of accountability, mapping out the reasons of non-compliance with self-regulatory standards. Methodologically, the test of effectiveness will be conducted on La Carta dei Valori by employing the blueprint designed by the One World Trust London, which indicates accurately how to measure the effectiveness of a self-regulatory instrument. Qualitative and Quantitative data gathered during fieldwork in Rome (April-June 2017), through direct interaction with FTS, are used to conduct the test of effectiveness. It will be submitted that CSOs failed to address the issue of beneficiaries’ accountability through la Carta dei Valori and that the latter has been developed primarily as a tool to protect the autonomy and the credibility of the sector as whole. The paper will also show that there are many reasons and obstacles behind non-compliance, which do not depend entirely on CSOs’ commitment to observe self-regulatory norms.