In Italy, the recently launched spending review process seems the only alternative to budgetary cutbacks centrally applied across the board. Fighting waste and corruption while making administrative agencies more effcient and accountable to citizens is a key priority for local and regional governments as well. Yet, current spending reviews are conducted on aggregated broad-based appropriations of public spending and are, then, unable to generate that "usable" knowledge, which regional and local policy makers and managers can rely on for policy design and implementation. Indeed, a centralistic and technocratic modus operandi, heavily relying on civil service downsizing, risks undermining spending review effectiveness as public oversight tool, and reinforcing coercive isomorphism at the expense of political legitimacy and cultural acceptance of administrative performance assessments. This paper addresses such questions as on how a democratic "would-be federal" state operates and to what extent consolidation of public finances can be reckoned as an overriding goal against efficiency and accountability considerations at the local level. Three issues emerge are key to reform: (i) what human resources public administration should invest on to adequately govern localities as well as regions; (ii) what measures are effective to fight waste and corruption; and (iii) what reliability and plausibility current performance measurement have with respect to actual public services offered to citizens.
Keywords: Evaluation; spending review; federalism; accountability.