Italy's financial police have released statistics about the state of fraud and corruption in Italy's public sector, showing that of the $5bn worth of public contracts last year, about $1.62bn were lost in cases of fraud and another $2.81bn was squandered.

The Financial Guard, an Italian police agency under the economy ministry's authority, revealed their 2014 annual report on Wednesday, saying they have reported 3,700 people for crimes against public administration.

According to the statement, one out of every three public contracts had irregularities.

The report came a week after Italy's Senate approved a landmark anti-corruption bill that stiffens penalties for fraud against public and private companies. The legislation, which won 165 votes out of 252, will now pass to Italy's lower house to be debated by the parliament.

The new measures are part of a growing crackdown by President Sergio Mattarella's administration against the country's widespread and longstanding culture of corruption.

Anti-corruption probes

Claudia Pensotti, a Milan-based CNBC reporter, told Al Jazeera that the government's intitiatives against graft signal "tides of change".

"There is a feeling across Italy that change is coming", she said.

She said that past governments talked about fighting corruption, but the current administration is actually making moves in an effort to attract foreign investment and bring economic stability.

Recently, major anti-corruption probes have targeted contracts for Milan's Expo world's fair, Venice's Moses underwater barrier project, and the reconstruction of the southern city of L'Aquila after it faced a devastating earthquake in 2009, the Associated Press reported.

Jiuseppe Marino, an international tax law professor at the University of Milan, blamed the rise in corruption on a "vicious combination of the economic crisis and the Italian state's presence in all aspects of society".

"The Italian government is not just a regulator, but a player acting through companies," he told Al Jazeera, adding that "the quickest way is to get money from the cash cow, which is the public sector".

Source: Al Jazeera