Italy’s financial police have been digging into how public money in Italy is spent, as reported by Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera today.
What they discovered is that substantial amounts of public money are not so much spent as squandered, or simply stolen. Such are the effects of corruption in Italy.
Corruption, wasteful spending, and embezzlement cost Italy’s tax payers more than €3 billion in the first half of 2015. Pending court cases will add to that sum.
Apparently, 4,835 public sector employees and politicians have managed to squander or appropriate an average per head of around €620,000. By the end of 2015, the effects of corruption, embezzlement, and wasteful spending will mean the average will hit over €1.2 million a head – a not inconsiderable sum. And that’s only for 2015. What about prior years?
Those responsible for such over spending include public sector officials, physicians, politicians, and other public sector employees.
Unreal Estate Management
One reason for the waste is reportedly appalling real estate management. Publicly owned apartments are rented out for, wait for it: €7 a month! Yes, that is seven Euros a month – no typo.
Public sector mismanagement is rife in Italy’s health sector too. Allegedly, 83 physician-managers managed to defraud Italy’s tax payers of €6 million.
The Training Black Hole
Spending on training courses is another black hole for public money in Italy. In Sicily, around €47 million was used to fund training courses which were never held.
The Costly Bari Rail Carriages Deal
As well as real estate maladministration, health service fraud and spending on training courses that never took place, there the case of spending on rail carriages.
In Bari, just under €1 million was spent on 25 carriages which were then sold and refurbished in Poland (Poland?!) at a cost of €7 million. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the refurbished rail carriages were then re-purchased for a whopping €22 million. Someone, somewhere, did rather well out of that little deal, one suspects.
Competitive tenders do not always happen in Italy and reputedly didn’t in around 90% of cases in mafia-infested Rome.
Justice Adds to the Cost of Corruption
Quite a number of the culprits have been rounded up which will result in several thousand costly court cases. That €6 billion could easily become €7 billion or even more after the courts cases have proceeded though Italy’s snails pace slow justice system.
€6 billion could be used so much more productively. Such is Italy. One day it may even wake up to the effect of corruption and its cost on Italian society, not to mention Italy’s cripplingly high taxes.
Who appoints these ‘managers’? Generally, the appointments are overseen by Italy’s somewhat ethically-challenged politicians. And more to the point, who keeps an eye on what they are up to? Once again, Italy’s generously paid politicians should be monitoring spending. They have not been doing a very good job, now have they?
Italy could literally save billions if it ever bothers to take the effects of corruption seriously. Will it? Well, the fact that Italy’s finance police have been investigating is a good sign. Let’s hope they continue.