We hear talking about the ‘wastefulness’ of the public administration every day, but usually the term is a journalistic elaboration that refers to specific episodes. It is less common for this term to be inserted tout court in a sentence of the judiciary. Yet, we have reached this point as well Moreover, we have done so in relation to a hot topic such as waste management which has been the subject of extensive and glaring investigations on the combination of crime and politics.
This time it is not about the underworld, but about a “symbol case” of inefficiency and administrative carelessness which – from a certain point of view – is even worse. A 900,000 euros loss “due to waste of public money connected to the construction and the management of a leachates processing plant for the landfill of Cupinoro”, close to Bracciano town, a few kilometres away from the capital. This is what write the judges of the Court of Auditors, legal section of Lazio, in the decree 367, published during the current month of August.
But let us take it step by step and keep in mind a few questions. What do we expect after having paid taxes? Obviously, well-functioning services. And if the Municipality decides to invest a lot of public money in a project which, in theory, should allow us to save money? –For the Municipality to check that everything runs smoothly, to analyse thoroughly the initial project, to take action if things take a bad twist. And if environment is involved as well? –Keener attention, since it is not just about money anymore, but also about the health of the planet and that of its inhabitants. Those questions seem to be rhetorical, banalities that should not deserve even a few lines. Yes, this is how things should work. Yet, this is not the case.
The administrative law judges have proved that the Cupinoro plant for leachates processing is an ineffective work – they write – the results thwart the expenditure for its implementation”. More than just that, there are “additional costs for disposal in other plants of the leachates that have not been processed by this one”.
Back in time, Italy’s black beast were the “cathedrals in the desert”, works that have begun, but never finished. At present, we have switched to structures that are perfectly (poorly) functioning, apparently working and intrinsically useless. If we consider that the considered plant, due to the contribution of the biogas from another plant, was supposed to provide the entire energy requirements (about 750,000 Kcal.=872 KWT.) of the Bracciano town, what a perverse inefficiency has been established instead.
To the operational damages must be added – according to the administrative law judges – managerial inertia: the municipal bodies, in fact, “did not take – recites the sentence – any legal action, not even claims for compensation, against the owners in order to recover the considerable costs, both for the implementation of the plant, and for the disposal of the leachates it has not processed”.
Put otherwise, public money have been invested into the actualization of a project that does not work; more money paid to take elsewhere what it should have been able to dispose of, but did not; no efficiency and quality control, no desire to return to the Municipality, hence to the citizens, money they have paid for nothing. All those initiatives – according to the Prosecutor’s Office – “would have been necessary and right”.
If things do not work in Italy, it is also – and perhaps, primarily – for the following reasons: poor planning abilities, lack of control, laxity in recovering damages, public money that does not seem to have any value when it gets into the hands of the administrators. Thus, in this structural approximation, we navigate on sight and often – way too often – choose the wrong route.
In technical terms, in Cupinoro “due to a deficit of biogas processing … there has been a deficit of supply to the plant which has not only rendered necessary the installation of a boiler fuelled by fossils, 350,000 kcal of power, with all the costs it implies, but especially, it has rendered necessary for the Bracciano Environment to use third parties in order to dispose of the leachates”.
Yet, what hurts the most is the “total lack of interest – as the magistrates define it – in the deleterious consequences of the persistence of this situation of disservice in which it would have, and actually has, resulted”. A slap in the face of the diligence of a good head of the family. Who would run their own household this way?!
At last, the mayor of Bracciano Giuliano Sala – considered by the judges to be the missing link in the control chain- has been sentenced to pay back 900,000 euros of public money. A decision that, left aside his person, raises the question of a certain way of managing the government’s money, certainly not limited to this case alone. At a time when citizens are asked for sacrifices that are almost unbearable, the elected politicians should learn again to understand the true sense of the word “Administrators”, because this is what they are voted for.