There are things that damage public money even more than malpractice: indifference, approximation, sloppiness, and silence. Often, these things go hand in hand, causing devastating effects to the Italian system. One of the last sentences, in chronological order, that sheds light on public administrators who stir the pot, was the Piedmont section of the Court of Auditors (Case 25/2016), which ordered Director General of the Territorial Agency Casa di Asti (the period January 2004 – February 2014) to pay back 500 000 euro, whereas 100 000 more were asked of the Chief Accounting office for not having checked and denounced what was happening.
And what was going on – repeated for two decades – was no small matter: withdrawals of 4,443,681 euro at the hand of the Treasury ATC by the use of irregular warrants, cash withdrawn from OPR for over 2 million euro, as well as cash that disappeared from ATC (159 806 euro), withdrawals from post account for 1756 euro more. For a total of 8 million 426 thousand euro and coins disappeared from public coffers. All operations made by the Administrative Director with the endorsement of his superior and the “willingness” of the subject.
Among the most absurd things that happened there is the opening of a “personal” post account where ended some of the rents of housing beneficiaries, the cost of water, electricity and energy prices, as well as the service. A bank account opened by the Administrative Manager without the Board of Managers knowing anything about it, enclosing a falsified resolution in order to deceive the Post Office responsible for receiving the request. And even the existence of secretly activated credit cards, used by the same “genius” of scam. All public money, the money of ordinary people: a slap in the face of those who struggle to make ends meet to.
The protagonist of this story was a criminal who was sentenced to four years of imprisonment. But how on earth was he allowed to do all those things? The incredible, yet true answer is written in the sentence itself: “… since he blindly trusted the administrative Director, he (the Director-General, ed) did not bother even to sing the money orders, despite the internal rules required him to do so”, let alone checking the content of those money orders. The accounting judges put it well: “basic diligence required from those who are responsible for managing a public entity and for handling public money” was missing.
On the other hand – they thought – the Accounting Office was supposed to check the details of the money transfers. In fact, the office boss noticed a few – perhaps a bit more than a few – suspect things. Too bad he did not tell anyone. Indeed, actually it reported it to the con man himself who in reply ordered him to be confined to implement the provisions “because he was responsible, and I should not worry.” The head of the Accounting Department should have represented instead the situation at the Entity or at the supervisory board leadership, so as to allow them to take action.
A partial excuse may be the fact that in the Italy of scoundrels you never know whether a complaint is successful or whether it represents the quickest way to lose one’s job. That’s how things work (albeit poorly) in most of the Italian public administration: there are arches who want to make money on public money, there are those who are distracted and do not check what they are supposed to check, finally, there are people who prefer to mind their own business although they know. Too bad, because upon closer (at least a bit closer) inspection, we could have avoided this money hemorrhage – with a sentence or without one – will never end up in public treasury again. And we would have avoided to make a bad impression on an entire category of workers, in which there are many honest and hardworking people.
However, given the ongoing “criminal news”, we should believe today that it would have been difficult for Dante to distribute places in the V Bedlam Eighth Circle to the wretched guilty of having used their public positions to enrich themselves, selling provisions, permissions, and privileges (today’s crime of “bribery”). Meanwhile, Italy descends to Hell.