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Petty theivery by petty politicians PDF Print E-mail
Jan 20, 2014 at 11:35 PM

ImageA few years ago, people in the U.K. (and not only) were shocked to learn that many British parliamentarians were cheating the taxpayers, primarily by putting in for – and receiving – reimbursements for inappropriate expenditures. I recall being quite startled, having imagined that the average British MP thought of him- or herself as a public servant and was unlikely to behave in an unethical manner. If the Italians did it, I would be much less surprised, I remember thinking.

 Well, now the Italians have done it, or rather, are doing it. Over the last year a series of scandals have erupted, not on a national level, but in many of Italy’s 20 regions, each of which is governed by a parliament and an executive, and to which falls the administration of certain key government sectors, for example health, culture, tourism, economic development and so forth. In regional parliament, the known as the consiglio regionale, elected officials are divided into political groups, each of which receives subsidies from the region to fund its activities and ostensibly to help its consiglieri better perform their duties. Regional councilors are currently under investigation in more than a half the regions, north, south and center included, and the other day, the Italian daily paper, La Stampa, obligingly presented a list of some of the most blatent, embarrassing, and even absurd instances of this kind of misappropriation.

Here are some examples (one doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry):

Sardinia. Salvatore Ladu (Democratic Party) received 10,500 euros for the purchase of 30 sheep and one calf.

Piedmont. Robeto Boniperti (FreedomPeoples’ Party), 153€ for gorgonzola cheese.

Lombardy. Carlo Spreafico, one jar of Nutella, 2.50€

Piedmont. Gianfranco Novero (Northern League). Catering expenses of 465€ for grandson’s baptism.

Molise. Gennaro Chiercia (Socialist Party). Supemarket snack, 80€.

Emilia Romagna. Thomas Casadei (Democratic Party), .50€ for admission to a portable toilet.

 

Other items have included luxury pens, underwear, SUVs, televisions, furniture, cat food, books, sweatshirts, Barbie dolls, teddy bears, household appliances, golf clubs, an ivory tusk, ticket to a pole dance show,  dog grooming, paper airplanes shampoo, hair dye and unpaid traffic tickets.

 

At the moment, it is impossible to say what kind of a dent all this nationwide thievery has made in  public coffers but it is likely to be a whole lot. In Liguria alone, the parliamentary leader of the Italy of Values party alone, is currently under investgation for having allowed his handful of colleagues to dissipate something like 70,000€.

I do not want to believe that all the 1,100 regional MPs in Italy are guilty of such misconduct. But there is no doubt that at this point in time only a minority of people in public office think of themselves as public servants, Thirty or forty years ago, Italy’s major problem was that of ideology; most politicians were trapped in this or that mind frame. Today it appears that for many the only point of getting into the public realm is to try and milk it for every euro it is worth.

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