ROMA ARCHEOLOGICA & RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA. THE IMPERIAL FORA, MAYOR IGNAZIO MARINO BEGS SAUDI ARABIA FOR MILLIONS OF EURO’S FOR UPKEEP OF THE FORA, YET, ITALY & ROME WASTE BILLIONS OF EUROS. CORRIERE DELLA SERA (15 JANUARY 2015).
Municipalities’ Spending Madness – Website compares local authority accounts. Pedesina, Italy’s smallest town, has 33 residents and 12 councillors. Every Micigliano resident forks out €356 for lawyers’ fees. CORRIERE DELLA SERA (15 JANUARY 2015).
ITALIA – L’INCHIESTA LE SPESE DEI MUNICIPI, Il Comune che investe in matite e quello che sperpera per le liti Un sito web mette a confronto i bilanci delle amministrazioni: il paese più piccolo d’Italia, Pedesina (Sondrio) conta 12 consiglieri su 33 abitanti. Micigliano spende 356 euro pro capite in parcelle di avvocati. CORRIERE DELLA SERA (15|01|2015).
ROME – The only item missing from the accounts of Italy’s municipalities is “miscellaneous”. Everything else is there with descriptions so vague they leave you wondering what’s going on. For example, “repayment of cash advances”. What does that mean? Who can say? But it costs €4.5 billion. That’s as much as IMU property tax on first homes. Today, a new website has put all this online so that at last, taxpayers can compare how much is spent on the same things, from stationery to office plants, by Italy’s 8,000-plus municipalities. Hallelujah! Of course, this impressive piece of work needs to be edited and its many vague descriptions need to be clarified. But soldipubblici.mgpf.it is an endless treasure trove of essential information, ridiculous numbers and eyebrow-raising facts. Browse the site for a while and you ask yourself questions like “who is feuding at Micigliano in the province of Rieti?”, where they spent €356 per resident on “litigation and legal costs”. Pisa, in contrast, spent just €0.01 and thousands of other authorities spent nothing at all. Ask “what animals did they buy at Barengo, in the province of Novara?” where the per-capita figure is over €26 against €0.02 at Nocera Inferiore. And what about the “global service” [in English in the original – Trans.] for which Spoleto paid almost €217 per resident while Pavia did without completely?
Tax code shambles
In reality, many of the figures should be handled with care. Clearly, the municipality of Longarone did not spend €1.5 million of public money per resident. The problem is that the Bank of Italy’s original SIOPE (public institution operations information system) databank has not been updated with recent developments. In the meantime, Longarone has merged with Castellazzo and has 5,433 residents, not six. Worse, the new municipality has kept its old name but now has two ISTAT statistics codes and two tax codes. Similar mix-ups affect six more municipalities: Montoro, Fabbriche di Vergemoli, Scarperia, San Piero, Tremezzina and Val Brembilla. It’s a shame, of course, but offset by the enormous quantity of figures that enable residents of Portofino, Bergolo, Marsala or Luserna to make comparisons for the first time. Italians can now work out whether their municipality is better or worse run than its neighbours. And hold the administrators to account. Once the municipalities have cleared up one or two minor reporting inaccuracies, transparency should permit greater public control over accounts. This will have the knock-on effect of reining in spending and also corruption, which thrives on chaotic bookkeeping.
The team and the holes in the system
Hats off to Riccardo Luna, a journalist specialising in innovative start-up companies who has been publicly thanked for his efforts by Matteo Renzi. And long live Giovanni Meduni’s team at Milan Polytechnic, who used the SIOPE figures to launch the soldipubblici.gov.it website, scrupulously highlighting the initial incongruities. And raise your glasses to Matteo Flora of Milan-based online reputation management and legal protection service The Fool, who took the next step of setting up the soldipubblici.mgpf.it portal and giving everyone a chance to view rankings and per-capita figures for the various expense categories. Clearly, the system is less than perfect on item nomenclature. What’s the difference between “external professional contracts” and “professional contracts”? Even worse, as we said above, some of the items have such non-specific descriptions that they leave ample room for interpretation, including “other expenses for services”, “other taxes”, “other infrastructures” and the like. Indisputably, a change in the rules is needed to lay down once and for all the nomenclature to be used by ministries, regions, provinces (while they still exist) and local authorities. This will enable us to know whether that “other service contracts” item refers to a fireworks display, political schmoozing over dinner or a contract for the town drains.
Let’s go back to the €4.5 billion of “repayment of cash advances”, half the amount municipalities spent on staff wages in 2014 (€9 billion). How was the money used? No one knows, except municipal cashiers for this is money they are entrusted with for payments made in cash without a receipt. Some form of receipt could well arrive the following month, when it might turn out that the money was used for travel or training. Or you might be able to work it out from the accounts. But the SIOPE classification says nothing more, which is madness. Transparency means no grey areas. There are other overlaps and complications that look specially designed to hinder understanding. What about the “current transfers to public service enterprises” (€253 million) and “current transfers to special companies” (€220 million), “current transfers to other public-sector institutions” (€1.3 billion!), “current transfers to others”, “capital transfers to others” or “current transfers to public enterprises”? What are we talking about? Tell me, please.
What is the difference between money spent on “cultural, historical, archaeological and artistic assets” and cash for “works of art”? And how do you tell spending on “civil buildings for residential, commercial and institutional use” (€1.3 billion!) from “leases” (€389 million), “other real property” (€1.552 billion!), “ordinary maintenance and repair of real property” (€ 752 million!) or the €571.6 million of “other expenses for ordinary maintenance and repair”? What’s the difference between “representation assets” and “representation services”? Nor is there any guarantee that all the municipalities register the same expenses under the same names. The clerk who actually fills in the figures has a duty to insert a code but it is the clerk who selects which one. The clerk! The treasurer who makes the payment is under an obligation to check that there is a code but not that it is correct. Things will stay that way until 15 March, when electronic invoicing becomes mandatory for public administrations and – God willing – the issue will no longer exist.
Yet despite the tangle, it is possible to find out about how local authorities spend money, thanks above all to a number the computer buffs have put next to each figure: the per-capita value. That little number tells us that some of Italy’s minuscule municipalities make little sense. The smallest of all, Pedesina, pays out €9,358 for the mayor’s and councillors’ allowances, almost the same as “charges for staff on open-ended contracts” (€9,679), which could be one part-time office worker. That comes to €283 per capita. Understandable, with just 33 residents, one mayor and 11 councillors. Moncenisio has 11 councillors, 34 residents and spends even more: €15,449. That’s €454 each and makes the municipality in the province of Turin the Italian town that sets aside most money per head to maintain its administrators. The same goes for consultancy work, if that’s what “professional contracts” means. Moncenisio spent €955 per capita last year for a total of €32,495 million. In absolute terms it’s not very much and certainly nothing in comparison to the €75.1 million (€28 per capita) that Rome handed over. But it does speak volumes about the need to merge the mini-municipalities – in full respect of local traditions and the right of representation – in order to bring spending under control.
Per-capita comparisons can be ruthless. In Rome, local administrators cost €7.8 million, or €2 per resident, a figure that rises to €3 in Milan, €5 in Naples, €6 in Palermo, €11 in Cosenza, €12 in Siracusa and Caserta, €13 in Bolzano, €14 in Messina, €15 in Chieti, €22 in Vibo Valentia and €24 in Aosta. Obviously, the smaller the municipality, the more the same service is going to cost. But nationwide regulation of attendance fees in proportion to the number of residents looks unavoidable. That €498 million allocated in 2014 for councillors’ allowances and attendance fees could be distributed more equitably. Shall we look at one of the largest items? Waste disposal costs Italians almost €8.5 billion a year. In 2014, Naples paid €305 per resident for the service while Venetians shelled out €318. In a city where the tourists outnumber residents by three to one on a daily basis, separate waste collection is a huge challenge but how did they manage to spend €684 per head at Porto Cesareo, €760 on Capri or €802 at Caorle? However, high per-capita spending is not necessarily indicative of a lack of efficiency. Take local public transport, where Milan is the top spender on €621 per resident against Rome’s €265, the €230 of Naples, Brescia’s €263 and just €85 in Palermo. The quality of transport services in Rome, Palermo or Naples is not even remotely comparable to Milan’s. Takings from tickets in Rome are barely half of those in Milan and the capital’s ATAC transport authority would have folded by now if it were a private company.
Spending on schools
And so on to education services. Milan spends €33 per resident, which is nothing compared to the €118 of Italy’s richest municipality, Basiglio, or €108 in Ferrari’s home town of Maranello. But compared with Potenza’s €21, €33 is a lot of money. Or in comparison with Florence’s €17, Livorno’s €11, Catania and Latina’s €8, Cagliari’s €7 or Catanzaro’s €6. Honestly, are we sure that Milan’s school services are worth three times as much as Livorno’s? This is where the comparisons come in. How could Milan have spent €23 per capita in 2014 for “ancillary services and cleaning” when Rome got by with just €7? Some might say you can see the difference but what about Potenza, which splashed out €103? Or Salerno on €120? And did Muggia get value for its €138 when its neighbour, Trieste, spent a third of that sum (€44)? Is the gulf that great or is there something that doesn’t quite add up?
Regarding those miscellaneous items, what sort of “other consumables” are worth €518 million? Ragusa spent more than anywhere else, with the Alto Adige village of Tires topping the per-capita rankings, but what did they by? Marker pens? Photocopiers? Skis, perhaps? And why did Rome spend €77.1 million on “means of transport” in the past year against Milan’s €4.2 million? Unexpected unbudgeted expenses? One thing is certain. Once the online database is updated with the corrections and clarifications from the municipalities, nothing will ever be the same. Even today, residents of Pomezia have a right to be told why their town spent €1.4 million on “paper, stationery and printed matter”, which is more than Milan (€988,000), Catania (€971,000) or Rome (€769,000). Over in Roio del Sangro, they’ll want to know why their municipality spends €53 a head on “publications, newspapers and periodicals” against Trento’s €2. And why did Cittareale spend €186 a head on “foodstuffs”? These are hard times indeed for spendthrift administrators, provided people are not content with this first taste of transparency and set about getting accounts drafted sensibly. And provided on-line municipal accounts are followed by regional and ministerial balance sheets set out with equally clarity. For now, though, regions and ministries seem to be a bit deaf.
FONTE | SOURCE:
— Municipalities’ Spending Madness – Website compares local authority accounts. Pedesina, Italy’s smallest town, has 33 residents and 12 councillors. Every Micigliano resident forks out €356 for lawyers’ fees. CORRIERE DELLA SERA (15 JANUARY 2015).
FOTO | FONTE | SOURCE:
ROME – President Ilham Aliyev visited the Mercati di Traiano museum in Rome where he met with Mayor Ignazio Marino and answered questions from Italian journalists. AZERBAIJAN STATE TELEGRAPH AGENCY (14.07.2014).
— ROMA ARCHEOLOGIA e I FORI IMPERIALI: Il Foro di Augusto, Mecenati per i Fori imperiali. Sindaco Marino, ‘Sauditi interessati al restauro, in particolare un principe sultano’, ANSA.IT. (08|04|2014).