Absenteeism and other bad behavior by Italian civil servants costs Italy millions


Two at a time. Mine and my colleague’s?

From time to time in Italy, an event leads the press, the politicians and, to a lesser degree, public opinion, to run wild over this or that issue. Generally, this interest runs its course and ends more often than not in “un bel niente”, nothing. It will be interesting to see if this is what will likely happen in the case of the rampant absenteeism, Italian style, that came to light a couple of weeks ago when videos filmed at one of the city’s major museums in the course of an investigation by Italy’s Guardie di Finanza showed civil servants punching their time clocks and then going out shopping  or punching in (and out) for colleagues who never came into work at all.

The ensuing brouhah a over that video, and another one filmed in San Remo in the Italian north, showing a city policeman (one of 35 people arrested) punching in wearing only a shirt and underpants, because– he explained, he lived in the building next door – were shown repeatedly on TV as was a third in the small Sicilian town of Pachino, showing people punching in and then leaving the building, in one case to go hunting, last week led Prime Minister to push through a new decree-law (one that later has to be approved by parliament) calling for offenders to be fired within 48 hours and then be given only a month to appeal. Some people, including the leader of Italy’s major union, objected, saying legislation to deal with such events was already on the books.

And so it was. But the process takes so long that most cases of this sort ended by remaining a dead letter. Of 6935 disciplinary proceedings begun last year against civil servants in all of Italy, for all reasons not just for absenteeism, only about 200 ended up by losing their jobs.

This is shameful and reflects the fact that Italy is a country in which  a substantial part of the population does not know, or care, what personal responsibility means and is light-years away from understanding what ethics mean. Furthermore, for reasons that may have to do with Italian history, but are nevertheless impossible to justify, many civil servants seem to feel no allegiance whatsoever to the institutions for which they work, seeing them only as a cash cow to be milked dry. Sorry if that offends someone but it is true and is in fact further confirmed by several recently published reports.

Following the explosion in December, 2014 of the Mafia Capitale scandal in which criminal organizations allegedly misappropriated money destined for Rome city services, a report issued by the ant-corruption chief, Raffaele Cantone, concluded that the Rome city administration did not have the necessary “antibodies” to ward off corruption. Another report regarding 2015, published last week by the head of the city’s anti-corruption office, Serafina Buarné, indicated that that there were instances of corruption in all 26 departments of the Rome city government. This is what she wrote:

“Instances of corruption were found in all the most delicate ares of the Rome city administration….A culture of ethics is totally lacking and transparency is seen as a mere bureaucratic requirement”.

And just recently, on January 31st,  Corriere della Sera’s Fiorenza Sarzanini writes that bad behavior by those 7,000 state employees mentioned above has cost the Italian state something like 4 billion lire. Some were involved in scams of some sort, some  misappropriated public funds, and others took money for jobs they  simply didn’t do.


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