Italy to lead G20 anti-corruption efforts

On the same day Italy's former prime minister was indicted for bribery, the world's largest economies decided to entrust the country with leading its anti-corruption efforts.

Italy to lead G20 anti-corruption efforts
Italy has been entrusted to lead the G20's anti-corruption efforts. Photo: Images of Money/Flickr

Members of the G20 on Wednesday decided that Italy, along with Australia, should take over the presidency of the anti-corruption working group.

It is the first time Italy has taken over the presidency of such a group, the government said.

The decision will likely come as a surprise to many, particularly as a recent report found that a tenth of contracts awarded for public sector work in Italy are corrupt. This makes Italy three times more corrupt than France and 10 times more than the Netherlands.

Yesterday Silvio Berlusconi, the three-time former prime minister, was himself indicted for corruption. The billionaire stands accused of bribing a senator to the tune of €3 million.

Similar allegations have marred political circles in other parts of Italy. Just this week a Milan council was dissolved over its alleged links to the mafia.

Italy is not, however, the most corrupt of the G20 countries. The country ranks 72nd on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, far ahead of Russia’s 133rd place.

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Genoa reconstruction at risk of mafia infiltration: Italy’s anti-corruption chief

The head of Italy’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ANAC), Raffaele Cantone, warned on Wednesday of the potential for the mafia to infiltrate the reconstruction of Genoa’s Morandi bridge.

Genoa reconstruction at risk of mafia infiltration: Italy’s anti-corruption chief
Screenshot of Raffaele Cantone speaking at a parliamentary hearing on the Genoa Decree on October 10, 2018.

Speaking at a parliamentary hearing to discuss amendments to the newly released “Genoa decree” which will govern the area’s reconstruction, Cantone raised concerns that the decree contains “unprecedented” provisions which allow Genoa’s newly-appointed reconstruction commissioner, Marco Bucci, to bypass Italian civil laws and “to act with absolute and total freedom, subject only to the mandatory principles of the European Union and of course the principals of the constitution”.

In particular, the ANAC chief expressed consternation at the fact that the decree exempts the commissioner from having to follow Italy’s Anti-Mafia Code, highlighting that this presents a “concrete risk” that the mafia could extend its tentacles into the reconstruction efforts.

Cantone added that although the mafia is not widely present in the Liguria region in Italy’s north where Genoa is based, they are attempting to expand into the territory, and construction is one of the industries on which they are known to have a tight grip.

READ ALSO: Genoa bridge collapse: The mafia's role

The Morandi motorway viaduct collapsed during a storm on August 14th, plunging 150 feet into the ground and sending 43 people to their deaths.

The ultimate cause of the collapse is still undetermined pending the conclusion of a state investigation, but the bridge’s operator, Autostrade per l’Italia, has fallen under heavy suspicion, while others have raised the question of whether the mafia was involved in the bridge’s initial construction.

The bridge was built out of reinforced concrete during Italy’s post-war reconstruction boom in the 1960’s, a time when mafia infiltration of the construction sector was rampant.

Rescuers at work amid rubble and wreckage after the collapse of a section of the Morandi motorway bridge in Genoa on August 15, 2018. Handout / Vigili del Fuoco / AFP.

A common practice during the period was to mix large quantities of cheap sand and water into the concrete with comparatively small amounts of cement, significantly weakening the raw construction materials.

Speaking on the political TV talk show Agorà, Italy’s far right interior minister and co-deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini said he broadly agreed with Cantone’s concerns about mafia infiltration, but that he disagreed with his fears over the extraordinary powers granted to Bucci.

“Exceptional interventions are need to match an exceptional event: if you follow the Procurement Code, bureaucracy, and the European tender rules, we’ll still be discussing the bridge in five years’ time,” the minister said.