Transparency is a tough issue to deal with when it comes to privatisation and business transactions. While some governments excel at ensuring clear-cut and sure deals, others may at times sway and fail to guarantee transparency. A recent, controversial case in Italy emerged when legislators urged the country’s transport and infrastructure minister to explain how mobsters supposedly clinched public deals for highway construction. The upshot was the arrests of 37 people, and surprising or not, some were public officials and investors. Inquiries have been launched into the activities of another 80 people.
Local press said the Calabria-based mafia, known by the locals as ‘ndrangheta, clinched three percent of the multimillion dollar deals for the construction of the highway that passed “through their territory.” Included in this scandal is the A3 autostrada, connecting the Calabria region, located at the southwest tip of the “boot,” with Salerno, located just south of Naples.
Once the suspects were apprehended, officials put a freeze on the development of the 56-kilometre stretch of the highway in Calabria. Reason disclosed was that officials were concerned that the work was not being carried out appropriately.
Based on the investigators’ report, these suspects had succeeded in collecting bribes from subcontracting out some of the contracts awarded to firms close to them. But that’s not all. Another problem was that companies were taking kickbacks instead of actually doing what they were hired to do; i.e., oversee the development of the highway to ensure the work was being done correctly. The reports said some of the people arrested were key officials of ANAS, the Italian agency overseeing highway maintenance and construction. They were charged with failing to carry out the proper checks and failing to ensure that no company was in cahoots with any group involved in organised crime.
Time and time again we have been privy to how prosecutors in the south of the country have launched investigations into the alleged activities of “dirty” politicians and investors who clinch deals with mobsters to obtain public contracts. It seems that Transport and Infrastructure Minister Pietro Lunardi has a lot on his plate. One can only wonder if the answers he offers will be able to placate the legislators. (719)