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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Et tu, technocrat

According to the latest news from Italy, it looks like not even the country's technocrats are immune from scandals. Carlo Malinconico (whose surname means 'melancholic' in Italian, see picture), an EU Law Professor serving as Undersecretary to the Presidency in Mario Monti's cabinet, has resigned this morning following allegations that he had his holidays paid for by a dodgy Italian builder.

According to wiretaps analysed by Italian prosecutors, between 2007 and 2008 Malinconico spent a couple of weekends at the five-star luxurious Hotel Il Pellicano in Porto Ercole (part of Italy's glamorous Argentario peninsula in Tuscany) without paying a single cent. The roughly €20,000 bill was, it turned out, footed by Francesco De Vito Piscicelli, an Italian builder who, along with other Italian entrepreneurs, is involved in a scandal over several tenders illegally obtained at the time of the latest G8 summit held in Italy in 2009.

Malinconico decided to resign, but it is still unclear whether a specific investigation will be launched over his relationship with Piscicelli & co. He maintains that, at the time, he wanted to pay the entire bill and that, when he realised that he would not be allowed to do so, he was so annoyed that he immediately cancelled all future reservations at Hotel Il Pellicano. Malinconico also says that he had no clue about who had paid for his holidays and that he is now ready to pay his fair share, if need be (maybe a bit late now).

Given that Monti's technocratic government was put in place precisely to move away from the dysfunctional politics that has haunted Italy over recent years, this episode, reminiscent of the Berlusconi years, is concerning. On the positive side, at least the mis-step is being forcefully dealt with, showing that perhaps lessons are being learnt...

Et tu, technocrat - as the Romans might have put it.

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