11 August, 2014
FLORENCE, Italy (AP) — Is helping a pal win a contract just being friendly? What’s wrong with taking the kids to the beach in the office car? And why not linger over lunch at the trattoria if things aren’t too hectic at work? These are the kinds of questions that city bureaucrats pondered recently in Florence in what has been billed as Italy’s first anti-corruption class for public officials.
Italy, the birthplace of the Mafia, is notorious for its problems with corruption — and these days it’s awash with scandals that have tainted some of its most important public works projects. But the lessons in Florence took aim at more mundane problems: the little instances of everyday corruption that many Italians don’t even recognize as being wrong.
The approach proposes to tackle corruption at its roots: a deeply ingrained mentality where friendly reciprocity can too easily cross the line into nepotism, and where tolerance, on the one hand admirable, can also mean turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. Such tendencies may not always be the driver of corruption, but can allow it to flourish.
“The issue is to make bureaucrats and citizens understand that this type of behavior is not correct anymore, you can no longer do this,” said Marco Giuri, one of the teachers of the course. “Because in our mentality, it’s not corruption, it’s just help. It’s not that you are paying for a service, but it’s simply a favor between contacts, a relative, or the fact that he’s a friend. These occurrences are the most common and they are the ones the law wants to break through — and it’s common because it’s really in the DNA of Italians.” [Full Story]