ROME - It is that time again: person of the year, the most powerful, the greatest and so on...
Bravo Renato Brunetta, Man of the Year for Italy
So what is happening in
Well actually, a diminutive dynamo is jolting the country’s 3.6 million public servants back to their offices and instilling some accountability into one of
His name is Renato Brunetta, and for the first time he is starting to make a dent into the civil service which has had a legendary legion of slackers or "fanulloni.’’
A few examples:
There was a "sick" sanitation worker who was caught singing in a disco after putting up promotional posters around town.
There was the judge who had taken nine months off because of a bad back who was discovered training for a transatlantic boat race.
There was the public employee in a small town on the northwestern coast who punched his time card and then went wild boar hunting. But bad luck, according to newspaper La Stampa, he got shot in his leg and was found out.
There was the postal employee on disability leave who spent part of her recovery, vacationing in
Italian public employees were taking advantage of an average of 20 days off in 2006 for health and other reasons, according to government figures. That’s on top of the 30 days vacation for most public employees.
Nevertheless, when this column asked "Doesn’t anybody around here want to work anymore?" in March 2007, the writer, who also lives in
Enter Brunetta, minister of Public Administration and Innovation, who wears five
To reduce absenteeism, his ministry is cutting bonuses for those who take sick leave, requiring rigorous doctor’s notes and rewarding public workers who do a good job and walk through the electronic turnstiles which are being installed in the ministries.
The campaign has shown such success, that absenteeism is down by 45 percent in August, September and October 2008, compared to 2007.
Brunetta has not had an easy time. He has earned the insult of "pocket monster" by former foreign minister, Massimo D’Alema, and another center-left figure called him "mini-minister" due to the 58-year-old professor’s small size. But both apologized later.
And he easily became the most popular minister of the Berlusconi government for his battle against the deeply entrenched, sclerotic bureaucracy which has dropped
"People call me the 'Rock Star' minister. They call out 'Santo Subito (Saint Immediately),'" Brunetta said recently, referring to the shouts of mourners who wanted the Late Pope John Paul II to be made a saint immediately after his death in 2005. "They understand my message. For them I am like Zorro," he said.
Brunetta does not want to cut the size of the civil service. He merely wants to make it more efficient. So he will shame many bureaucrats into working harder. In 2009, every public booth will have an electronic board with three emoticons --smiling, frowning and neutral Ñ which clients will press after their request is handled. In addition, Brunetta is enlisting state-monopoly tobacco shops, post offices and state lotto booths to collect such taxes as the yearly car assessment, television and other dues, which are handled by the state, to ease collections and bring the administration close to the people. It is any Italian’s nightmare to queue up and wait for his turn to pay taxes.
Brunetta has also been attacked for his propensity to buy properties in
"My clients are 60 million Italians who are dissatisfied and if I do not succeed by the spring of 2009 and the brain scan of the bureaucracy is dead, then I will resign," he says. Otherwise, Brunetta has big plans: he will export this e-government model for development to 15 countries. Guess which is one of his candidates:
Dennis Redmont, an executive at the Council for the United States and Italy, is an American journalist and consultant, who divides his time between Rome and Istanbul