The Italian government wants to limit the powers of the Court of Auditors in auditing expenditure on the European recovery plan. This is indicated by various statements made by members of the government in recent days. The background is a dispute over the Italian delays in the use of billions in transfers from Brussels. Spending in the first four months of the year was only 1.1 billion – from the planned 32.7 billion for the first half of 2023, the auditors wrote.

Christian Schubert

Economic correspondent for Italy and Greece.

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This depiction has angered the government; It is wrong. The responsible minister, Raffaele Fitto, is now demanding a "constructive approach" from the Court of Auditors. According to Italian media reports, the government is preparing a decree-law that will prevent the Court of Auditors from auditing the expenditure of the reconstruction fund.

Italy is the country that receives the highest funding from the EU recovery fund decided during the pandemic. By 2026, more than 190 billion euros are to flow, which Europe has raised for the first time through joint borrowing. The government in Rome is contributing a further 30 billion euros in national funds. Above all, infrastructure projects are to be financed so that Italy can make up for its decades-long investment backlog. But whether Italy can spend the funds on time and sensibly as demanded is controversial. In many places, the administration is considered to be overwhelmed; bureaucracy slows down progress.

Fewer rights to sue against waste

In order to speed up the processes, the auditors' ability to intervene had already been curtailed at the height of the pandemic in 2020. The economy was to be stimulated by quickly placing orders, not least the mayors were to lose "the fear of signing". The Court of Auditors was therefore temporarily prevented from taking legal action. However, these restrictions are set to expire in June.

The government is now using the possibility of an extension to keep unpleasant criticism at bay, the opposition suspects. There are also plans to extend the restrictions because the Court of Auditors should no longer regularly review expenditure. According to the Association of Judges at the Court of Auditors, there is now a threat of an "area of impunity" that promotes the waste of funds. The independence of the judiciary is in danger, the judges fear.

The government is currently revising the reconstruction projects it took over from the previous government under Mario Draghi. However, this review is dragging on. Because of the delays, the government also hopes to be able to shift some of the money to other EU programs that have longer deadlines.