Gabrielli gets more powers over Rome

Prefect to enact eight-point plan with Marino

(ANSA) - Rome, August 27 - Rome Prefect Franco Gabrielli is to get sweeping powers to help embattled Mayor Ignazio Marino address the manifold woes of the Italian capital ranging from trash to migrants and the environment after major scandals including a probe into a new city mafia that ran kickback rackets all over the city.
    Gabrielli will effectively be vetting all council acts as well as the machine for the upcoming Catholic Jubilee, under a decree approved by the cabinet Thursday.
    Jubilee contracts will have new rules to make sure the kind of infiltration by the gangsters and corrupt officials collectively called the Capital Mafia will not happen again - and national anti-corruption czar Raffaele Cantone may be given a key role.
    The government's decree stops short of putting Rome under a commissioner and stripping Marino of all his powers - which was the fate of nearby Ostia, dissolved for mafia infiltration Thursday - but it gives the mayor from the ruling Democratic Party (PD) a kind of oversight "tutor" in Gabrelli, Italian media said.
    Marino was not in Rome to hear the announcement of his effective demotion since he is on holiday in the Caribbean despite suggestions that he should have come back, including from PD leader and Premier Matteo Renzi.
    From his holiday location he said he was "satisfied" with the government's moves to help clean up the city. "The hypothesis of dissolving the city council was taken off the table and (Interior Minister Angelino) Alfano's words sweep away the rumours of a commissioner being appointed," the mayor said.
    Marino reiterated his claim that the infiltrations highlighted by the Capital Mafia probed had happened under the stewardship of his rightwing predecessor Gianni Alemanno and he had blocked them with "a wall".
    Alemanno responded by saying that Marino was "off the wall" and that Rome "has never been so abandoned". Announcing Gabrielli's new brief, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said after a cabinet meeting on Rome's woes Thursday that "I proposed letting the Rome prefect plan intervention in eight areas with the mayor". These are parks, trash collection, the environment, housing, immigration and Roma people camps, the minister said. Measures will include updating city regulations, setting up a list of city contractors and new internal control protocols, and an audit of all city contracts, including with AMA trash collection and waste disposal company.
    Franco Panzironi, formerly the powerful head of AMA, and three other senior AMA managers were convicted in May of nepotism in hiring at the firm. Panzironi was arrested previously in connection with the so-called Capital Mafia corruption scandal that has rocked the capital since December.
    Council officials from both the PD and the opposition Forza Italia party of former premier Silvio Berlusconi have quit in the scandal over a gang led by former rightist militant and gangster Massimo Carminati and the powerful head of a leftwing cooperative, Salvatore Buzzi.
    The ringleaders were caught on police wiretaps saying that skimming off contracts for Roma and migrants was "more profitable than drugs".
    Cabinet Secretary Claudio De Vincenti played down the effect on Marino's status, saying Rome had not been put under a commissioner like Ostia.
    But he had to admit that the situation was similar to the one in Milan where Prefect Francesco Paolo Tronca was given powers over the Expo world's fair, again after a string of scandals.
    Rome's legality councillor, Alfonso Sabella, summed up the situation by pointing out that Gabrielli would be responsible for the "coordination" of the Rome Jubilee like his counterpart in Milan, Tronca, coordinates the Expo there. "I don't think either (Milan Mayor Giuliano) Pisapia nor (Lombardy Governor Roberto) Maroni feel stripped of their powers," he noted. "The only difference is the money...which in Rome is sadly lacking," he added. Resources for the Jubilee are billed to come from the Rome budget, which has a large deficit.
    The Catholic Jubilee on Mercy, expected to bring millions of pilgrims to the Italian capital, runs from December this year to November next.
    Sabella also claimed that the government had "recognised" the work of Marino's reformed council, saying the eight eras to be targeted were ones where they had already made "significant progress".
    But he admitted that Rome came out "badly" from the government assessment and the "administrative machine comes out devastated, but it was inevitable".
    The centre-right opposition Forza Italia (FI) party of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi was among those calling for elections to replace Marino.
    FI said that "Romans must be able to choose a new mayor for themselves and a new government for the capital. "Rome must return to the vote as soon as possible to end one of the darkest chapters in its recent history". It said "we are working towards this goal with civic movements" including that of (an independent candidate defeated by Marino in 2013), Alfo Marchini". FI claimed that the government had "effectively appointed a commissioner in place of Marino".
    The anti-establishment 5-Star Movement claimed that Renzi had "saved" Marino in order to avert being forced to go into an early general election. In another statement Thursday, Alfano backed the measures Gabrielli had taken to respond to a huge row over the lavish and highly controversial funeral of mafia boss Vittorio Casamonica in Rome last week.
    Gabrielli said he would set up a new liaison group among police forces to make sure all information on the mafia "got to the top" and ensure there would be no repetitions.
    Alfano said: "I endorsed the decisions of Prefect Gabrielli and the law-and-order committee" on the funeral.
    He added: "We are weighing other moves and we have for example urged (civil aviation authority) ENAC to start checking how the flight (of a helicopter that dropped rose petals onto the hearse) was authorised and a possible revision of the licenses that were issued".
    In other reactions to the government's moves, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the Vicar General of Rome, said Rome is "a spiritually anaemic city" and that explains the moral crisis shaking the capital.
    "Today Rome is a spiritually anaemic city and this leads to all those negative moral consequences," the Cardinal said in an appeal launched from Lourdes where he is leading a diocesan pilgrimage, "that is why it needs new life blood running through it".
    "One needs Christian lay people who in their life and work environments become points of reference and of fruitful discussion," the prelate was quoted by Vatican Radio as saying. Vatican Jubilee chief Msgr Rino Fisichella told ANSA he had "learned with satisfaction and approval of this package of (Italian government) measures in view of the Jubilee. They are significant measures made necessary also by the shortness of time, but which meet the effective needs of such an important event".
   

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