Majority coalition budget-related rows rumble on

Junior members question govt commitment to fighting tax evasion

(ANSA) - Rome, October 26 - The majority coalition engaged in two separate rows over budget-related issues Monday as Premier Matteo Renzi was half a world away in Peru, drumming up foreign investments for Italy's lethargic economy.
    One dispute was over a higher cash transaction ceiling in the 2016 budget bill, with Culture Minister Dario Franceschini saying Interior Minister Angelino Alfano had "won" after the government's bill raised the ceiling from 1,000 to 3,000 euros. "We had a lot of discussions but this time Alfano won," Franceschini said. Alfano is the leader of a junior government partner, the small New Centre Right (NCD) party while Franceschini is a prominent member of Premier Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party (PD). A leading figure in the PD's dissenting leftwing minority, former House caucus leader Roberto Speranza, said the new ceiling "favours corruption" and called on Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan to "clear things up". The PD replied that the government has its ducks in a row on nabbing tax dodgers. "I would remind the absent-minded Speranza that this is the government that brought money back from Switzerland and the Vatican while others talked," PD MP Ernesto Carbone tweeted. Renzi has said in the past that the cash transaction measure will stimulate domestic consumption. He denies that it favours corruption or tax evasion. In a separate tiff, another junior coalition member, the small centrist Civic Choice (SC) party requested a meeting with Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan and Renzi to "clarify and settle" the issue of Internal Revenue Agency Director Rossella Orlandi. The request came from SC chief and Economy Undersecretary Enrico Zanetti, who told La Repubblica paper in an interview earlier that if Orlandi "continues to express so much malaise, a resignation becomes inevitable". Zanetti told the paper he spoke "as a member of government" and said he is certain "my position is absolutely shared" by the premier's office. Orlandi has reportedly protested the fact that the Constitutional Court ruled some Internal Revenue Agency executives had been illegitimately appointed their posts. "These executives cannot be allowed to return to their posts without a selection competition," Zanetti said. Orlandi's "mistake is that she is defending her most trusted men, not the institution", he said.
    The dispute gathered steam even as sources said the Internal Revenue Agency is being reorganized and slimmed down, with fewer executives and more of a focus on catching tax dodgers. The leaner, meaner Agency will have 995 executives - down from 1,095 - but will have more mid-level managers. These are slated to rise from 325 to 339, the sources said. Later, the Treasury appeared to contradict Zanetti when it said in a statement that it has "undiminished esteem" for Orlandi - thus sparking his demand for a meeting with Padoan and the premier himself. "We want to understand whether we are the government that is signing international treaties against offshore tax havens, that is ramping up on cross-referencing data checks, that has introduced the crime of self-money laundering...or whether we are the government that is letting tax agencies die (as Orlandi has publicly said)," Zanetti said. The opposition anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) - currently the second-largest party in Italy after Renzi's PD - also weighed in. "We've been saying so for ages: Italy's taxation machine is a hostage in a gang war, while the government winks its eye at large-scale tax dodgers," the M5S Lower House caucus said in a statement.
    The 27-billion-euro budget bill goes before parliament sometime this week.


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