History of an Italian Scandal: The Roots I
Preliminary remarks: the most important documents about this “incident” should be published on the DIT (Innovation and Technologies Department) website but the site seems to be “temporarily unavailable because of maintenance work” since May 2006 (a lot of attentive and hard-working people over there…).
Fortunately, we can rely on Google cache and the heaven-sent Archive.org wayback machine.
Everything starts on March 16, 2004.
That day the Ministers for Information Society Committee meet to decide the birth of the portal http://www.italia.it.
ZOOM: What is the Ministers for Information Society Committee?
It’s a bunch of ministers headed by the Innovation and Technologies Minister (Lucio Stanca at that time), and made up of the Cabinet Undersecretary (Gianni Letta at that time) and other 13 ministers; basically almost the entire Council of Ministers: Domestic Affairs, Foreign Affairs,Communcations, Health…
The Committee has the aim to encourage, address, promote and coordinate projects about the digital and technological development and improvement of the State administration.
( source )
In this case, the Committee deliberation leads to “a project for the realisation of an innovative Digital Interactive Platform (PDI) through a National Portal for Tourism ‘italia.it’.”
The coordination of this tourism-technology project is commissioned to the Council of Ministers Chairmanship: this means, in 2004, to SilvioBerlusconi, supposedly represented by his Undersecretary Gianni Letta. The project will be operatively conducted by the Innovation and Technologies Minister: Lucio Stanca.
While the Digital Platform realisation (and the Portal built up) is commissioneded to Innovazione Italia SPA, a “project-society” controlled by Sviluppo Italia, the bureaucratic mammoth whose exact nature is hard to describe (and which we have already talked about over here): Andrea Mancinelli, Managing Director, and Roberto Falavolti, Chief Executive.
A little pearl for obtuse/late digitalburocratic style fetishists: a PDF (four pages) prepared at that time by the Minister’s press agency to show the project. Take a look at the graphics: so “wannabe proactive” and so “executive” but irreparably managed by the industrious ministerial hands.
What is the budget for the project?
We already know: fortyfive million euro. A pretty penny, we’d say.
But pay attention: the good news is that we have been pretty lucky, because initially the budget amounted to 140 million. Take a breath and repeat with me: ONEHUNDREDFORTYMILLIONEURO.
For a web site.
Follow me, let’s take an amusing ride.
First of all. I couldn’t find the first official budget document.
Archive.org archives report some links to the Innovation Minister site since 2002 but contents only from 2005 (2004 contents lead to the usual page under construction we already mentioned).
But clicking on one of the March 2005 cache I stumbled upon a Ministerial press release dated March 23 2005.
In this document Stanca replies to a controversy of the moment and he specifies:
“The allocated budget is 25 million and not 140 million. It’s a necessary assessment to co-finance Regions in the creation of digital content, in order to give them a chance to promote worldwide their attractiveness for tourism and prevent them to present themselves in a fragmented way”
140 million? 25 million? Where do these numbers come from? Wasn’t 45 million?
Wait a minute: so the allocated budget was 25 million and not 140 million.
Yes, we now get to the little master-work: on the same site on which we found the press realease (the Minister’s site), there’s also a section named “Projects”: here we have some specifications about the webmonster, titled “The Portal of Tourism”.
And what do we find here?
“With a total allocation of 140 million euro, the Ministers for the Information Society Committee, gathered on March 16 2004, gives the go-ahead to the planning and to the realisation of a portal, for which the provisional name is “Scegli Italia” (“Choose Italy”), with the following aims:
- to promote and raise the Italian offer of tourism;
- to route (convey) the reservations;
- to restore the competitiveness of Tourism industry, the major insustry of the country;
The project is divided in two parts:
To realise the portal and the reservations system a 40 million investment will be necessary, half provided by the Ministers for Information Society Committee and the other half provided by the involved departments.
For the digital contents, that will need a large use of images and texts in all fields, it is scheduled a first allocation of one hundred million: also the Regions and other interested operators will contribute to this financing along with the Ministers for Information Society Committee and the involved departments.
So, let’s recap: on the Minister for Innovation website, on March 2005, Minister Lucio Stanca argues that the portal will cost no more than 25 million euro, while the project itself, published on the same web site, clearly states that the portal will cost 140 million euro.
Ridi Pagliaccio! Canio, where are you?
Besides the melodramma – the operetta we’d say better (but let’s not laugh: let’s remember that these unqualified people are managing money which belongs to the Italian taxpayers), these specifications about the project dated March 2005 assume that: on March 16 2004, day of the first resolution about the portal, the budget amounted to 140 million euro:
– 40 million for the realisation of the portal and the reservation system (???)
– 100 million as a first (!!!) allocation for the creation of the digital content (!!!).
How did we get to the current 45 million?
It’s a mystery. At least for now.
What we know for sure is that simultaneously, on the Ministry of Innovation website, the project specifications start to mention the actual allocation of 45 million in place of the 140 million: this is what we can read from January 3, 2006, when the site was restyled.
And we also know that a month before, the December 5, 2005, Mr. Falavolti, Innovazione Italia SPA Chief Executive, talks about the 45 million euro during an interview on the web:
Q: How will the 45 million euro be spent on the project?
A: The ongoing project is financed by the funds provided by the Minister of Information Society Committee with the resolution of the March 16, 2004: these funds amount to 45 million euro.
25 million will be assigned to projects co-financing, to be defined and coordinated among and by Regions and local administrations; they will be also assigned to produce, adapt, translate and bring up to date all the digital contents of interest for tourism for the territory and initiatives promotion through the portal.
The competitive bidding to select the projects that will be financed is under way.
The other 20 million euro have been used, in part, to held up a feasibility study, that includes an international benchmark and the preparation of the competitive bidding; 8 million plus VAT are addressed, as we already said, to the planning, realisation and operative management of the PortalItalia .it, with a first contents set acquisition, its translation in 8 languages, connectivity, technical management, system maintenance for 2 years.
Also an international promotion plan to launch the portal is scheduled, beside the management of the project and the handling of all the relationships with public and private operators.
Finally, part of the budget is still reserved for other developments of the project.
Q: When will the site be online?
A: We depend on the National Tourism Committee decisions. By January [January 2006 – ndr] we will be able to have a first version with limited content in 2 or 3 languages.
From 140 million to 45 million in a few months. Why? Maybe they realise that, “ok, we can fool them but not fool them that much”. Who knows?
Anyway, also the Minister talks about the 45 million in a press release dated March 17, 2006, where we can read:
There is planned expense of 20 million euro for the technical realisation of the Portal, the acquisition of the early digital contents about environment, culture, tourism, gastronomy; the technical management of the Portal and the constitution of the editorial board (staff) that will be operative for the first 2 years; last but not least the initial Portal promotion worldwide.
For that which concerns the digital contents, for which there will need to be a considerable use of text and images in all fields, we will assign an initial budget of 25 million euro (Ministerial Decree of the March 7, 2006) provided not only by the involved departments but also by Regions and other interested operators.
Wow, how hard.
Let’s take a break, before getting into the Byzantine and untrustworthy labyrinths of contracts and competitive biddings.