Anti-graft plan for italian universities as scandal widens

Raffaele Cantone, Italy's anti-corruption czar

NAPLES- This week has not been a good one for Italian public education. In the midst of the corruption scandals which saw professors colluding and exchanging fellowships illegally, more charges of nepotism are being levelled, incuding this time for the university appointment of a former minister's son.

 The rector of the Suor Orsola Benincasa University (Naples), Lucio D’Alessandro, has been indicted for abuse of power, with the alleged aim of securing a place for the son of the former Minister of Education Ortensio Zecchino. Along with him, three other members of the admissions committee have been accused.  

 Neither the Minister nor his son, Francesco Zecchino are themsleves being investigated. Francesco Zecchino had applied for the position of research fellow in history of architecture and gardens, and the place was given to him by the, now investigated, commission. One of the competitors for the place, Maria Losito, acted as a whistleblower and denounced the proceedings, while the commission insists that Zecchino is the best candidate for the place.  

 To settle the dispute, a neutral admission commission was established. Here, the rector of the University purposely appointed prof. Coppola to head the commission. Coppola was known to be a man close to both Francesco Zecchino and Ortensio Zecchino. According to the district attorney, this was a clear example of a conflict of interest.

I n the meantime, ANAC’s (National Anti-Corruption Agency) president Raffaele Cantone, interviewed by La Repubblica, described the situation as ‘’worrying’’ and said there was an "ethical deficit" in Italian universities.

 ‘’Father-son professional relationships are inherently problematic, and are endemic in our educational system’’, he said.  

A t the moment, the government and ANAC are working together to create an anti-corruption plan which focuses on prevention, which will include assigning anti-corruption agents to every university. These agents will have the duty to vigilante on conflicts of interests, especially in regards to promotions and employment.

 "Generally speaking, most of the university system is healthy," Cantine said. "ANAC’s job is to make the healthy parts emerge.’’