Rome, October 31 - The Italian House passed the government's long-awaited anti-corruption bill into law on Wednesday. The ayes were 480, the nays 19 and 25 abstained. A key sidebar to the law, which would ban politicians from seeking office if they had been convicted of a serious crime, is intended to go into effect "before general elections" in April, Justice Minister Paola Severino said. The bill was launched early this month amid a welter of scandals across the country that culminated in the arrest for alleged embezzlement of Franco Fiorito, the former Lazio region caucus leader of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party. Some have said the string of scandals surpass the early 1990s Bribesville scandals that took down the political establishment that had ruled Italy since the Second World War. Under the provisions, heads of public offices must be held responsible even if they claim not to have been directly involved in a misdeed. Penalties are in place for accepting valuable gifts, and public offices will be subject to random audits from anti-mafia police. Public contracts are to be made open and accessible to the public via an online database. When hiring managers, public offices must submit the details of their selection process to the anti-corruption authority. The law also includes protection provisions for whistle-blowers. Embezzlement convictions will carry a minimum four-year prison sentence - up from three - and a maximum of 10. Abuse of office convictions will carry a one-to-four-year sentence. An anti-corruption authority will be set up in the public administration to oversee the provisions and to monitor for such things as nepotism and cronyism within public offices.
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di Giovanni Pastore