Monti's anti-sleaze bill gets amendmened in House

PD, Northern League tack on changes to city taxes, mortgage fees

Monti's anti-sleaze bill gets amendmened in House

Rome, November 2 - The government of Italian Premier Mario Monti suffered a political setback Friday when the House tacked on two amendments to its anti-sleaze decree. The first amendment, proposed by Democratic Party (PD) MP Simonetta Rubinato, eliminates penalty fees for municipal governments who pay off property mortgages ahead of time. The second amendment, which was championed by the regionalist Norther League, grants municipal governments the right to strip Equitalia, a tax collecting agency, of its role. The amendments were passed by the budget and constitutional affairs committees despite opposition from the government, which proposed the decree following a string of public-spending scandals in recent months. Recent sleaze cases, culminating in a scandal that forced the governor of Lazio to step down, risked defeating "the efforts we are all making to ensure Italy's role is fully recognised at the international level," Monti said. According to the decree, which President Giorgio Napolitano signed last month, the number of regional councillors would be cut by 35% and local bodies who do not stay in line with budgets will face central-government funding cuts of 80%. Mayors who do not keep their accounts in order will not be allowed to stand again, the premier said. The pay of local and regional councillors will be cut to the level of the best-behaved region, while stipends will be eliminated and all local officials will have to make public, and have certified by the Audit Court, the money they get. The pension age of local officials will be raised from 50 to 66. The tipping point in public indignation with political corruption came in September when Franco Fiorito, caucus leader for ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party in the Lazio region, was alleged to have skimmed off millions of euros of public money for personal use. The case of Fiorito, who was arrested last month, caused the PdL's Renata Polverini to step down as governor. The investigation is only one of a series of recent corruption scandals that have hit various parts of Italy's political spectrum, sparking condemnation from Italian President Giorgio Napolitano and the Catholic Church.

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