Revolving doors in agriculture, a question

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farmers protest

The wave of farmers’ protest in Italy is rising in every province and brings to light the many anomalies of the ‘Coldiretti system’, including that of the revolving doors. That is to say the phenomenon of senior managers of the State and various public bodies entering and leaving the orbit of Coldiretti and Federconsorzi 2, alias CAI SpA.

The #VanghePulite investigation – started by the writer on GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) on 1 January 2021, with the publication of the anonymous ‘poison dossier’ which opened Pandora’s box on the empire of yellow flags (1) – has already considered some phenomena of ‘revolving doors’ and conflicts of interest (2,3).

Below is the text of a parliamentary question ‘in search of an author’, as it was prepared by independent farmers who have not yet found a deputy or senator willing to present it, addressed to the Minister of Agriculture. In the hope that someone will want to evaluate its possible validity.

1) Revolving doors in agriculture, a question

‘Minister Francesco Lollobrigida, on 13 September 2023, replaced the authoritative lawyer in the role of head of cabinet. Giacomo Aiello, returned to the State Attorney’s Office, with Dr. Raphael Borriello, former general manager of ISMEA, then hired in Coldiretti, without knowing that the latter would have violated the prohibition provided for by art. 53, paragraph 16-ter of Legislative Decree 165/2001. A ban which aims precisely to avoid situations of conflict of interest.

The fluctuation of tasks and jobs of Dr. Raffaele Borriello in fact fuels numerous conflicts of interest between the public administration and Coldiretti.

“There is a conflict of interest when the impartial and objective exercise of functions (…) is compromised by family or emotional reasons, by political or national affinity, by economic interest or by any other direct or indirect personal interest”. 

1.1) Raffaele Borriello. ISMEA – Coldiretti – MASAF

‘Dr. Borriello resigned from the role of ISMEA general director on 30 December 2020 and joined Coldiretti as head of the legislative and institutional relations area, starting from 15 January 2021.

This passage would have occurred in violation of anti-corruption regulations and, specifically, of the ban on pantouflage or revolving doors which aims to prevent the incorrect exercise of institutional activity by public employees.

In fact, in order to prevent corruption, to respect the constitutional principle of transparency, impartiality and good performance, and to respect the principle that imposes on public employees exclusivity of service in favor of the Administration, transparency measures are envisaged which in the case of Dr. Borriello do not appear to have been respected and risk being repeated.’

1.2) Revolving doors, current legislation

The rule of revolving doors, art. 53, paragraph 16 ter of the Legislative Decree. lgs. 165/2001, establishes that “…Employees who, in the last three years of service, have exercised authoritative or negotiating powers on behalf of the public administrations referred to in article 1, paragraph 2, cannot carry out, in three years following the termination of the public employment relationship, work or professional activity with the private entities receiving the public administration activity carried out through the same powers…“. (4)

‘The contracts concluded and the assignments conferred in violation of the provisions of this paragraph are null and void and private entities who have concluded or conferred them are prohibited from contracting with public administrations for the following three years with the obligation to return any compensation received and ascertained to they conferred”.

1.3) Coldiretti – Borriello, perhaps an illegal position?

‘Commendatore Borriello therefore he could not be hired by Coldiretti before three years from the termination of his employment relationship with a public economic body such as the Institute of Services for the Agricultural and Food Market (ISMEA). Furthermore, all contracts stipulated by ISMEA with Coldiretti, even in favor of its members, are null and void. The fees must be returned and it should no longer be possible for Coldiretti to negotiate with public administrations for three years.

The discipline regarding slipper, in fact, aims precisely to prevent certain job positions from being the harbinger of corruption phenomena; in particular, the risk assessed by the law is that, during the period of service, the employee can artfully create advantageous working situations and, thus, exploit his power within the Administration to obtain an advantageous position with the private entity with whom he comes into contact.

As uniformly recognized by the giurisprudenza, the provisions regarding pantouflage aim precisely to prevent certain work positions, subordinate or autonomous, from being even abstractly sources of possible corruption phenomena, limiting the worker’s negotiating autonomy for a reasonable time after the termination of the employment relationship. .

1.4) Raffaele Borriello, ‘a Coldiretti man always‘?

The Commander Borriello in fact, he had already been participating in Coldiretti meetings for years, to the point that the general secretary Vincenzo Gesmundo, when introducing him at a meeting with the area heads on 19 February 2019, would have defined him as ‘a Coldiretti man always’, as emerges from some news disseminated online. (2)

The chief of staff of the ministry is an important role and there are many in the sector who would have preferred a more impartial figure and not so directly linked to a single agricultural union which raises many doubts’.

1.5) Questions to the ‘brother-in-law minister’

The interrogation ‘in search of an author’, here transcribed in full with the benefit of inventory, concludes with the request ‘to know:

  • if the ministers do not believe that Dr.’s behavior Borriello, who violated art. 53, paragraph 16-ter of the legislative decree. lgs. 165/2001, constitutes an offense that does not allow the continuation, even temporarily, of the employment relationship, and constitutes even abstractly possible deviant phenomena;
  • if the ministers do not believe that the contracts concluded between Ismea and Coldiretti, in violation of the provisions of paragraph 16-ter art. 53 of Legislative Decree 165/2001, are therefore null and void, impose a ban on Coldiretti from contracting with public administrations for the following three years, with the obligation to repay all compensation received;
  • if the ministers do not recognize, also through ANAC, the occurrence of the non-transferability case provided for by art. 53, paragraph 16-ter, of Legislative Decree 165/2001, in conjunction with art. 17 and art. 21 of Legislative Decree .lgs. 39/2013;
  • if Dr. Borriello is at the exclusive service of the Nation, as stated in Article 98 of the Constitution, and therefore acts impartially with the aim of pursuing the public interest or not.

2) Borriello – Coldiretti, other interests?

A further element, not considered in the question above, concerns the verification of any other economic interests, including in the family context. Precisely in 2019, when Vincenzo Gesmundo celebrated Raffaele Borriello as ‘man of Coldiretti always‘, the latter’s son – according to rumors to be verified – may have been hired in Coldiretti Campania by the timeless Salvatore Loffreda. (5,6)

3) Revolving doors, who else?

An investigation on the application of the legislation on ‘revolving doors’ (or ‘pantouflage’) in the agricultural sector, should also be conducted on Gabriele Papa Pagliardini. Three stages of his career are remembered:

  • 2018. As general director of AGEA (General Agency for Agricultural Payments), he managed to make Italian farmers lose over 4 billion euros in European aid (7)
  • 2021. The then general director of AGEA co-founded and participated in a joint-stock company which then offered audit services to Federconsorzi 2 alias CAI SpA (8)
  • 2023. Well before three years after leaving AGEA, Papa Pagliardini then took up a position in the aforementioned CAI SpA.

#CleanSpades. If not now, when?

Updates

On 16 February 2024 the Green MP Angelo Bonelli presented the Question on Coldiretti, of which the definitive text is attached

Dario Dongo

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo. Agricultural Consortiums of Italy SpA, Federconsorzi 2? The poison dossierGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 1.1.21

(2) Dario Dongo. Public administration, loyalty to the state or to Coldiretti? #Clean shovelsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.6.21

(3) See paragraph 6 of the previous article by Dario Dongo. January 31, 2024, the day of the farmers’ protest in ItalyGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.1.24

(4) Legislative Decree 30 March 2001, n. 165. General rules on the organization of work employed by public administrations http://tinyurl.com/3mmfnmfk

(5) Salvatore Loffreda, general secretary of Coldiretti Campania, was the secretary of the Caserta area when Vincenzo Gesmundo became provincial director, way back in 1983. The ‘boss of bosses’ then went to Rome where he had the role of supervising the (ir )regularity of the Federconsorzi’s accounts, before taking on the role of organizational secretary and then general of Coldiretti.

(6) On Salvatore Loffreda, see also the ‘carrot and stick’ paragraph in the previous article by Dario Dongo. Coldiretti and the golden calf, Sannio breeders in revolt. #Clean shovelsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 22.3.21

(7) Dario Dongo, Giulia Orsi. Report of the Court of Auditors on AGEA directed by Gabriele Papa Pagliardini. #Clean shovelsGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.3.21

(8) Dario Dongo. AGEA – Coldiretti, the European Commission rejects the conflict of interestGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.3.21

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.