MiC, there's a problem: NRP funds are coming in but lack of staffing

The MiC has a very big problem: PNRR funds are about to arrive, but the ministry has huge problems with staff shortages. The urgency of the issue has also been publicly acknowledged by the minister's chief of staff, Lorenzo Casini.

The Ministry of Culture has a problem: funds from the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) will be arriving soon, but the ministry is moving in a seriously understaffed situation. In fact, the MiC will manage a package worth 6.675 billion over the next few years(full details of the measures can be found at this link: this is 3 percent of the 222.1 billion euros Italy has received for the PNRR between Next Generation EU plan funds and complementary funds), with resources that can only be used with a view to investment planning (i.e., the funds cannot be used for the ordinary). The MiC, however, already has difficulties with ordinary administration, and managing the PNRR is likely to cause further problems for the machine.

In fact, managing the PNRR funds will presuppose a huge amount of work on the part of the MiC: the management of the plan will have a major impact on the ministry, just think of all the authorization processes of the various projects, and on top of all this will be the management of the so-called “major attractors,” 14 investments scattered throughout the country that will also involve local authorities, with further repercussions at the administrative level. To cope with all this, the ministry has already set up a mission unit dedicated to the implementation of the NRRP and dedicated offices (there will also be a dedicated superintendency, the Special Superintendency for the Implementation of the NRRP), but with few staff it is likely that all this will not be enough.

The confederal unions have already sounded the alarm last week, with a joint communiqué from CGIL, CISL and UIL stressing that the MiC’s preliminary activity will be very intense, and this also entails a further risk, that of the possible simplification of proedures, since the single superintendency will have “powers of substitution and avocation of proceedings in the head of the superintendencies.” The most serious problem, however, is that of human resources: “We have already asked for some time,” the unions write, “to initiate a discussion with the National Superintendent, architect Galloni>, in order to verify the organizational conditions that would give guarantees of operation to the new structure, we have found ourselves faced with a wall of silence and a service provision that basically unloads the entire workload on a core of staff incardinated in the General Directorate of Archaeology and Fine Arts that is completely unable, due to the serious shortage of staff and the already heavy ordinary loads, to fulfill these tasks. In essence, it is planned to treat this matter as if it were a bureaucratic fulfillment and not as a challenge that calls into question, in case the objectives of the Plan are not achieved, the international image of our country with solutions that are only functional to those who would like to marginalize the role of the protection of the landscape heritage because it is considered an obstacle to energy innovation plans.” The unions’ demands include an urgent meeting with Minister Dario Franceschini to discuss the issue. What is certain is that it will be impossible to meet the challenge of the NRP by offloading tasks onto the current workforce, which already amounts to about half of that planned, according to the unions.

This issue, among others, was discussed on Monday in Parma, at the “Carlo Mattioli” Auditorium, during the conference Le regioni, gli istituti di cultura e le politiche culturali del territorio nel quadro del PNRR, and in particular addressing the topic was Lorenzo Casini, chief of staff of the minister of culture. The news is important because it is one of the first times (if not the first tout court) that in a public meeting a figure so close to the minister emphasizes the urgency of the issue. “We have a huge issue,” Casini himself said, “that we cannot escape and that needs to be dealt with and addressed urgently: that of the staffing of public facilities. I say this because we are at a time when the staffing of public facilities is very lacking quantitatively and is underpaid: now the implementation of the NRP has arrived and the remedy cannot be to hire people on a temporary basis to do the NRP.”

The impossibility of using temporary staff is given, according to Casini, for two reasons. First, “because those on the inside get depressed, because that is what we have already seen happen. That is, there are officials who are also capable, not necessarily close to retirement, who get 1,500 euros a month and see a technician come in for the PNRR who gets 2,500 and who cannot even sign because then the 1,500-euro official will be the one who has to put the signature. This is not acceptable from an organizational point of view: there are solutions, there are special programs to give incentives to civil servants, but the personnel issue needs to be solved, not only in terms of salaries because the entire salaries, from teachers to the university, of the entire public sector should be reviewed.” The second problem is that of skills, because Casini says, “if there are no people and no professional qualities, no PNRR can ever be implemented.” What would therefore be needed is a “serious program of recruitment and investment in people,” the chief of staff said, so his hope is that “the PNRR will also be an opportunity to go beyond the PNRR itself, that is, to understand how the enormous impact that the implementation of these measures is having can lead to more complex reforms.” In conclusion, Casini said, “for those who study and for those who do culture, working for the state should be seen as the highest possible privilege there can be in life.”

What is certain is that investments will have to lead to creating something that will remain, as the mayor of Parma, Federico Pizzarotti, who opened the proceedings, also hoped: “my concern is what will be left afterwards: we have billions of investments in new facilities and potentially also in new hires, when the money runs out it is not clear to me then how current spending is sustained. In the meantime we need to do reflections that can help us invest the resources we have for the better.” But surely the starting point will have to be resolved first: the staff who will manage the resources for investment.

Pictured: the Collegio Romano, home of the MiC. Photo by Windows on Art

MiC, there's a problem: NRP funds are coming in but lack of staffing
MiC, there's a problem: NRP funds are coming in but lack of staffing

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