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Editorial

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION – A REFORM

Laws reforming the Italian Public Administration have been approved concerning so-called “silenzio assenso” and time limits on non-judicial executive action. There are moves for tighter controls on leadership, to improve quality in the public sectors, to streamline all services and to make them more economical.

PERMITS AND AUTHORISATIONS

Silent Consent

Law no. 124 dated 7th August 2015, reforming the Public Administration (PA), was published in the Italian Republic’s Official Gazette no. 187 on 13th August 2015. It came into force on 28th August 2015.

Art. 3 of law no. 124/2015 supplements the law on administrative procedures (no. 241/1990) with art. 17 bis, an act that governs “silenzio assenso” (i.e. silent consent) between PAs. This covers obtaining consent, an agreement or a nulla osta (a document issued by an administrative authority giving the green light) under the jurisdiction of other PAs or from public goods or services providers. Issuing construction permits is usually a process subject to time-wasting as several entities are involved, such as ASL (Aziende Sanitarie Locali, i.e. the local health authorities), the Fire Services and State authorities.

When a public entity needs one of the aforementioned documents from another administration in order to grant permission, that document must now be issued within 30 days of the “Administration procedente” (the Administration responsible for issuing the required documentation) receiving the draft plans. This 30-day period can be restarted once and once only, for obtaining further information or for requests for changes to be made. Once this period has expired, the permission is considered granted.

If the Administrations involved in the proceedings are responsible for the protection of the environment, landscape, culture, environmental assets or health (this includes State Authorities responsible for assets with an environmental or historical-artistic link), the “Administration procedente” has 90 days to submit the requested documents (unless another time limit has been established and can be justified under the new regulations).

Annulments and Suspension

Previously PAs could annul or suspend permission applications unaccountable to pre-established time limits under art. 21 quater, para. 2 of law no. 241/2015, provided that there were significant legal issues involved (such as a violation of the law, abuse of power, incompetence or public interest).

Art. 6 of law 124/2015 – a modification of art. 21 nonies of law no. 241/1990 – quantifies what was previously called a “reasonable” period: the PA can exercise its power to annul permissions granted under administrative law for 18 months after authorisation or commercial advantages are granted. Suspension can be neither initiated after nor last longer than this time limit.

The power to annul can be held for more than 18 months – subject to sanctions – if a court deems that the permissions were granted on the basis of misrepresentation of the facts or false statements – which would be a criminal act.

The Administration must ask a private entity to regulate and impose necessary measures if the requirements for granting permission are lacking.

Services conferences

Services Conferences are convened when a PA requires authorisations or permits. Provisions already exist for reducing the number of cases that are required to go to conference, for granting automatic consent if the Administration has not reached a decision by the end of the conference and for establishing concrete time limits.

Changes to conference regulations clarify the PAs’ powers in the absence of a response from the relevant authority. They state that one PA representative may attend a conference, and reduce conference scopes meaning only more complex cases will go to conference. Limits have been placed on documentation and clarification requests. Furthermore, the PA must respect public interests for the protection of the environment, of historic or artistic sites, of health and of public safety in a way that brings proceedings to a close within the set time limit. The PA can instigate a re-examination of the case.

The purpose of these criteria is to guarantee that conferences are concluded within the specified time limits. PAs that prolong or worsen cases, do not turn up or do not fulfil obligations should be punished.

In planning permission proceedings it is compulsory to identify SCIAs (Segnalazione Certificata di Inizio Attività – statements indicating a private entity may start works), silent consents and anything else for which express authorisation is required or for which prior notice is sufficient. When applications are made, the interested party must be notified of how long the Administration has to respond before permission is automatically granted.

The aim is again to establish specific time limits and to standardise procedures, to create guarantees in cases of silent consent.

OTHER AREAS OF PA REFORM

Further provisions (under art. 4 of Law 124/2015, be adopted within 180 days of the law entering into force) favour proceedings and works in the general interest that will inspire entrepreneurial activities and have a positive effect on the economy and on employment. The time such proceedings take is expected to be reduced by 50%.

In a move to tighten controls on Administration leadership, careers and remuneration are to be based upon merit with single roles for leadershippositions (one for the State, one for the regions and one for local entities). Positions will no longer be held indefinitely: they will initially last four years but can be extended by a further two, whilst a bad performance will result in losing the job. Administrators ordered to pay damages by the Court of Auditors for loss of revenue as a result of wilful misconduct can be dismissed or banned from roles in any sector that is vulnerable to corruption.

The “segretari comunali” (the institution responsible for ensuring the legitimacy of laws and for anti-corruption functions) will be merged with the local authorities. The Consolidated Law on public-sector employment will be rewritten.

To improve services quality, the minimum mark required from graduates in order to be considered for positions in the PA has been raised. Services will be streamlined and overlapping tasks done away with. This includes restructuring the functional and organisational layout of all the forces of order and the adoption of the EU’s single emergency number (112) for the entire nation, absorbing the existing numbers 118, 113 and 115. Where tasks are carried out by more than one authority, the independent authority will be shut down.

Measures to streamline services also include some measures to make the PA more economical. Restructuring of affiliates and local public services will see cuts and mergers for companies and new regulations on appointment to certain roles. Any entity in the red shall go into administration, limits will be placed on salaries and assessment criteria for employees introduced. Numbers at the Chambers Of Commerce are to be cut from 105 to 60, whilst maintaining its 75,000 registered companies. The Public Automobile Register’s operations will be taken over by the Ministry for Transport (already in charge of motor vehicle licensing). There will be less prefectures and a new, single territorial office will be created. In the wake of a spending review there is to be one single port authority, under the Navy’s command.

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