(Remark: the following thought is a bit boring for non-experts, and probably will leave many readers indifferent. It’s only an example of idiocy of Italian bureaucracy.)
Thinking that in Italy the Public Administration can be induced to spend less through simple rules, is a pure illusion. While there are regional politicians who have two official cars to go to work in the morning, and the law gives them the right to have, it happens that the Administrative Director of the largest University in Europe (Sapienza University, where I work) enacts a directive nothing short of brilliant: the office phones of the University should be enabled for local calls only. Simple and effective. No university in Italy has a rule like this, but obviously Sapienza must set a good example. In this way, when a professor should take part in a phone meeting with foreign universities and companies involved in European research projects, he/she will do that by a Department mobile phone, and the University will pay a higher fare. But that the central administration of the University does not care: for some reasons the department mobile phones are charged to the research funds of the Departments. So: overall the University spends more, but the landline telephone expense entry in the central administration appears to be lower.
It is easy to find examples of other kind. If I – as a university professor – want to buy a scientific book on Amazon for my Department with my credit card, I can not do: I have to buy it through an official supplier who accepts payments against formal invoices and is certified by the Italian fiscal system, obviously at twice the price of Amazon. (Or I’ll pay out of my pocket, this is always possible and among academics happens more often than you think).
The moral (a term no longer used) is not in these specific minor Italian faults, but in the mentality behind it: for the bureaucrats of the administration it is absolutely right to do so, and they laugh if you tell them otherwise. Nobody cares about real saving, it only matters respecting formal rules and sleep peacefully. For this, I am absolutely convinced that the “spending review” is a fib, even if all 600 thousand Italian official cars were removed.
For the record, at the moment the Departments of Sapienza University were able to block the directive on local calls, which had ridiculed us with colleagues from all over Italy, but I expect the bureaucrats be back fighting soon.