Messina, eight under investigation for University contracts: all contracts under the lens of the Prosecutor’s Office

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By John

The key concepts that the Prosecutor’s Office uses when concluding the preliminary investigations, and which recur in practically all the nine charges, are probably three: “contract above the threshold”, “25% reduction”, and “lack of the required requirements”.
And it is around these three fundamental aspects that the turning point came in the second investigation into the Cuzzocrea management of the University of Messina, an investigation which refers to the findings raised by the Anac in the now distant April of 2022 for the management of contracts, supplies and services for the Peloritano university.
The one on the “refund case”, however temporally more recent, due to an affair that also led to Cuzzocrea’s resignation on 9 October 2023, is still ongoing.
The act of conclusion of the preliminary investigations pursuant to art. 415 bis cpc is signed by the deputy prosecutor Rosa Raffawho holds the file together with the substitute Francesca Bonanzinga. The Prosecutor’s Office hypothesizes for various reasons the crimes of bid rigging in competition and forgery by a public official for eight suspects. In addition to the former rector of Messina Salvatore Cuzzocrea and the general director of the university Francesco Bonanno are also under investigation, i.e. the owners of the companies that carried out work, in some cases still in progress, and made supplies for the university. It’s about Catania Daniele Zennafrom the Gorizia area Raffaele Olivofrom Palermo Giuseppe CiancioloOf Holy Frank originally from Gangi in the Palermo area, of Michelangelo Geraci originally from Mussomeli in the province of Caltanissetta, and finally from the former mayor of Brolo Rosaria Irene Ricciardellocurrent opposition municipal councilor in the Tyrrhenian centre.
The content of the investigation is very precise: the findings made by the Anac, the National Anti-Corruption Authority, speaking of “non-compliance and irregularities in the tenders announced by the University of Messina”. We were in 2022 and the ANAC concluded the investigation with resolution no. 184, approved by the council on April 5. The contracts contested by the Authority concerned a whole series of works: energy efficiency of the University’s real estate assets (ten million in amount); the conservative restoration works of the elevations and redevelopment of the university real estate assets (total amount 7,808,000 euros); the execution of the works for the conversion of university residences in two buildings of the University (award amount of 9,363,953 euros and 8,419,316 euros). Furthermore, the ANAC investigation concerned the assignment of supplies and services: supply and installation of educational furniture (total amount €1,364,740); supply and installation of furniture and accessories (total amount €403,124), both entrusted with resolution of the board of directors of the University of Messina dated 24/9/2021.
The underlying theory that the Prosecutor’s Office now puts forward on those contracts, awarded in some sessions of the university’s board of directors between September and December 2021, is essentially one: there would have been a sort of “two-way control” between Cuzzocrea and Bonanno – in fact they are accused not only of the auction rigging, but also of the forgery of the public official -, with the complicity of the various entrepreneurs entrusted with the works.
The concept of “above threshold contract” is essentially linked to the fact that for those works, for several million euros, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, a real tender would have been necessary and not a sort of “direct award”, as in fact happened . The other key concept is linked to the fact that practically all the companies – this is the version “passed” by the university board of directors according to the Prosecutor’s Office – made a reduction of 25% on paper. And finally, the “lack of the required requirements” according to the Prosecutor’s Office is linked to the fact that all the companies did not meet the requirements required by law for works of these amounts, and in some cases, unlike what is written in the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors , the companies had not “sent anything by certified e-mail”, with an offer that was “perfectly aligned with the request of the contracting authority”.
The concept of forgery by the public official hypothesized for the former rector Cuzzocrea and the director general Bonanno is instead linked to the fact that, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, the two would have provided a false representation of the facts – the first in the meetings of the Board of Directors, the second with the invoice material of administrative documents -, to close the circle on contracts to be awarded without tender.
The Prosecutor’s Office with its investigations, entrusted at the time to the Carabinieri of the Investigative Unit, specifically dealt with five contracts: the first is for the furnishings of the Dicam of the former Faculty of Science, amounting to 403 thousand euros, involving the “Olivo e Groppo” company; the second for the design and execution of works for the energy efficiency of the university’s real estate assets, amounting to 10 million and 170 thousand euros, involving the Cianciolo company; the third for the conservative restoration of the façades and the redevelopment of the University’s real estate assets, amounting to 7 million and 808 thousand euros, involving the company Icoser srl of Santo Franco; the fourth for the construction works to convert part of pavilion A of the Polyclinic into a student residence, amounting to 9 million and 363 thousand euros, involving the company Eredi Gerasi Salvatore srl; and finally the fifth for the conversion of the former Hotel Riviera, along Viale della Libertà, into university residences, amounting to 8 million and 419 thousand euros, involving the Ricciardello di Brolo company.