Roberto Priolo reports on a massive run for efficiency the Italian judiciary system is about to make under government plans to cut costs and streamline processes.

Italy may just be about to undertake one of the largest and most elaborate efficiency exercises in its history. Mario Monti’s government is engaging in a war on waste to help the country, which is in desperate need for dramatic changes in the way its bureaucracy and public offices work, save costs.

One of the most comprehensive transformations is the one the judiciary system will experience. The effort is spearheaded by Paola Severino, the Minister of Justice, who announced a number of changes to the structure of the system last week.

To move away from what Severino defined as “a 19th century geography, designed more around trips on carriages than around high speed trains,” the Italian government has proposed measures that will eliminate 37 courts, 38 Public Prosecutor’s offices, 220 branch offices and 674 Justice of the Peace offices.

Welcoming the proposed reform, Paolo Corder of the Superior Council of Judiciary told the Corriere della Sera newspaper: “This is a momentous change we have been waiting for decades to see. We finally have the reform we need to make the work of magistrates more efficient.”

Mr Corder added that while everyone would like to have a court in their town, those times are now gone. “We need to rationalise our resources,” he added. “All magistrates and civil servants need to show courage and sense of sacrifice: those who will have to travel a few more miles to go to work will have to do it with the belief that this will allow the entire system to work better.”

Consolidating smaller courts and closing down branch offices will allow for court staff to work more closely together. The Ministry hopes this will cause files to be dealt with more quickly, in a country famous for its lengthy procedures.

In certain tribunals less than 5,000 cases are dealt with annually under the current system, with very high costs. If passed, the reform wouldn’t only contribute to increasing efficiency of operations in courts around Italy: it would also save the country €2.9m in 2012, €17.3m in 2013 and €31.3m in 2014.

Somehow surprisingly, the government managed to design a reform that would not lead to any layoffs: staff will be reallocated instead. Don’t know about you, but this sounds like a great project to lean out processes in one of the most static public sector institutions in Italy.