ROME—The Italian Ministry of Education, Universities, and Research plans to investigate claims that some of its officials have systematically assigned funding worth hundreds of millions of euros, part of it for research and innovation, in exchange for bribes. The accusations, laid out in detail in a document passed to the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano by an anonymous source, concern development funding from the European Union, which was distributed to companies in the south of Italy by the research ministry.
The ministry serves as the national hub for €6.2 billion worth of so-called Structural Funds, given to Italy by the European Union for the period of 2007 to 2013. These funds come from a massive pot used primarily to simulate the economy in Europe's poorer regions through investments in businesses, infrastructure, research and development, energy, et cetera. The file obtained by the newspaper, thought to be written by an official within the ministry, describes how some of that funding is assigned not on the basis of merit but to firms that provide ministry employees with cash, consultancies, and other benefits. How much of the money was earmarked for science is unclear.