Municipalities payment times improve, but in the South the average is 4 times higher than in the North
Over the course of 2022, 40% of Italian regional capitals have exceeded the maximum limit of 30 days within which trade debts must be paid. A result in line with that of the previous year, in which exactly the same eight out of twenty institutions had exceeded: L’Aquila, Potenza, Catanzaro, Naples, Rome, Campobasso, Palermo and Perugia. In 2020, there were 11 cities that had missed the deadlines, while in 2019 even 12. These are some of the data that emerged from a research by the Centro Studi Enti Locali (Csel), for Adnkronos, which analyzed the timeliness indices of payments published on the sites institutions of the capital cities of the Italian regions to see how many of these have managed to pay their trade debts within the maximum limit allowed by the reference standard, the legislative decree n. 231/2002. This decree provides that commercial debts must be paid within 30 days from the date of receipt of the invoice or request for payment. In particular cases, specific agreements can be signed which extend this limit up to 60 days.
While globally the number of ‘outlawed’ entities remained unchanged, overall most cities improved their payment timeliness ratio compared to the previous year. On average, the times have shortened by about eight days. The most decisive leap forward was that made by Turin, which closed last year with a decrease of almost two months, arriving at an average payment of 17 days against 76 the previous year.
Even Naples, the capital municipality with the most critical situation from this point of view, has made an effort to contract the times, gnawing at almost 22 days, but has nevertheless achieved a result drastically far from that envisaged by sector legislation. Despite the aforementioned improvement, the Campania city has in fact recorded a payment timeliness index of 206 days which, translated, means having paid its suppliers on average almost eight months (236 days) from the moment of receipt of the invoice.
The Neapolitan city, as well as in previous years, remains largely the borderline case among those examined. The second worst is Catanzaro which, however, exceeds the maximum limit imposed by the legislation by ‘only’ by 42 days. It must be said, however, that Naples too is making a series of steps forward year after year. In 2020, its average had been 314 days beyond the deadline (about 10 months), while in 2019 the year was even exceeded, with payments 425 days after receipt of the invoice. Among the cities attributable to the South, the only two that paid their invoices on average before the deadline last year were Bari (-12.8 days) and Cagliari (-8.96). These two regional capitals are now habitués of the group of virtuous administrations in this sense and confirm the positive results already obtained in previous years.
Moderate the delay of the Abruzzo capital, which paid its debts on average in 34 days, exceeding the maximum limit imposed by sector regulations by only four days. On the other hand, the overruns of the other southern capitals are more marked. Beyond the aforementioned Naples, the 42 days for Catanzaro stand out, which pays almost 73 days after receipt of the invoice, worsening its performance compared to the previous year in which the delay had been on average 37 days. Potenza was also bad, paying its invoices on average 38 days late with respect to the maximum limit of one month, and Palermo, which recorded delays of around 27 days, an improvement on the previous year in which the extra days, compared to what was allowed, there were 32.
In Campobasso, the average delay was 24 days (54 days from receipt of the invoice), with a marked improvement compared to 2021 in which the extra days had been 61. Overall, thanks to the downward trend of the Neapolitan result, the average of the regional capitals of the South was more than double that of the cities of the Center and four times higher than that of the cities of the North: 70 days of waiting for the creditors of the Municipalities of Southern Italy, from the moment of the sending of the invoice, against 16 in the North and 27 in the Centre.
There are no surprises on the podium of the cities with the best payment promptness indexes. The most virtuous of all remains Trento, which paid in 2021 on average 21 days in advance, as well as in the previous two years. Bologna (-19.51 days), Venice (-17.79), Genoa (-14.43), Turin (-12.9), Trieste (-11.99), Milan (-10.22) also performed well and Aosta (-3.21). Therefore, there is a clear reversal of direction also by what until 2021 had been the only latecomer among the large capital cities of Northern Italy, namely Turin. The capital of the Piedmont region went from a 2021 payment timeliness index of +46 days to an even negative result in 2022: minus 12.9 days which means having paid on average 17 days from the moment of receipt of the invoice.
Finally, as regards the cities of the Center, the most virtuous is Florence with a payment timeliness index of -11.21 days in 2022, substantially in line with the -12.57 days in 2021, minus 11.73 in 2020 and minus 4.65 in 2019. Rome follows, which closes with a delay of less than a day: 30.66 days from receipt of the invoice.
Perugia also did well, registering an average delay of only 3 days. The only capital city that has not yet published the 2022 result as of 7 April 2023 is Ancora, whose updates are stopped in the first quarter of 2022. In this case, therefore, one can only observe that from January to March 2022 the index had been equal to -1.5 days.
“These numbers, which the administrations are required to publish on their websites in implementation of the Transparency decree, are not the result of an arithmetic average – specifies Csel – but weighted. In determining the indicator of timeliness of payments, the invoices of the highest therefore, a (legitimate) ‘trick’ adopted by many administrations to lower the indicator is to pay the heaviest invoices immediately, which bring down the average, instead taking longer for those of a smaller amount “.
“The issue of payment times for Italian public administrations – underlines Csel – is very hot right now, given that last January the EU Commission decided to start a second-phase infringement procedure against our country precisely because of our delays in this regard. The excessively long payment times of our public bodies cost Italy, in June 2014, the launch of an EU infringement procedure and, in January 2020, a conviction by the Court of justice of the European Union. The risk now is of incurring significant pecuniary sanctions”.
“A strong commitment to reduce payment times – he recalls – was contracted, again with the EU, also when drafting the National Recovery and Resilience Plan which includes, among the enabling reforms, also the ‘Reduction of payment times payment of public administrations and health authorities’ (Reform n. 1.11, to be completed by 2023)”.