The Peleggi era winds down: Kessler to take over as Italy’s Customs Agency director

Genoa - On the docks Peleggi will be remembered for creating an IT infrastructure that enabled Italy to handle expanded freight traffic.


di Alberto Quarati

Genoa - At the most recent meeting of Italy’s Council of Ministers (CDM) the current president of the European Anti-Fraud Office, Giovanni Kessler, was appointed to lead Italy’s Customs Agency, replacing Giuseppe Peleggi, who’s been in office since 2008 and was reconfirmed at the post at the start of 2017 with a six-month tenure. As it represents one of three agencies (together with that of Revenue and the Land Registry) that deal with taxation in Italy, there has been much speculation regarding this replacement, coming so near the summer parliamentary recess. There was talk of division within the CDM (Kessler’s appointment was due two weeks ago), and of a delayed spill over effect from the previous Renzi government’s “division of spoils”, as M5S spokesman, Giorgio Sorial, remarked to cabinet members.

While that was the talk at Italy’s parliament, on the docks Peleggi will be remembered for creating an IT infrastructure that enabled Italy to handle expanded freight traffic, despite delays in the completion of major infrastructural projects. 10 years ago a container could take 15 days to clear port, current times have been slashed by 90%, with 92.6% of containers being cleared in anything between 12 seconds and 5 minutes, and last year the World Bank ranked Italian Customs number one for efficiency in the Trading Across Borders index. 58-year-old Peleggi, who hails from Rome, was adviser to Finance Ministers Fantozzi, Visco, Del Turco and, informally, of Amato, between 1995 and 2001, he was then a director in the Treasury office; in 2004 he joined the Customs agency as head of a small IT division, later becoming the agency director in 2008 and assuming management of State Monopolies in 2012 (during the Monti government). All through its evolution, from the Aida operating system to freight-traceability that supports fast customs corridors, with customs clearance at destination and not in port, continuing with customs-clearance-at-sea (which started in 2014, in collaboration with the Coast Guard), and customs e-filing (from this year), as ways to handle formalities at a distance, the Customs Agency’s goal - notwithstanding some episodes of tension with operators - has always been to reduce time without sacrificing an efficient control system, to shave off hours where possible.

As Peleggi departs, the Agency is coming to grips with the EU Customs Code, the trial-runs for Customs 4.0, and also the issue, to which Peleggi repeatedly alluded, of digital erosion - that is, allowing businesses to catch-up with technological evolution and the rise of ecommerce - and, above all, the uncompleted implementation of the Customs-Single-Window, which places Customs in the vanguard compared with other sectors of public administration (with the attending sourness that engendered): “I recall the coffee-break that I arranged between Peleggi and the then commander of the Coast Guard, Felicio Angrisano: that was when we first broached the topic of pre-clearing,” pointed out the former chairman of the Port Authority of Genoa, Luigi Merlo. A long-time head at Spediporto, Renzo Muratore, remembered how Peleggi also owes his success to his team, starting with Cinzia Bricca and Teresa Alvaro. “We kept the lines of communication open, and we had ups and downs, but always maintained the utmost respect for each other,” said Davide Cabiati, president of the Genoa customs officers of the digitization period. “Thanks to technology he managed to change the pace of customs,” concluded Giampaolo Botta, director of Spediporto.