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MCTCnet2:  the real issue

The Italian industry has built its reputation in the world thanks to the quality of its products and  service excellence, certainly not on certificates, diplomas or endorsements from  any government or public authority

Massimo Brunamonti

"Roadworthiness? Beware of scams! ""The inspection scam." "Dead for months, approves 1200 inspections"; "A software able to simulate a car  in the workshop"; if we surf the Internet or the media under the heading "inspection scams" we are spoiled for choice.  Now, that the problem of false safety  inspections existed and is serious we already knew; what we did not absolutely expect  is that there is someone who, for reasons completely unknown to us, is thinking about ways to delay the solution.

Yes, because this is what it’s all about: we are running the risk that the long-awaited MCTCnet2, new fraud management system developed by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, will be further delayed.

To better understand the situation we must take a step back. The MCTCnet2 was to become operative, as stated in the April 10, 2013 letter by the Ministry of Transport, by March 31, 2015,  after taking all the necessary steps to equip all roadworthiness inspection centres with this new system (See article "MCTCNET2:  Could this be it, at last? "PNEURAMA May-June 2013).

Unfortunately, everything started to jam right at the time when the software’s installation should have started. The ministerial letter stated that Phase 1,  the PC Station and PC Booking software downloading should have started on October 1, 2013, pending the completion and final certification by 31 March 2014. For the completion though, it was necessary that the Ministry enabled the software keys for the installation by means of which the inspection centre’s computer is able to connect to the Department of motor Vehicle’s Data Processing Centre  and thus complete the circle of automatic exchange of encrypted data, the heart of the anti-fraud mechanism. To date, however, after more than five months, the software keys are still locked and software suppliers are unable to proceed with the installation.

In the meantime, something unexpected and puzzling happened. The Transportation Committee of the Senate, as reported by the press release of AICA last February 27, called on the Administration to further postpone the deadline for the software registration. The minutes of the 14 January meeting read: " the Government is urged to give rapid and urgent implementation to the commitment made (...), extending the deadline for software updating (...) 31 October 2014".

In light of this, the Department for Transport and Navigation issued on February 24 a newsletter stating it recognized the Senate’s solicitation and will carry out a "review of the program of implementation of the Protocol" MCTCnet2. The “review” means, to postpone "from March 31 to October 31, 2014 the deadline for updating the PC Station and PC Booking software of the MCTCnet2 system anticipated by the various inspection centres."

Mind you: This may not necessarily cause a delay in the overall process. The installation of the software is in fact only one of the steps; others, mainly concerning the consequent upgrading of the equipment may be still carried out on time, thereby maintaining the closing date of 31 March 2015 for the completion of the process. Initially, in fact,  two separate and distinct steps were programmed, first step the installation of new software, followed by the updating of equipment. If the deadline is to be met these steps must be reviewed. The software installation and updating of equipment must be carried out at the same time, something possible if not advantageous, if properly managed.

The Ministry, in the same document, acknowledges the wish of the main associations "to promptly start the first phase of the project consisting in the installation of their software."

However, actions speak louder than words. Furthermore, the Ministry complained about the limited number of manufacturers that have passed scrutiny, as observed from further sessions of "test run on the software of companies that have self-certified their products as conforming to the MCTCnet2 protocol" but have not yielded the desired results.

It would appear, then, that the cause of all this is the delay of a few software suppliers in conforming their products to the approved standards.

This is not how AICA and the Italian manufacturers who are part of it view the matter. To better understand we have to remember that the process of scrutiny, which began in April, 2013, was to be completed, as anticipated by the Administration, in October of the same year. In the meantime, however, the Administration itself has changed the technical specs causing a need for additional and unexpected adjustments and subsequent tests with an increased workload for the already limited resources of the Department technical structure. In conclusion, if today we are crying over lost time, it would be good to ask why, before blaming those who in the meantime have worked, trusting times and forecasts that later proved to be approximate if not unrealistic.

What seems really puzzling is, how possibly could an industrial system such as the Italian one, that in the field of garage and testing equipment is a recognized world leader, not be able, as  the Ministry implies, to comply with the set process schedule and procedures. We refuse to believe that a self-destroying attitude prevailed in manufacturers, resulting in a widespread negligence towards their own products to the point of forgetting their own responsibilities. Manufacturers are well aware of being responsible in all respects of their products regardless of  certificates or endorsements by authorities, institutions and bureaucrats, and they’re also very well aware that the consequences of non-conformity and failure will fall primarily on them. The Italian industry has built its reputation in the world thanks to the quality of its products and  service excellence, certainly not on certificates, diplomas or endorsements from  any government or public authority.

The persistence of these roadworthiness inspection scams and the shock of what is happening in terms of possible delays to the solution of the problem brings forth a simple question: why?

Inspections in Italy are quite a burden for citizens; according to the “Osservatorio Autopromotec” the total national expenditure for these inspections and pre-inspection overhauls added up to EUR 2.7 billion in 2013 alone, for an average cost of 65 € per inspection and 130 euro for a pre-inspection overhaul for each motorist, money collected both from these inspection centres as by the government, both in case of correct or fraudulent safety checks.

Notwithstanding the importance of roadworthy and safety tests, looking at this issue from a purely economical point of view, what seems absolutely beyond any comprehension are these hesitations against fake and fraudulent inspection that in addition to causing concerns for safety, represent a considerable expense. Therefore, on the basis of which observations did the Senate’s Transportation Committee consider it appropriate to urge the Government to postpone, without, as far as we know, even consulting the industry? Do they perhaps believe that citizens are happy to throw their money away ? Are politicians  really so distant from the real world?

The Government itself acknowledges that the main trade associations urge the prompt launching of the MCTCnet2 system. So why not allow  to install the types of software that have already passed scrutiny  enabling software keys for installation? What is the Ministry of Transport doing to ensure that there are no further delays to the detriment of the citizens?

The last above-mentioned ministerial letter unfortunately does not reply in that sense, it simply acknowledges the political request to postpone the Phase 1 schedule. The question is: what happened to the 31 March 2015 deadline? What action will the Government take to keep its promises and ensure that April 1, 2015  will be the “ ‘clean’ inspections for all” D-Day? We have to make amends, we’re afraid: the title of the previous article "Is it the right time?" Should have been "Can we believe it?".

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