ROME, April 6 (Xinhua) -- Half of the public employees of a Sicilian village are under investigation for aggravated fraud because they habitually played hooky from work, local media has reported.
A judge has suspended 16 out of 23 suspects, including three managers, from their jobs in the community of Ficarra, population of 1,400, according to La Sicilia newspaper. The village has a total of 40 public employees.
The 23 suspects clocked in to work, then spent the day running errands. "It's been done this way for the past 30 years," one suspect reportedly told police.
Investigators unearthed a "fraudulent and pathological system" in a context of "administrative anarchy," La Stampa newspaper said.
Codacons consumer association said it would join any court proceedings as a civil plaintiff.
Italy is not new to cases of blatant and protracted absenteeism among its public sector employees.
In early 2017, police arrested 55 doctors and nurses at a Naples public hospital who defrauded public coffers of an estimated 800,000 euros (over 980,000 U.S. dollars) over the course of five years of absenteeism.
One of them worked as a chef, and another went to play tennis while claiming to be on duty.
Under a 2016 government reform, absentee public employees must be swiftly suspended pending an investigation, and sacked if found guilty.