More on Embassy Rome’s Donated $1.1 Million Wine Cellar

I’m not shock off my socks that Uncle Sam did not foot the bill on the construction of the wine cellar in Villa Taverna. But the OIG Report on US Mission Italy (which has good things to say all around) has an enlightening item on the wine cellar constructed during the tenure of former Ambassador Spogli. 

On October 10, 2008, American and Italian vintners and wine enthusiasts funded a $1.1 million wine cellar for the historic Villa Taverna, the residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Italy. The wine cellar’s inventory of 2,426 bottles of wine is valued at about $69,000. The wine cellar’s maximum capacity is 5,000 bottles. The Department approved all donations for the wine cellar and wine.

The wine cellar will be used as a diplomatic tool to emphasize the friendship and commerce between Italy and the United States. It will highlight, through showcasing American and Italian wines, American entrepreneurs’ investment in Italian wines and vice versa.

The mission has a policy in place that requires replacement of wine extracted from cellar for the Ambassador’s personal use. To maintain the wine cellar, the management recommends to the Ambassador that his residence manager advance or bulk purchase wines for consumption at official events and for display in the wine cellar. These wines would be reimbursed as an allowable representation expense. This procedure would also allow for donated wines to be used in lieu of the wine purchased as long as the donated wine is replaced with a similar value wine.

Currently, the residence manager is the only person designated to order, receive, record, and maintain an inventory of the wine. The OIG team believes that management controls should be strengthened. The management section should conduct periodic physical spot checks and conduct an annual inventory. Department guidance requires posts to procure American wines through bulk purchase, with representational funds and to order, receive, inventory, and issue the wines in the same manner as other controlled expendable items. The same practice should be followed with the donated wines.

Recommendation 34: Embassy Rome should complete and implement a standard operating procedure for the ordering, receiving, inventorying, and issuing of wine that includes periodic spot checks and an annual inventory. (Action: Embassy Rome)

For the record — this is the first wine cellar ever constructed in the residence of an American ambassador.

Also, in 2009, Italian exporters shipped $1.2 billion worth of wine to the U.S. while American wineries provided only $60.3 million in wine products that Italy imported. This page on Italian Trade statistics for 2009 indicates that “Italian wine exporters enjoy a competitive advantage in excess of $1 billion over their American trade partners.”

Speaking of US Embassy Rome, the recent OIG report on support for employees in high stress, high threat, unaccompanied posts has singled out the previous leadership at the embassy in its support for returnees from these assignments. Unnamed in the report, but we presumed this was under the leadership of Ambassador Spogli. 

“Depending on the resilience of the employees and what they have experienced in their high threat post, many can overcome these adjustment problems with time. However, their adjustment can be enhanced by the actions of their supervisors and colleagues at their new place of assignment. The OIG survey indicated very few posts where management paid special attention to those employees coming from high stress assignments, to say nothing of creating a program to smooth their transi­tion. One exception is Embassy Rome where the previous leadership helped return­ees develop a program that brought them together for discussions. The group set its own agenda focused on their experiences at their high stress posts and their adjust­ment to life and work in Rome.”

Related posts:

Related items:
-06/30/10   Embassy Rome, Italy, Its Constituent Posts, and the Republic of San Marino (ISP-I-10-59A) June 2010  [628 Kb]

-07/27/10   Review of Support for Employees Who Are Serving or Have Served in High Stress, High Threat, Unaccompanied Posts (ISP-I-10-44) July 2010  [346 Kb]