Italy's outgoing government has denied claims that it blocked the funding of a national 'brain gain' action plan aimed at supporting the return of the country's leading researchers and scientists from abroad. On 10 May, the Rome daily newspaper La Repubblica alleged that a decision was taken back in March, when the outgoing government introduced modifications to the 2006 budget, deferring budgetary allocations until 2007. The action plan, which was started in 2001, provided additional funds to Italian universities, enabling them to offer short-term contracts of between six months to three years to Italian and foreign researchers and scientists wishing to work at their institutions. Since its implementation, a total of 466 researchers and professors, half of whom were returning Italian scientists, have benefited from the scheme. Outgoing Minister of Education, Universities and Research, Letizia Moratti, issued an official statement denying the newspaper claims. It stated that on the contrary, the budgetary discussions confirmed the ministry's commitment to ensuring secure working conditions for researchers who have already received contracts through the action plan. It announced that the ministry was allocating a further three million euro to help universities to provide grants to 300 of these researchers. In other related news, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi was formally given a mandate to form the next government. However, a decision as to the appointment of a minister for education and research was postponed until later this year.