Barkat denounces National Authority for move out of capital

August 5, 2016 02:39

“The Jerusalem Municipality calls on the national government to adhere to the decision that stipulates that all government units must be headquartered exclusively in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel

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Mayor Nir Barkat

Mayor Nir Barkat at the Jerusalem Marathon press conference this past March. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Citing the 2007 cabinet mandate that all national government offices be based in Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday condemned plans by the National Authority for Technological Innovation to move out of the capital to Lod, where it has signed a three-year lease.

The authority is part of the Economy Ministry and was established earlier this year to replace the ministry’s Office of the Chief Scientist. A statement issued by the ministry claimed it had no choice but to relocate due to a pronounced lack of office space in the capital.

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“In view of the shortage of available assets in Jerusalem, and the estimated time it would take to find a suitable building, it was decided to lease a building for three years.”

A Jerusalem location, however, is the ministry’s long-term goal. According to the statement, a building plan for the “authority’s structure in Jerusalem has been approved, with the aim of promoting its location and suitability to the authority.”

It remains unclear when and where the structure will be built.

Nonetheless, the Jerusalem Municipality said in a statement on Thursday that the relocation is unacceptable, noting that such a move, though only temporary, violates the 2007 government decision.

“The Jerusalem Municipality calls on the national government to adhere to the decision that stipulates that all government units must be headquartered exclusively in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.

“Mayor Barkat raised this issue at a special cabinet meeting on Jerusalem Day, in which he called upon each minister to lead by example in returning to, or maintaining, their operations in the city. The municipality will continue to petition the Supreme Court as necessary to ensure strict adherence to this law.”

The 2007 mandate reaffirmed the capital as “the seat of government,” and all national offices. However, a requirement to relocate by 2015 has been balked at by those who say insufficient space has been allocated for such a move.

The latest State Comptroller Report seemed to agree by stating that implementation of the mandated plan has significantly failed.

The government contended that concentrating all its activity in the capital was a key to strengthening the city politically, socially and economically. Emphasizing Jerusalem’s ongoing economic woes, it stressed the benefit of adding thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands of square meters of office buildings.

The Prime Minister’s Office decision was made in coordination with the Government Housing Administration, Finance Ministry and Jerusalem Development Authority.

The director of the Prime Minister’s Office was charged with forming a team to devise a “master plan” to move government offices to the capital within the eight-year window.

The master plan called for development of roughly 130,000 sq.m. of land on which to house 95 national units from 20 government agencies.

From April-August 2012 the State Comptroller’s Office – with assistance from the Jerusalem Municipality, Civil Service Commission, Government Companies Authority and Planning Administration of the Interior Ministry – examined the resolution’s implementation.

The report found incomplete preparation for the plan has caused continued significant delay of government relocation to the city.

The Housing Administration has acted in recent years to create structures designed for different government offices. However, the report said those efforts, which include a planned expansion of the David Ben-Gurion government compound, have failed.

The compound can presently only provide about 15 percent of the total space needed to transfer all government offices. The report said plans are still many years away from the expansion needed to meet relocation needs.

The report found that staff charged with securing funding for construction have failed to do so. As a result, the government decided that the Housing Administration can only authorize leases, renovation or construction related to the transfer with approval of an “Exceptions Committee,” headed by the PMO’s director.

This protocol was repeatedly breached when the Housing Administration approved leases or sought alternative housing, without seeking the committee’s approval.

Additionally, the Exceptions Committee rejected the requests of the Development of the Negev and Galilee Ministry, and Culture and Sports Ministry to move to Jerusalem.

With few exceptions, the State Comptroller’s Report found no substantive action plan had been implemented to encourage government units to move to the capital. This has resulted in a decree instructing the Government Companies Authority to examine which units will be required to make the move.

Incomplete plans have significantly delayed relocation of government offices. Among those are plans to secure sources of financing, monitor implementation and even determine a viable time frame, according to the report.

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