State Comptroller Joseph Shapira.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation decided on Sunday to postpone by at least a month a vote on a controversial bill that would limit the powers of the state comptroller.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi), who heads the committee, made the decision not to bring the bill of Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich to a vote after it became apparent that it lacked a majority.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, who is not a member of the committee, came to the meeting to speak against the bill, which was opposed by committee members Gila Gamliel (Likud) and Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beytenu).
The bill would have limited the comptroller to dealing with issues of proper governance and would not allow him to make recommendations to those subject to his oversight or to follow up to see if problems he alerted them to were fixed.
Smotrich denied the bill was intended to weaken the comptroller, saying the position had been bolstered during the tenure of former comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss and he wanted to return the situation to what it was before.
“The state comptroller is an important institution that plays a key, role but he is not supposed to be a decision maker,” Smotrich said.
The bill outraged opposition MKs and former prime minister Ehud Barak, who accused Smotrich of serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s efforts to harm government oversight amid multiple criminal investigations.
“So, now the state comptroller is also being slaughtered?” Barak wrote on Twitter. “Netanyahu fears his fate, so those who serve him are losing their conscience. Those servants are initiating bills that belong in Zimbabwe under [arrested dictator Robert] Mugabe
Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said the bill was intended to silence the comptroller and that under Netanyahu “every day that passes we become less of a democracy.”
Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich, who chairs the Knesset State Control Committee that oversees the comptroller, said the bill was destructive and would have been tantamount to closing down the institution of state comptroller.
The ministers also voted against a bill sponsored by MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union) that would have significantly increased the amount of information ministers and MKs provide the state in conflict-of-interest agreements.
A vote on permitting settlers to return to the Homesh and Sa-Nur communities that were evacuated at the same time as the Gaza Strip was postponed by a week.