A report by a publicly-appointed committee on Thursday recommended reducing the
number of “special advisers” in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and
establishing a new socioeconomic division.
The Kucik Committee report,
presented to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, said that throughout the years
and under many different governments, the PMO’s staffing structure has become
characterized by many “special advisers” whose managerial and professional roles
in the overall office hierarchy are unclear.
The report said its
recommendations aimed to “balance between the need to ensure the prime minister
and his staff can function and fulfill his duties, and between the need to
maintain the professionalism, effectiveness and independence of public service
Netanyahu appointed the Kucik Committee last February in the
wake of a draft report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss that slammed
“human resource errors” in the PMO.
In January this year, Lindenstrauss
published the final version of his report, which discussed at length the
appointment of “special advisers,” the personal aides and advisers hired at the
discretion of the prime minister, ministers and ministry directors-general
separately from regular civil service staff.
Lindenstrauss found that the
number of special adviser positions in the PMO has increased almost sixfold
under successive governments between 1995 and 2010, and discrepancies were also
uncovered in the salaries paid to special advisers, some of which were far
higher than the prescribed rate.
The Kucik report’s many recommendations
include making amendments to the Civil Service Regulations dealing with the
prime minister’s staff, a redefinition of the PMO’s human resource needs, and
the appointment of a deputy director-general to alleviate the heavy workload
placed on the PMO.
In reaction to the committee’s report, Netanyahu
issued a laconic response, thanking the committee for its findings and saying he
would appoint two people – Moshe Leon and Uri Yogev – to study how to implement
Chaired by former PMO general director Yossi Kucik, the
Kucik Committee also includes public and academic officials Yael Andorn, of the
Plenus lending fund and former Treasury deputy director-general; Bar Ilan
University law professor Gideon Sapir; Prof. David Dery of the Mandel Leadership
Institute; and Dror Strum of the Israeli Institute for Economic
The report emphasized that, though the size of the PMO’s staff
is similar to that of other Western democracies, it is not ordered efficiently
and in a manner consistent with its needs.
The report recommends slashing
the number of special advisers from 56 to just 25 – but without reducing overall
staffing numbers in the PMO.
According to the report’s recommendations,
three current ‘special adviser to the prime minister’ roles should be replaced
with professional special adviser posts, which would be subordinate to the PMO
The remaining special adviser posts should be replaced
with permanent professional staff in the PMO’s various departments, “to ensure
professionalism, expertise and continuity,” the report recommended.
report further recommends restructuring the PMO’s professional divisions,
redefining them so that they mirror those in other government
The report recommends removing special adviser posts that act
as heads of PMO professional divisions, and redefining them as ‘professional
special adviser’ roles, which will be supervised by the PMO
This proposal, the report said, is intended to regulate
the distribution of ‘special advisers’ between the prime minister and his
director-general and ensure department heads retain the appropriate level of
professionalism and trust.
“This will prevent the poor practice, which
has endured for over two decades, in which department heads were made to act in
violation of Civil Service Regulations through no choice of their own,” the
The report also proposes creating a new socioeconomic staff
in the PMO, to meet the growing needs of the office. This would include
appointing a deputy-director general via a tender recruitment process and new
departments – an Economic and Infrastructure Division, an Interior Division and
a Social Services Division.
According to the report, existing ‘special
adviser’ posts in the PMO’s professional teams should be converted into
permanent positions, which should each have a professional role and job
The report also recommends that those PMO officials whose
roles are to assist the prime minister in promoting state affairs – including
the director-general – and the prime minister’s aides and advisers, should be
selected by the prime minister, with government approval.
minister should also be permitted to appoint a further five advisers, for
example a Jerusalem Affairs Adviser or an Arab Affairs Consultant, whose job
descriptions should first be approved by the Civil Service
The report also set out recommendations for the
qualifications special advisers should have, which were formulated by the Civil
Service Commission in consultation with the prime minister. These included a
university education, a good command of English and professional
The report also includes a review of how special advisers are
appointed in other Western democracies.
In the UK, for example, prime
ministers usually personally interview civil servants for key roles in their
offices, and hire professional and experienced employees, the report
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.