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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is "breaking down an open door," Bank of Israel CEO Yaakov Danon said late Wednesday night in response to the publication of the comptroller's report on "excessive" benefits received by Bank of Israel employees.
According to Danon, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer has already taken steps to address the irregularities in Lindenstrauss's report.
Central bank employees, the report charged, receive more vacation time than those elsewhere in the public sector, as well as private loans from the State's coffers, while retirees from the bank receive packages worth an average of more than NIS 2 million apiece.
"Many of the bank workers' benefits are not expressed in their monthly paychecks. These benefits have names that are similar to those of benefits given elsewhere in the public sector, but at the Bank of Israel, there is no link between the name of the benefit and its content, and are ruses for giving large sums of money to its workers," the report said.
Unlike other government offices, the Bank of Israel's budget is set internally and not subject to approval by any external body. Salaries are paid from the revenues from the State's foreign currency investments, which the bank is in charge of managing, the report noted.
According to the report, workers receive extra "special vacation" days over and above their normal vacation days, which are to be redeemed for cash when they retire. They also are entitled to 80 percent more sick days than other public sector workers - days which can also be redeemed for money.
In addition, special loans taken out by central bank workers totaled as much as NIS 222m. as of May 2005, an average of NIS 225,000 per person. The Comptroller recommended that these loans be completely stopped.
Retirement packages given by the bank were the most excessive offense, however, the report said.
Benefits, including those for unused vacation days and other items, average NIS 2m. per person in addition to the regular compensation packages. In addition, all members of management automatically receive 40 years of work experience factored into their retirement packages. This allows workers to receive much greater benefits than they otherwise would deserve. The report also noted that some workers had their retirement packages increased by 3%-6% for health reasons, with no rejections recorded for any applicants.
The Bank of Israel responded to the charges saying that it had begun working on many of the issues brought up in the report nine months ago, well before the Comptroller's investigation began. Many of the problems, it said, have already been worked out between the bank, its workers' union and the Finance Ministry, while other issues are in final negotiation stages and should be resolved soon. In addition, the bank charged that "The Comptroller's report chose to ignore the accomplishments that have helped the Israeli economy, and that they are the results of years of professional work by the bank's presidents and workers. The report's antagonistic tone is not justified."