Public-sector salaries raise eyebrows

Health fund executives under pressure following release of annual salaries report.

Haifa port 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Haifa port 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Finance Ministry on Monday released an annual report detailing the monthly salaries of public-sector employees in 2006, sparking a media firestorm over the high earnings of health fund executives. Topping the list is Meuhedet health fund's former director-general, Uzi Salant, who earned a gross monthly wage of NIS 84,997. Michael Friedman, a gynecologist for Maccabi Healthcare Service, earned a gross wage of NIS 82,800, coming in second on the list. Shmuel Mualem, Meuhedet's current director-general, came in third, with a gross monthly salary of NIS 79,694. Following publication of the report, Mualem sent Israeli media outlets a copy of his salary slip, showing that his net wage was just under NIS 30,000. But a source at the Finance Ministry's wage enforcement unit told The Jerusalem Post that Mualem's salary had to be checked for loan repayments, which could help explain the gap between his gross and net wages. Meuhedet executives seized five of the top 10 places on the list of public-sector earners, despite a 2007 pledge by the health fund to decrease management salaries. The Finance Ministry source hinted that next year the salaries of senior health fund managers would see a significant decrease, adding that the earnings were exaggerated. Previous stars of public-sector salary lists included Bank of Israel employees and local council members, both of which kept a low profile in this year's report, thanks to the ongoing work of the Finance Ministry's enforcement unit, the source said. The report is divided into two parts; the first part clocks the results of salary-figure questionnaires returned by 700 public-sector bodies, while the second part highlights apparent transgressions from designated salaries, which need to be verified before being declared as actual salary violations, the source said. If after a hearing and an investigation process, the public-sector employee is found to be in breach of salary targets, he or she would be forced to hand over the excess sum. "So far, we have retrieved NIS 2 billion from excess salaries, a considerable sum," the source said. Health funds have had salaries long before regulations were in place, the source said, adding that it would take time to get the public sector in line with the salary levels stipulated by law. A Haifa Port Co. ship router notched 10th place on the list, grossing nearly NIS 65,000. The names of employees of the Haifa and Ashdod ports appeared 14 times in the top 40 earner's list.