State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
At a Knesset State Control Committee hearing on Tuesday, State Comptroller
Joseph Shapira said that regardless of any new proposed ethics guidelines for
members of the cabinet, it was crucial for the public good to preserve his
office’s oversight over ministers.
Shapira’s statement came as part of a
hearing on solidifying new ethics guidelines for ministers, which, though
possibly sounding harmless, has had many up in arms.
He voiced concern
that new guidelines and the possible committee to oversee them could be
politicized by the ministers themselves.
However, he expressed cautious
confidence that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni would be careful about such issues
as ministers picking those who oversee them so that “the cat is not guarding the
Seconding Shapira’s caution on the issue, committee chairman Amnon
Cohen (Shas) called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to leave the
comptroller’s powers as they are, saying it was “forbidden” to erode his
“Criticism, investigation and evaluation must be done
independently, transparently and in a way that upholds public scrutiny,” Cohen
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel also jumped into the
fray, saying a major concern was that a ministerial committee led by former
justice minister Yaakov Neeman had in 2011 tampered with an earlier, more
serious and comprehensive treatment of ethics issues by a panel headed by former
Supreme Court president Moshe Shamgar.
The main issue right now, the
movement said, was that the Neeman committee’s proposals had been withheld
despite requests for their publication. Once they are made known, it added, the
public can make an informed opinion on ethics issues, such as whether to have a
new oversight committee in parallel to the state comptroller, and under what
circumstances, if at all, such a committee could dilute the comptroller’s
Neeman himself attended the hearing and said it was “not
desirable to create tools that cannot be used or which will cover up the primary
problem,” signaling his concern that too much criticism and delay, and too many
suggestions for changing his committee’s proposals could diminish them and leave
the country without any new ethics guidelines at all.
A spokesman for
Livni said the justice minister would be guided by the principle of not giving
cabinet ministers power over their overseers, and that her current goal was to
flesh out the Neeman proposals and bring them back to the Knesset.
representative from the Justice Ministry said that after such a lengthy delay,
it was hoped that the proposals would be brought for public discussion in the