(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
With a series of pending appointments outside of the public offering process, the government is about to crush any chance of improving its handling of violations – including conflicts of interest – by public-sector workers, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira said in a report on nepotism Wednesday.
The report also said this would truly be a missed opportunity, as after dozens of years of failure at reforming the oversight and disciplinary processes for 230,000 public- sector workers, real progress on the issue had finally begun in 2011.
Public job offerings were designed to avoid nepotism in hiring and to increase the quality of public servants in long-term ministry nonpolitical positions.
Shapira said: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is obligated, as the minister responsible for the state’s public services authority, to ensure that the professional officials empowered to undertake reforms act with determination to implement the [reform] program approved by the government.”
Aspects of the report focus on 2015, with others focused on January to June 2016.
Focusing in the report on the public sector broadly, with distinct chapters dedicated to the police’s mishandling of investigating officers’ violations and to universities’ mishandling of professors’ and students’ violations, Shapira stated that government offices “must act quickly and efficiently to fix the deficiencies.”
He said this was necessary “in order to improve public services...
and improve the quality of life and fundamental rights of Israelis.”
At the outset, the report noted and criticized the Ministerial Committee on Legislation’s recent decision to approve the idea of hiring ministry directors-general outside of the public job offering mechanism.
The report also criticized the government for approving the dilution of professional qualifications needed for a range of senior ministry positions – another move designed to allow political operatives to qualify who otherwise would not.
Shapira said that in June 2011, the head of the state’s public service division, Moshe Dayan, was appointed and that Dayan has pressed forward with reforms of oversight and public servants’ violations in an unprecedented manner.
The report said that as of 2015, the reforms were at a crucial tipping point of being either finalized or still being reversible and blocked.
Shapira wrote that “there is a not insignificant danger that the management reforms regarding human resources in public service will not be fully or successfully completed.”
Regarding the law for disciplining public servants, the comptroller said that it was both outdated and being implemented too weakly.
“It is doubtful if the public service authority... in the area of disciplinary issues is achieving its central purpose... preserving the public’s faith” in government, he said.
As an example, the report noted that a senior public official’s disciplinary process has dragged on for two-and-a-half years without any concrete consequences or decisions.
The report stated that there are insufficient available disciplinary measures for supervisors to use regarding public service employee violations and “a feeling of powerlessness by supervisors in the public sector” regarding their employees.
Furthermore, it noted that the head and deputy head of the disciplinary division had an inappropriate personal connection and that one of them was supposed to transfer elsewhere, with a temporary solution in place to handle their personal conflict of interest.
Shapira warned that the temporary solution was being used as a permanent solution to avoid a transfer and that the Justice Ministry had asserted that the disciplinary division was “suffering great harm” because of the ongoing conflict.
The report noted a shortage of disciplinary investigators. It gave the Education Ministry as an example, where there are 130,000 workers and 402 complaints pending and not a single full-time investigator.
In contrast, the Israel Tax Authority, with 6,000 employees, has 28 investigators.
According to the report, the categories of violations that are most common are complaints of inappropriate conduct, sexual harassment and rape, and leaking or illegal use of private or classified information.
During the term of the report, there were 136 complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape.