94% of public: Planning authorities are corrupt

Study shows 47% believe bureaucracy and “machers” are the primary sources of corruption.

By RON FRIEDMAN
May 24, 2010 06:47
3 minute read.
Ramat Shlomo construction.

Ramat Shlomo construction 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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The vast majority of Israelis – 94% – view the country’s planning authorities as corrupt, according to a new study released on Sunday, compiled by the Netanya Academic College and the Shiluv research group.

When asked what the degree of corruption in the planning authorities is, 52% said fairly extensive and 31% said extensive. Only 8% out of a sample of 504 adult Hebrew speakers said corruption in the planning bodies was on a small scale.

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When asked what they believe are the causes of this corruption, 47% named bureaucracy and “machers” as the primary source of corruption, 39% blamed close ties between government and business interests and 4% said it was due to public officials’ low pay.

“It is important to note that the survey doesn’t speak about actual corruption, but only on the public’s perception of corruption,” said Dr. Amit Kerner, a faculty member in Netanya College’s Law Department. “The survey paints a grim picture of a serious lack of faith in the existing institutions.”

Kerner said that the public’s perception of widespread corruption mostly fed off media reports that tended to dedicate a lot of space to corruption scandals.

“The public reads about cases like the Holyland affair, in which alleged corruption in the Jerusalem Local Planning Committee was uncovered, and conclude that the whole system is corrupt. This lack of faith is something that the state must address and work hard to remedy,” said Kerner.

The survey also asked about the proposed construction and planning reform being promoted by the government as a way to combat bureaucracy and increase transparency. When asked if they were in favor of a reform that offers shortening procedural delays by reducing the number of planning committees overseeing each project and setting time limits on issuing building permits, 59% percent said they would favor it.



Asked if they thought such a reform would influence corruption levels, 27% said it would reduce corruption. 16% said it would increase corruption and 33% said it would not change the scale of corruption.

Finally, when asked if the Holyland affair increased or reduced the urgency for reform, 55% said it increased the urgency, 26% said it didn’t change the urgency and 4% said it reduced the urgency.

“While a majority of the people said that the reform was more necessary than ever, I can assume that they aren’t familiar with its details. After all we’re talking about a 250-page document that few bothered to read. Here again, the public is dependent on the media to form an opinion,” said Kerner.

Architect Amos Brandeis, chairman of the Israel Planners Association, said he was shocked by the survey’s findings.

“I have never personally encountered any form of corruption, in any of the planning authorities in all my professional career or during my three terms as the Israel Planning Association chairman,” said Brandeis.

“We learn from the media that apparently these phenomena exist, but I don’t think that they are any more common in the world of planning than in any other sector. Unfortunately they are part of the foul cultural norms that have trickled into our society,” said Brandeis.

Brandeis said that to prevent corruption, the planning and construction reform must ensure that decisions are made according to the planning quality, out of a comprehensive outlook, in a hierarchic planning system.

“Planning authorities must strike a balance between local and central authorities, public representatives, planning professionals and stakeholders,” said Brandeis.

The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the planning authorities, did not respond to the survey findings by press time.

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