Analysis: Can Lindenstrauss make a difference?

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May 10, 2007 00:34
2 minute read.

 
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Leaf through just about every page of the thick litany of corruption, negligence and incompetence that is the latest State Comptroller's Report and you get the sinking feeling you're living in a banana republic. The depression deepens when one realizes that every six months or so, there's another installment in the annals of the state's mismanagement. But the worst desperation is reserved for the moment when you discover that practically every scandal one "unearths" in this country has been reported at some point or other in one of the comptroller's reports over the years. Of course, they're still around. Just a couple of off-the-cuff examples: A few weeks ago I was researching a piece on the Finance Ministry budget department's inscrutable recruiting process. It turned out that two years earlier, the comptroller had severely criticized the department for hiring economists in a way that contravened both the regulations regarding hiring procedures and the equal opportunities law. Needless to say, save for a couple of cosmetic changes, the department, widely accepted as the elite unit of the Israeli civil service, hasn't changed its hiring policy. The other example is one I confront every morning as I step outside my house. It is a chapter in the Comptroller's Report three years ago on the level of filth strewn around Jerusalem's streets and public areas. That was the first time a comptroller report contained color photographs. There is no scientific measurement of the amount of garbage lying around the capital, but even City Hall spokespeople have trouble saying with a straight face that Jerusalem has gotten any cleaner since. The overworked researchers of the comptroller's office have more than enough to do compiling the routine and special reports; following up on the implementation of their recommendations is beyond them. By law, that is the job of the Knesset State Control Committee. But the few committee investigations launched, traditionally headed by an opposition MK, are almost always politically motivated. The committee lacks a professional research staff with the necessary expertise and powers to monitor the way government departments, local authorities and the IDF adopt the findings of the highest-profile comptroller in history. Whether Micha Lindenstrauss - who owes his notoriety to his incessant pursuit of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his alleged misdeeds - is a fearless crusader, stemming the tide of public corruption, or an attention-hungry populist who has brought the august office into disrepute, he has indisputably succeeded in dominating the public agenda. Whether or not one of his investigations ultimately leads to Olmert's downfall, the comptroller has an even bigger role to play in the battle for a more efficient and honest public sector. Each of his reports is greeted by a media festival, teams of reporters prepare comprehensive packages to illustrate the findings, and then, in 24 hours, it's all over. The corrupt and careless officials and local council leaders emerge from their bunkers and are back to their tricks. There is nothing to indicate that this time around will be any different. So what if Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yigal Amedi, as a director of the National Lottery, authorized funds for an organization headed by his father? He won't be facing any disciplinary hearings and will continue filling both positions, the Comptroller's Report notwithstanding. Lindenstrauss could leave a lasting legacy if he used his public stature to make sure that not only the prime minister has to fear his findings.•

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