'Barak's personal guests tripled'

Lindenstrauss: State funds wasted at Defense Ministry's Independence Day bash.

March 25, 2010 18:00
2 minute read.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

ehud barak 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

The number of personal invitations issued by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to 2009’s Independence Day reception at the ministry was more than three times higher than six years earlier, according to a report issued on Thursday by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.

At the same time, the number of invitations to the event issued to the IDF General Staff and battalion commanders in the regular and reserve forces fell by more than 20 percent.

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Altogether, the number of couples invited increased by more than 60%, from 3,793 to 6,063, and cost taxpayers NIS 1.5 million.

However, it should be pointed out that during those six years, under three defense ministers, the number of personal guests increased each year.

In 2005, under defense minister Shaul Mofaz, the number increased from 660 to 876. Two years later (the next year for which the state comptroller provided figures), under defense minister Amir Peretz, the number of guests jumped to 1,536.

Lindenstrauss decided to investigate the annual reception in the wake of critical reports from last year’s event. According to his conclusions, “the process involved in determining the list of guests was fundamentally faulty. It lacked a guiding hand and centralized control. Furthermore, in the past three years, there has been a highly significant increase in the number of invitations sent to guests of the defense minister as opposed to the number sent to other categories of guests. This way of running things, which is not in accordance with the rules of proper administration, is a substantial fault, especially considering that we are talking about a large number of guests whose importance and relevance to the event is unclear.”

According to the State Comptroller’s Report, there are 25 categories of guests that may be invited to the affair. These include, for example, senior army officers and staff, Defense Ministry personnel, representatives of the Border Police, the Prisons Service, the defense industries, the Mossad, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), army widows, bereaved families and mayors.

The state comptroller found that there was no document that defined the purpose of the reception or what it entails. Furthermore, no one in the Defense Ministry is in charge of it. There are no rules to determine how many guests from each category should be invited or what the total number of guests should be.

The list of personal guests of the defense minister is drawn up by the minister and his wife. The ministry does not prepare a single authoritative list of guests but keeps adding names. Some people receive more than one invitation, one as personal guests of the defense minister and another because they belong to other categories.

The state comptroller recommended establishing rules for the affair that would set down the purpose and substance of the event, the composition of the guest list according to the various categories, who is responsible for drawing up the list and who has overall responsibility for it.

The ministry’s media adviser issued a statement in response to the report stating that “the Defense Ministry is taking measures to learn the lessons and correct the flaws.”

The statement said that Barak had instructed ministry director-general Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Shani to implement the recommendations in this year’s Independence Day event. Independence Day 5770 begins on the evening of April 19.

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