YARON Zelekha 88 224.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha will not be leaving his job next week as expected after State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss issued a temporary protection order on Wednesday keeping him on the job for the time being and barring the government from appointing anyone else in his place.
According to the order, "the finance minister will refrain from bringing the term of office of Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha to an end and presenting the appointment of a new accountant-general to the government. The minister will also refrain from taking any steps that harm his status, prerogatives and rights until the end of the examination of the complaint by the ombudsman [a position also held by Lindenstrauss]."
Zelekha accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of trying during his tenure as finance minister in 2005 to tilt a government tender for the sale of its controlling share of Bank Leumi in favor of a personal friend, Australian businessman Frank Lowy. The matter is now under investigation by police and Olmert is due to be questioned on the allegations for the second time this week on Thursday.
Lindenstrauss said Zelekha had indeed complained about corruption on the part of a superior.
"There is no doubt that Zelekha is a whistle-blower," he wrote. "The big question is whether the other conditions included in the law exist so that the Ombudsman may issue a protection order."
On August 29, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On informed Zelekha that his contract, which expires on October 19, would not be renewed.
A few days later, MKs Shelly Yacimovic (Labor) and Arye Eldad (National Union/NRP) filed a complaint against Bar-On's decision, charging that Zelekha was not being allowed to continue working because the accountant-general lodged complaints to Lindenstrauss against Olmert.
Lindenstrauss pointed out that Bar-On said Zelekha's contract would not be renewed because he believes senior positions should be rotated so that those who hold them do not go stale.
Nevertheless, Lindenstrauss said he was skeptical that was the real reason. For one thing, Lindenstrauss noted that after Zelekha complained about Olmert, there were attempts to fire him until Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz made it clear he would not allow it, if only for the fact that people might suspect he was being dismissed because of the Bank Leumi affair.
Furthermore, Zelekha, who later added his name to the complaint lodged by Yacimovic and Eldad, provided information that cast doubt on Bar-On's claim, continued Lindenstrauss. Zelekha, meanwhile, said many other senior officials in the public service were not rotated.
For example, the chairman of the securities authority had just completed a five-year term that was then extended. Furthermore, there were senior civil service positions that remained vacant for long periods of time, but for some reason, in his case, the slot was to be filled immediately.
Over the past 20 years, Zelekha added, one accountant-general had served for six years and another for four-and-a-half years. Until now, he said, the finance ministry had never forced an accountant-general to leave the post against his will.
"Taking note of all the above," concluded Lindenstrauss, "and given that we are only considering a temporary move - and without making any final decision on the matter - there is a reasonable, prima facie causal connection between the whistle-blowing act and the injury caused to Zelekha to justify a detailed examination of the affair. During the time it takes to investigate this matter, Zelekha should be given protection."
Lindenstrauss promised to do his best to complete the investigation quickly.