The annual State Comptroller's Report due next week will hold specific civil servants accountable for inefficient or improper behavior, former police cmdr. Ya'acov Borovsky, who is in charge of a special anti-corruption unit in the State Comptroller's Office, said Sunday evening. The report will be the first to be published under the leadership of State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus.
The decision to name names on a far larger scale than in the past is part of Lindenstraus's strategy for giving more teeth to his office, which has been criticized for reports that make no impact.
Since being chosen by the Knesset, Lindenstraus has revolutionized his position by frequently addressing the public through the media, and issuing short, readable reports in real time on public corruption issues in the news. He has said he intends to devote much of his energy to fighting corruption among politicians and senior public servants.
Lindenstraus has received much support, but he has also run into sharp criticism from experts in public administration. On Sunday, the Israel Democracy Institute held a round table discussion that included both supporters and critics.
Lindenstraus sent Borovsky as his representative.
One of the many questions asked by the participants was "what, actually, is the state comptroller's job?" Are he and his office, for example, a fourth branch of government that can define their tasks according to their own priorities, or are they part of the Knesset's institutions for monitoring the work of the government to see that it is carried out efficiently and properly.
Two of the participants, Hebrew University professors Itzhak Galnoor and Shimon Shetreet, insisted that the state comptroller was "the long arm of the Knesset" rather than an independent institution.
"He should be aiming for long-term rather than short-term results," said Galnoor. "He should be working in the administrative sphere, not in the investigative or media spheres." Galnoor added that the State Comptroller's success should be measured not by what happens but by what does not happen, in other words, by the fact that a public servant will refrain from acts that he knows will be criticized by the State Comptroller in his reports. "These are successes the public does not know about," he said.
Shetreet blasted Lindenstraus for failing to attend the symposium and said it was telling that he had sent Borovksy, a former policeman, to represent him rather than the director-general of the State Comptroller's Office. "The focus should be on the administrative," said Shetreet, turning to Borovksy. "The fact that [Lindenstraus] sent you is problematic. You represent law enforcement, investigations and the police."
Lindenstraus had other defenders besides Borovsky. Ya'ir Horowitz, who served as director-general of the State Comptroller's Office under four bosses, said that according to the law, the comptroller is responsible for monitoring efficiency and fiscal responsibility, and fighting corruption in public organizations. "In fighting corruption, the state comptroller is not deviating from his responsibilities. He is doing his job," he said.
Yediot Aharonot investigative reporter Mordechai Gilat praised Lindenstraus for following up investigative reports from the media. "Many years late, there is finally an independent authority that is investigating affairs first reported in the press," he said. "As a result, people are attacking him. For the first time, there is no symbiosis between the state comptroller and the government. He is saying, 'I read the papers and I will make use of them.'"
Gilat told Lindenstraus's detractors, "You don't know what is going on in our society. We are committing suicide... The reason Lindenstraus is so powerful is because no other institution is doing anything [about corruption.] Let him work."
Former Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner said that while she agreed with those who said Lindenstraus should devote most of his efforts to the administrative aspects of his job, she supported his insistence on publishing names of alleged culprits because she felt it would increase the impact of his reports.
However, she added that the comptroller should not publish names before giving those under investigation a chance to present their case.