Justice Minister Haim Ramon has asked a committee appointed by his predecessor, Tzipi Livni, to complete its work on whether or not to increase the number of political appointments in the civil service, the head of the committee, Prof. Gideon Doron, said yesterday.
Doron spoke during a panel discussion on political appointments in the civil service on the third day of the Jerusalem Conference on Quality Government, organized by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel.
Earlier in the discussion, former Civil Service Commissioner Meir Gabai called on his successor, Ya'acov Hollander, to resign from his post in the wake of the public feud he conducted with State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss.
"It is inconceivable that the civil service commissioner would stand against the state comptroller," said Gabai. "The state comptroller has a special status in the civil service, and the commissioner must behave in accordance with it." Gabai said he supported the demands that have been raised for Hollander's resignation.
Hollander was angry with State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss over Lindenstrauss's criticism of the way Hollander had promoted his personal assistant and allegedly secured a senior position for her without a tender. In the wake of the feud, little attention was paid to other findings reported by Lindenstrauss, including the fact that the majority of civil service tenders were awarded to people who were already working in the job on a temporary basis without having competed with anyone else.
This, however, was the finding in the recent State Comptroller's Report that most upset at least two members of the panel, Gabai and former State Comptroller Eliezer Goldbnerg.
Goldberg stressed that the system of awarding tenders to employees already working in the job undermined the purpose of the tender as a technique for offering equal opportunity and choosing the best candidate for the job.
"It's a fake tender," he said. "It doesn't take much sophistication. The breach in the civil service regulations has been fully exploited. The person already in the position has the advantage of experience and knowledge. The chance that anyone else will win the tender is negligible."
Goldberg blamed the governments over the years for failing to deal with the problem. "This situation has been going on for decades," he charged. "The governments over these years shut their eyes and ears, for obvious reasons, to the demands of the High Court and the state comptroller. They preferred to sweep the criticism under the carpet."
He added that the problem was not that the state comptroller did not have the power to enforce his findings. Its job should only be to investigate, he insisted. However, he suggested that to help solve the problem of political appointments, the Knesset should amend the Civil Service Law (Appointments), the Political Parties Law and the Civil Service Regulations to close the breaches which make unfair appointments possible.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Yitzhak Zamir warned against expanding the number of political appointments that could be made by a minister. He was referring to attempts by MKs in the 16th Knesset to pass a bill known as the "Jobs Law," and said there was still a danger that the Knesset might pass legislation along those lines. He rejected the argument that such appointments were necessary to help the minister implement his policies.
Zamir described this argument as "nothing more than a deception." But Doron, who was appointed head of the committee to review the issue as a trade-off for burying the "Jobs Law," said he did not, in principle, oppose appointing people to senior civil service jobs who were linked to the minister, as long as the appointees were worthy candidates. "There have been excellent political appointments," said Doron.
He was also critical of the system of public tenders, saying outstanding people often refused to apply for them for fear of being passed over.
Nevertheless, Dorong said the appointment of people lacking genuine qualifications but who had connections to the minister to low level jobs, as had been the case in the affair of MK Tzahi Hanegbi's appointments to the Environment Ministry, constituted nepotism.