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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has drawn the attention of the attorney-general to the fact that National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) intervened directly or indirectly in personal matters pertaining to about 100 employees of Israel Electric (IE), in his latest annual report released Monday.
"Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz should express his opinion on the conduct of the minister and his bureau regarding the appeals made to them in the context of the guidelines that he himself set down," wrote Lindenstrauss.
According to Article 14 (c) of the State Comptroller's Law, "if the state comptroller's investigation raises suspicions of a criminal act, he must bring the matter to the attention of the attorney-general."
However, Lindenstrauss's spokesman Shlomo Raz told The Jerusalem Post that the state comptroller was not indicating that Mazuz should consider launching a criminal investigation against Ben-Eliezer, but that he should draw attention to a guideline he issued on October 24, 2004, barring ministers and elected officials from intervening on behalf of their parties' central committee members.
According to the state comptroller's findings, some 15 of the requests for help came from members of the Labor Party central committee.
Lindenstrauss also found that most of the requests for help were handled by Ben-Eliezer's bureau chief.
The first section of the state comptroller's annual report dealt in general with the hiring practices of eight public companies including the Airports Authority, the Israel Railroad Company, the Ashdod Port Company, the Haifa Port Company, the Israel Postal Company, IE, Mekorot (national water company) and the Oil and Energy Infrastructure Company.
The state comptroller found that of the 27,000 people employed in the eight companies, an average of 23 percent were related to at least one other employee. The highest rate of family connections, 44%, takes place in the Ashdod Port Company. Next highest, 27%, is in IE, followed by the Haifa Port Company with 25%.
"The high employment rate of relatives, as emerges from the investigation, creates substantial problems," wrote Lindenstrauss.
"The high rate in one public institution can create a situation in which one family member is the superior of another, a situation which can lead to a conflict of interests. It can also create large groups of employees all belonging to the same family, some of whom hold key positions. This can make it difficult to properly and efficiently manage the organization. Giving preference to relatives may also undermine the possibility of equal employment opportunities and also, therefore, proper representation in the work place of different sectors of the population. It can also lead to damaging public confidence in the companies."
The state comptroller found that some of the public companies had not approved secondary legislation to prohibit or limit the employment of relatives. For example, even though the law establishing the Airports Authority some 30 years ago called on it to hire employees according to the standards used by the civil service and to receive government approval for any exceptions, it was only last year that appropriate regulations were drafted and approved.
The state comptroller also found that the hiring rate for relatives of employees in some of the public companies was higher for those belonging to the workers' committee or holding senior management jobs than it was for the rank and file.
Thus, for example, the head of the most senior workers' committee of the AA has 19 close relatives and 12 other relatives working for the authority, including three who served with him on the workers' committee. Altogether, 13 of the 29 committee members had a total of 19 relatives working for the company. Among the managers of the manpower division and the workers' committee of IE, the proportion of employees having relatives working for the company is as high as 64%.
The state comptroller found that some of the companies were negligent about finding out which employees had relatives also working for them.
Thus the number of employees listed by IE as having relatives was much lower than the number found in the state comptroller's investigation. Meanwhile, the Port of Ashdod and the Israel Railroad Company did not keep systematic tabs on the number of relatives they employed. The state comptroller also found that many employees did not list all or any of their relatives working in the same company when asked to do so.