State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has been criticized for publishing the names of public servants allegedly engaged in improper behavior in the just-released State Comptroller's Report, but he said making the identities of wrong-doers public was the best way to get his message across.
Great care was taken not to damage people's reputations, and names were published only if investigators were absolutely certain of their facts, said Lindenstrauss as he handed the report to President Moshe Katsav.
Katsav said the State Comptroller's Office was vital for proper public governance. "The country would be in far worse shape without a state comptroller," he said. Katsav expressed particular interest in the investigations into traffic accidents.
Prevention must made a national priority, said Lindenstrauss, with attendant legislation.
Lindenstrauss made clear who bore ultimate responsibility for corruption and unethical management - "the person at the top of the pyramid."
Asked about recent attacks on him in the media, Lindenstrauss said it was not always pleasant for those "under the magnifying glass" to read the State Comptroller's Report, and that angry responses were only natural. But, he said, it was important not to cast aspersions on the investigators because there had been nothing personal in the investigations. This could only damage the public interest, he said. Lindenstrauss said that he knew that by becoming state comptroller, he would be leaving himself open for attack.
Not all public funds that go missing do so as a result of criminal activity, he said. "I'm talking about gray areas - and when we discover them we will insist that the money be repaid to the public purse."
He emphasized the importance of conducting probes in real time, to be able to stop and remedy improper management as quickly as possible.
Despite the myriad reports of corruption and management irregularities, there were many good things about Israel, Lindenstrauss said. He told reporters that, despite what one might think after reading the report, there were also "many beautiful corners throughout the country."
Asked if he could give an example of something free of corruption and irregularities, he advised his questioner to take a trip in a car or bus and just look around at what has been achieved, and to note the good-heartedness of people, from all faiths and from all sectors of society.
"There are a lot of wonderful things in Israel," he said.
Lindenstrauss said the 490 employees at the State Comptroller's Office, who include accountants, economists, lawyers and former senior IDF officers, were all top-notch professionals.
There were still 45 vacant positions, he said, which if filled would enable broader and deeper investigations.
Lindenstrauss does not want the report to reflect only the negative aspects of how the system works in Israel.
"If we find things that are exceptionally praiseworthy, we should make note of them too," he said.