(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss indicated on Thursday he would turn down a request by the attorney-general to cancel his order temporarily freezing the Treasury's plan to appoint a replacement for Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha, whose contract expires Friday.
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz asked Lindenstrauss to cancel his decision, because Zelekha's presence was causing serious harm to the proper functioning of the Finance Ministry.
Lindenstrauss wrote that he was "examining" Mazuz's request, but added that he was "making every effort" to hand down his decision by November 15.
Lindenstrauss, in his capacity as ombudsman, issued the temporary order on October 10 in response to requests to protect Zelekha as a whistle-blower from MKs Shelly Yacimovic (Labor) and Aryeh Eldad (National Union-NRP) and Zelekha himself.
They charged that Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On was actually firing Zelekha, even though his four-year contract was due to expire on October 19, because Zelekha had complained to Lindenstrauss about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
The complaint eventually led to a police investigation on allegations that the prime minister had changed the terms of a tender for the sale of core ownership of Bank Leumi in favor of business friends who were considering making a bid.
In his letter to Lindenstrauss, Mazuz wrote that it was "an open secret" that Zelekha did not get along with Treasury department heads or the directors-general of other ministries.
He quoted from a letter sent by Treasury director-general Yarom Ariav, who charged that "Zelekha causes substantial damage to the proper functioning of the government system in general and the Finance Ministry in particular."
Ariav also wrote that Zelekha's description of his alleged good work relations was "untrue."
Mazuz added that Finance Ministry department heads also wrote a letter of complaint, describing the situation at the Treasury as "difficult to impossible work relations with some of us, and especially the department heads he has to work with daily in a spirit of cooperation and coordination. The result of his conduct is severe damage to the ministry's functioning."
Mazuz pointed out that according to the State Comptroller's Law, the ombudsman is obliged to take into account the "proper functioning of the body for which he works" in deciding whether to issue an order to protect a whistle-blower.
He added that over the past two years he had blocked attempts to fire Zelekha because a dismissal might have been construed as act of revenge against him for having complained to the state comptroller about Olmert. But now the situation had changed, he added. Zelekha's contract had expired and he had served a reasonable amount of time as accountant-general while, on the other hand, "the harm to the functioning of the government system, and therefore the public interest, has significantly increased."