(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In his annual report on the defense establishment, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss said Monday he had referred an incident involving the construction of new office buildings in Tel Aviv's Kirya headquarters to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz to consider ordering a criminal investigation.
In the section of the annual report, numbered 57a, on the Defense Ministry, Lindenstrauss investigated a multimillion shekel project to build one 16-story building divided into two wings, one for the Defense Ministry and one for the IDF, and another seven-story building for air force and army intelligence.
As of February 2006, the project was estimated to cost NIS 680 million. The official name of the Kirya is Camp Rabin. It houses the Defense Ministry and many IDF offices, including the chief of General Staff's headquarters.
"The Defense Ministry did not adjust its instructions and system of operations to this type of project management [i.e., the management of a large-scale project as conducted in the civilian sector]," Lindenstrauss wrote. "Failure to do so harmed the management, supervision and oversight of the project. By the end of our investigation, we had found that the defense establishment had failed to learn the necessary lessons so that it could apply them to the planning and implementation of large-scale construction projects involved in the transfer of the IDF to the Negev."
The incident, details of which were conveyed to Mazuz, had to do with the fact that the Kirya Project Authority, which had overall authority for the construction, began to suspect in September 2003 that a supervisor working for a company hired to oversee the contractor for electricity and communications infrastructure had authorized improper payments of NIS 5.6m. The ministry fired the supervisor and froze payments to the contractor.
Meanwhile, the ministry's internal security department recommended that since civilians were involved in the alleged graft, the matter should be handed over to the police for investigation.
However, Defense Ministry director-general Amos Yaron decided in August 2004 to close the file. He feared that a police investigation would delay the project. Furthermore, he maintained that the supervisor had been fired, the ministry had recouped its losses by not paying other bills from the contractor and no ministry officials had been involved in the scam.
Lindenstrauss determined that Yaron's decision was unreasonable since he chose the good of the project over the public interest in uncovering the facts and, if necessary, putting the alleged culprits on trial.
This incident was only one of a long list of instances of faulty conduct on the part of those responsible for the project.
According to another example cited by Lindenstrauss, even though the building project involved many changes in the existing master plan for Camp Rabin, the Kirya Committee, which is responsible for determining construction policy for the base, did not discuss or approve the plans.
According to another finding, Yaron decided to carry out the project according to the "Fast Track" system, whereby planning and implementation are carried out simultaneously, as they are done in large-scale civilian projects. In Fast Track projects it is necessary to appoint one body to be responsible for both planning and building. Also, there must be rules governing the overall management of the project.
In this case, however, Lindenstrauss found there were no such rules. As a result, coordination between the ministry's building department and the planning authority were faulty and they argued over how the other was supposed to carry out its duties. This lack of coordination harmed the project, Lindenstrauss wrote.
Another problem had to do with the fact that both the army and the Defense Ministry supplied some of the details regarding the electricity and electronics requirements in the building after the ministry had awarded the tender and agreed on the cost of the project.
The final plan differed from the one that had served as the basis for the tender in various ways, including the quantity of materials and location and technology. These and other late changes increased the costs of that section of the contract by NIS 20m., Lindenstrauss wrote.
In response, the Defense Ministry said in a statement: "The project for building the new offices, with their high technological systems and infrastructure, which included 100,000 square meters of floor space, was concluded with great success in the space of only three-and-a-half years. We did this while meeting almost all of the parameters indicating that the project was successful, including control over the budget, meeting the planned timetable and a worthy standard of construction."