Rid us of Yaron Zelekha, Treasury officials plead

Ministry writes to state comptroller, urging him to cancel the temporary protection order issued for accountant general.

By SHARON WROBEL
October 11, 2007 10:40
2 minute read.
YARON Zelekha 88 224

YARON Zelekha 88 224. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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In an unprecedented move, the entire elite of the Finance Ministry gathered on Thursday to call for the dismissal of Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha, charging that his conduct was harming the country's economy. "We, the management of the Finance Ministry, have gathered here, as we see no other option than to express as sharply as possible that the behavior of the accountant-general is severely harming the operations and decision-making of the ministry and as such the economy of Israel," said ministry Director-General Yarom Ariav at the press conference, which senior ministry officials convened in response to the temporary protection order issued Wednesday allowing Zelekha to remain in his post. "It has become impossible to work in an efficient manner, and I can not operate the ministry under these circumstances," Ariav said. He added that the top Finance Ministry officials had sent a letter to State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on Thursday afternoon, calling on him to cancel the order preventing the government from appointing a new accountant-general. "The director-general should honor the protection order issued by the state comptroller," said Boaz Ben-Zur, the attorney representing Zelekha in response to the announcement. "In the past, we have seen again and again Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's manipulative behavior using Finance Ministry officials. These accusations have been presented to the state comptroller in the past, but they had no factual basis and as such were rejected." Among the officials attending were Budget Director Kobi Haber, Director of Wages Eli Cohen, Tax Authority Director General Yehuda Nasradishi and Supervisor of Capital Markets, Insurance and Savings Yadin Antebi. Ariav responded angrily to Lindenstrauss's remarks that anti-corruption czar Zelekha denied having problematic working relationships with other officials at the ministry. "Either the comptroller was knowingly misinformed, or the accountant-general has severe reality perception problems, or both," said Ariav. In the letter to Lindenstrauss, the officials claimed that the behavior of the accountant-general - in particular, his recently accusing some of his former and current colleagues of improper conduct - had worsened working relations in the ministry, making it impossible to work in a team with Zelekha. "All red lines have been crossed, and only Zelekha's dismissal can restore the ministry to proper working order," said Ariav. Zelekha, the whistle-blower in the Bank Leumi affair involving Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, has sought to maintain his mission to fight government corruption and is demanding to remain in his post for another year. At the end of August, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On announced that Zelekha's contract, which ends on October 19, would not be renewed at the end of his term. "It has become like a system," said Ariav. "Anyone who objects or stands in the way is immediately blackmailed as being corrupt. Not everyone who objects to Zelekha's moves is actually corrupt. The notion that Zelekha is the only person in the ministry who is responsible for exposing corruption is absolutely untrue." Meanwhile, MK Arye Eldad (NU/NRP), who filed a complaint last month along with MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) against Bar-On's refusal to renew Zelekha's contract, said that if Olmert or Bar-On were to petition the High Court against Lindenstrauss's decision, they would fail. "If Olmert or Bar-On want to take another blow, then yes, they'll go the High Court - because it's hard for me to believe that the High Court would want to get involved in a temporary order meant to allow for more time to examine the complaint," Eldad said. "We need to remember that these days, the criminal investigation against Olmert in the Bank Leumi affair, which Zelekha exposed, is actually going on."

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