Bank of Israel: Benefits at central bank criticized as 'excessive'

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss criticized the Bank of Israel for exploiting its budgetary freedom and awarding excessive benefits, which are way above public sector norms. "The Bank of Israel awarded its employees with excessive benefits worth tens of millions of shekels each instead of managing its public finances in a modest and efficient manner," stated the State Comptroller's report published on Wednesday. "The State Comptroller's Office recommends that the budget and work conditions of central bank employees should be continually inspected and given approval by an external body such as the Knesset Finance Committee." Bank of Israel employees, who have come under fire for overblown salaries, walked off their job in March in protest of the Finance Ministry's intention to cancel salaries and benefits that were deemed improper by the Wage Director. Examples mentioned in the report were the bank's coverage of car maintenance costs for employees who did not own vehicles and for those who lacked drivers' licenses. "These allowances are not in line with public sector norms and they should be terminated," stated the report. The Bank of Israel stated in response to the report that all the issues raised in the report have been resolved in the new wage agreement which is about to be signed by the Finance Ministry and the Bank of Israel, including the return of car maintenance costs. In addition, the Comptroller's report criticized the appointment of members of the central bank's management. "The appointment process is executed without a public tender which blocks potential candidates from getting an equal opportunity to compete and without any supervision of external bodies," charged the report. The report recommended that senior appointments at the central bank should be determined by public tender and processed on the recommendation of a public independent committee, which would examine candidates' suitability. Defending its position, the central bank said that they were in the process of establishing appointment committees to examine the general suitability and capability of potential candidates before the governor makes his choice.