Small and Medium Enterprises Authority blocks favoritism

The Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority said Monday it has taken action in recent months, working towards implementing standards for public legal procedures and tenders for awarding government jobs in response to allegations of politically motivated appointments while under Ehud Olmert's leadership. A report released by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, accused now Prime Minister Olmert as being responsible for making improper appointments at the ISMEA, which is fully funded by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, when he headed that ministry. Further, the report accused the ISMEA of failure to be governed by the basic laws of public administration. "The Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises has implemented the recommendations of the State Comptroller and has introduced new procedures for hiring staff and tenders as is appropriate in the public service," said the ISMEA spokesperson. Lindenstrauss argued in his report that it was only proper that the authority, technically a private organization but funded by the government, uphold the principles that served as the basis for public tenders and the laws calling for awarding government jobs and service contracts without extraneous considerations, including political ones. "The authority has formulated a clear work agenda as well as aims and objectives for projects," the ISMEA said. "Each project undergoes close supervision and inspection and, if a project does not satisfy output set by the authority, the project will be cancelled and the people involved will be discharged." This measure comes as Lindenstrauss also found that under the stewardship of Olmert and ministry director-general Ra'anan Dinur, the ministry changed the Authority's rules and appointed Lilach Nechemia, who had close political ties to Olmert, as the deputy director-general. Nechemia, in turn, hired at least three new project managers - Shimon Moshe, Yitzhak Michaeli and Yaakov Fadida - members of the Likud central committee, who, according to the report, were appointed according to improper procedures and without giving others a fair chance at the job. "With regard to the three project managers mentioned in the report, the authority has terminated the work of two of the aforementioned [Michaeli and Fadida] more than a year ago," said the ISMEA, which added that Moshe managed to stay by proving his suitability in his position several times. "We have nothing bad to say about the work of the Authority," said Yehuda Alhadef, president of the Israel Craftsmen's Association. "Lilach, Shmuel Rosenman and other working members of the Authority are doing a great job."