Corridors Of Power: Prepare yourself for a surprise audit

Jerusalem city hall is preparing itself for an audit by hiring one of their own.

The damage: The Versailles Hall floor implosion mid-wedding left 23 dead and 380 injured (photo credit: REUTERS)
The damage: The Versailles Hall floor implosion mid-wedding left 23 dead and 380 injured
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Long ago, when things were much simpler to understand – before the politically correct, the multi-whatever discourse and the cynicism took over everything – most of us believed that the best way to successfully undergo an audit was to just do things properly.
Well, it seems those days are gone forever, and what we have now is a mixture of sarcasm and lack of shame, all aimed at finding ways to override public criticism – and almost all the means are “kosher.”
Every two years, the State Comptroller publishes a public report on the proceedings of city councils, revealing their administration’s failures and, heaven forbid, their transgressions or infractions of the law and the rules, mostly regarding misuse of public monies. This year’s report, due to be published at the end of October, includes among other cities and regional councils, the Jerusalem Municipality. The core of the report is focused on the Building License Department and the Local Planning and Building Committee – two of the traditionally sensitive (even touchy) spots at Safra Square.
Now, it is important to note that this administration, under Mayor Nir Barkat, has done extensive work to clean up the Building License Department of all the corruption that has characterized it for years. One of the most terrible examples was the tragic event at the Versailles events hall, which occurred mainly because this administration was not doing its primary job, namely inspecting and checking building methods. There is no comparison between those dark years and the present situation; nevertheless, a report is being written on it, and now is the time for the municipality to answer the State Comptroller’s inquiries before the report is published.
An audit report is never a pleasant experience, even when there is no fear of wrongdoing. It brings to public attention the misuses, eventually the fiascos of the administration – something any mayor would want to prevent. Well, besides the simplest way – like ensuring that these departments do their job properly, which is definitely an option that should be taken into account – there are, it appears, other methods to achieve that goal.
As far as this municipality is concerned, the way to prepare for the publication of the report seems like the height of irony – the closest thing to putting a finger in the public’s eye. The municipality – i.e., general manager Amon Merhav (a lawyer by his education), head of the legal advisory office at Safra Square, with the full approval of Barkat – has come up with a sensational solution: He has hired the former (until recently) legal adviser and CEO of the State Controller’s office, adv. Motty Bess, and has him studying the report so he can advise the municipality on how to respond to (and eventually reject) the report’s comments.
One must admit that this is brilliant! The man who has for many years worked according to the rules of the State Comptroller, perhaps was even behind some of its methods, and – according to an official statement of the municipality – knows how to handle and answer the questions in the report and is not afraid to confront the investigators of the State Comptroller’s Office (after all, he was recently one of the team) will now do the job for the municipality.
One would assume there should be some rules regulating such easy moves from one side to another, or at least request a lot of time in between (perhaps enough so that some rules of investigation would be replaced at the State Comptroller’s Office); but no, there is nothing unlawful in this step. This may seem hard to believe but true.
Bess will indeed be paid NIS 400 an hour for his valuable work. The results may or may not be successful, there are no promises here, just the assumption that this should work. The first word that comes to mind is simply good old “chutzpa.”
The alternative – like seeing that these two departments do the best job possible for the best interest of the city and the residents – is simply not the first option here.
One wonders what the next step will be. A failure in the education department will be tackled by a former CEO of the Education Ministry? Traffic accidents will be handled by former high-ranking police officials? And, needless to say, all these dubious services are highly remunerated at the expense of the residents, the taxpayers.
What next?