In the name of the names

One cannot talk about transparency and good public management without knowing who gave money, for what, for whom and how this money was used.

Pepe Alalu (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Pepe Alalu
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
One cannot talk about transparency and good public management without knowing who gave money, for what, for whom and how this money was used.
About two years ago, following criticism in the city council and echoed by the public regarding the financing of the Formula 1 race-car event, Mayor Nir Barkat, trying to calm down the protest, announced that most of the cost of the event was covered by large donations. The event attracted a lot of media attention, tourists and visitors, but caused huge traffic jams that added to the stress levels of many residents who had more than enough anguish from the ongoing regular traffic problems in the city.
Pepe Alalu (Meretz), then head of the opposition at the city council, requested to see the details of the donations (Barkat declared that he had managed to raise no less than half a billion shekels for the city).
For various reasons – mainly the fact that most of the money went to the 20 subsidiary companies of the municipality, the information was not forthcoming, despite repeated requests from the benches of the opposition at Safra Square. According to the rules then, the obligation of a mayor to reveal the origin of any donation and its size didn’t not apply to the subsidiary companies.
It took more than two years – and a ruling of the Jerusalem District Court, to which Meretz council members appealed, for the municipality to finally deliver the requested details. But surprisingly, quite a few of the names of the donors were covered by a thick black marker. The official explanation was that since most of the money was raised and given to these subsidiaries, the information was hidden from the public.
It didn’t take long for city council member Laura Wharton (who replaced the retired Alalu) to announce that if the information wasn’t made available by the end of this week, she would go back to the court, this time represented by attorney Yossi Havilio, the only official publicly announced mayoral candidate for the next elections.
Wharton plans to have the mayor declared in contempt of court for not providing the requested information.
The issue here is more significant than revealing names of donors. By ruling that subsidiary companies are governed by the law obliging them to reveal the names of the donors and their donations, the court has, perhaps indirectly, determined that the subsidiary companies of the Jerusalem Municipality are bound by the same rules of hiring and conditions of employment as the municipality.
Since these companies are not tied to any Histadrut rules, employees operate mostly on a temporary status, have fewer rights and are not entitled to the working conditions enjoyed by the public sector. They can be fired at short notice and their wages are lower. Now that the court has ruled that all the obligations of the municipality apply also to the subsidiaries, Wharton believes that from now on, the working and hiring conditions at these companies will be scrutinized and will have to conform to rules governing conditions at Safra Square.
Wharton says she hasn’t yet received all the answers to her questions, but she added that she would not relent. After all, a half billion shekels of donations merit some effort to identify the people behind these sums.