Revival of dormant legislation hails integrity of whistle blowers

Law would encourage public servants to expose corruption in the workplace.

President Reuven Rivlin in the West Bank Peduel settlement (photo credit: Courtesy)
President Reuven Rivlin in the West Bank Peduel settlement
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A ceremony marking the revival of a dormant law which encouraged public servants to expose corruption and infringements of ethical conduct in the workplace was held at the President’s Residence on Thursday evening.
The law’s restoration occurred on the same day that Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was being questioned under caution on suspicion of abuse of the public purse.
The law, known as the Purity of Character or Integrity Law, was enacted in 1992, but according to President Reuven Rivlin, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and State Comptroller Joseph Shapira, this legislation lay buried in the law books.
The law states that when a public servant has made a complaint to an investigating body in good faith and in accordance with procedures of a corrupt act or other infringement of ethical conduct that has occurred in the workplace, and such complaint has been found to have been justified, the findings of the investigation shall be recorded by the investigating body and by the person who heads the body in which the act or infringement took place, and a certificate shall be furnished to the complainant.
The president – or the Knesset speaker, following consultation with the president – may award a certificate of merit to a person whose complaint is found to be justified, in recognition of that person’s contribution to ethical conduct in public institutions.
Rivlin thought it was high time to reward those who had the integrity and courage to expose the culprits in the many cases of corruption that have been revealed over the past year.
He plans to make this an annual tradition, he said.
“Israeli society must understand that integrity in the public sector is the cornerstone of democracy,” said Rivlin.
He commended the award recipients for their integrity and enormous courage in standing up against colleagues, organizations and social pressures.
The president and Shaked praised all the nominees for defending the rule of law and not ignoring the corruption around them.
Shaked voiced appreciation for MK Miki Rosenthal (Zionist Union), who chairs the Knesset lobby for the Struggle Against Corruption in the Public Sector, and said that he was the guiding spirit for the revival of the Purity of Character Law.
“We have not reached the point in which a public servant confesses to corruption,” Shapira said, listing a string of corrupt activities that had been mentioned in the Comptroller’s reports since he had taken office. He commended his predecessor, Micha Lindenstrauss, who had done much to expose corruption, he said.
He also noted that during her time as Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni pushed through legislation guaranteeing that anyone exposing corruption in the public sector would receive assistance from the Justice Ministry, even to the extent of monetary compensation, considering that most whistle blowers lose their jobs and are subjected to threats.
Shapira has issued orders for the protection of 37 people who reported corruption in public sector workplaces since he took office, he said.
Turning to the award recipients – Mayan Agam, Shaul Carmeli and Prof. Asher Brenner – Shapira stood to attention and declared: “I salute you.”
Agam exposed millions of shekels of fraud within the Histadrut, as a result of which then finance minister Avraham Hirchson, who was involved in the scam, went to prison.
Carmeli exposed serious irregularities in working arrangements and salaries at Haifa Port, and Brenner exposed misuse of funds that had been ear-marked for academic research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.