Broadcasting Authority: IBA found negligent in its handling of the public purse

Discussions about salaries with employees of the Israel Broadcasting Authority or their union representatives create the impression that they are overworked and underpaid. But the State Comptroller's report on IBA salaries especially with regard to overtime and standby payments, paints a somewhat different picture. The report stops short of accusing the IBA management of complicity in breaking the remuneration rules and regulations of the IBA, but it makes no bones about management's negligence during an overlong chaotic situation in which there was no proper accounting and there was certainly no transparency. The various categories of employees at the IBA have different unions representing them and these unions have negotiated collective wage agreements for the employees that include overtime payments and payments for standby time in case of emergency situations in which employees must remain at home and on call. However, the arrangements are not uniform leading to absurd situations in which different employees who spend the same period of time on the job hand in disparate reports on the number of hours worked. Employees were exploiting the haphazard accounting system of the IBA's administrative staff and were presenting false reports about overtime and standby time, without having previously reported to an immediate superior. Payments were made on the basis of these reports without anyone checking their veracity. According to the State Comptroller, the monies paid out were public funds. The Comptroller surmises that management was aware of the illegalities running counter to public norms, which had been going on for years, but refrained from cracking down on such practices in order to avoid conflict with the unions. They also wanted to blur their own inefficiency, and the fact that they had abused the public purse by needlessly paying out huge sums of money. Management did try to rectify the situation by developing a computerized system of reporting in place of hand written reports so as to avoid misunderstandings. Work on the new system began in April 2002 and was completed in November 2003, but the system was never properly implemented. Of 1,330 employees who were entitled to earn overtime, only 200 filled in the computerized form in October 2006. The report also dealt with abuse of vacation time. Employees are supposed to advise the Manpower Division of vacation days and other days on which they are absent. But continued abuse of the system resulted in several employees receiving accumulated vacation time, non-deduction from salaries for unreported absenteeism and additional remuneration for standby and overtime, which in fact they did not merit. There were employees who went abroad on vacation and their absence was neither reported nor recorded, thus enabling them to accumulate additional, fully paid vacation days. Some claimed that they had not been paid extra for working on the Sabbath and were balancing the 'illicit' vacation days against what was due them for Sabbath work. The Comptroller says that the IBA must conduct an in-depth probe as to why payments that are not part of regular salaries, but are incorporated in salaries as an outcome of wage agreements, are not properly documented and reported.