Comptroller: Criticize report's content, not its author

Report, whose contents are embargoed for publication until 4 p.m. Tuesday, accuses Civil Service Commission of improper behavior.

lindenstrauss 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
lindenstrauss 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstraus, ahead of presenting the annual State Comptroller's report to the Knesset on Tuesday, urged critics to address the report's content, and not attack its author. The report, whose contents are embargoed for publication until 4 p.m. Tuesday, reportedly addresses a number of improprieties in the Civil Service Commission and mentions certain officials by name. Lindenstraus told Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik that he had "named names" in order to stress the principle of personal responsibility. Lindenstraus also lamented what he called a "regrettable lack" of staff in his office. At 10:00 a.m., the state comptroller presented the report to President Moshe Katsav. On Monday, sparks flew when Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander and Lindenstraus became embroiled in a highly public spat over Lindenstraus's criticism of allegedly improper behavior in the Civil Service Commission. In a statement to the media, Lindenstraus referred in particular to what he described as a "problematic and very puzzling appointment" by the Civil Service commissioner. He also said he had lodged a complaint against Hollander and senior officials in the Civil Service Commission over attempts they allegedly made to suppress the report. "Over the past few months, regrettably, the commissioner used senior officials in his office to apply heavy pressure on employees of the State Comptroller's Office to prevent the publication of the report," Lindenstraus charged. "They did not succeed." Lindenstraus pointed out that Hollander had already been criticized by his predecessor, former state comptroller Eliezer Goldberg, who wrote that statements Hollander had made were "groundless and unworthy of a person filling a public position, all the more so when they come from a person holding such high position who is supposed to serve as a model for the entire public service." Lindenstraus also pointed out that Hollander had "seen fit to respond to the embargoed report before it was published and before its details were made known to the public." Indeed, Hollander's office released the letter dated April 3, which included many details given in the report, ahead of publication and while it was still embargoed. According to the State Comptroller's Law, anyone publishing "part of a report or some of its contents before it is presented to the Knesset" is liable to a year in jail or a fine. In the letter to Lindenstraus, Hollander blasted him for the contents of the final report. "Basic standards which the law and the courts have mandated have been brutally violated and trampled," wrote Hollander. "You have prepared a baseless report which also includes conflict of interests, suspicion that unacceptable considerations having nothing to do with the matter at hand were involved, failure to provide right of response and violation of the rules of natural justice. And above all, you have described so-called failures and flaws on the part of the institution undergoing your scrutiny while cynically ignoring the fact that your office behaves in exactly the same manner." He charged that Lindenstraus had sent an earlier draft of the report, which was milder in its criticism of the Civil Service Commission, to Hollander for his comments. However, the state comptroller's final draft, which was submitted to the government three months ago, was much harsher and did not give the Civil Service Commission an opportunity to reply to the charges it contained and which are due to be published on Tuesday. "The annual report regarding public tenders for jobs in the civil service which was submitted to the prime minister three months ago is far harsher than the draft which was sent to us for our comments," wrote Hollander. "It contained harsh normative assertions and assessments that were absent from the draft. This way of operating contradicts judicial law handed down by the Supreme Court as well as the rules of natural justice." Hollander also charged that the state comptroller's investigators had been biased from the start against the Civil Service Commission. "The way the facts were presented raises questions," he wrote. "All the senior employees of the Civil Service Commission who had contact with your office independently sensed their tendentiousness and lack of genuine will to hear our explanations. The feeling of all the senior officials including the deputy commissioner, the vice-commissioner, the head of the Department of Quality and Excellency and the internal comptroller was of persecution aimed at someone in the commission." Hollander also charged that the legal adviser of the State Comptroller's Office, Nurit Yisraeli, had been involved in the investigation of the Civil Service Commission, even though she had once worked for the commission and had been fired by Hollander for alleged improprieties regarding her wages. The law stated that the public servants were prohibited from acting in a situation involving a conflict of interests, wrote Hollander. Hollander's spokesman, Arieh Grinberg, said Monday that after reading the final draft of the report, the civil service commissioner hired attorney David Liba'i at his own expense to protect his good name against the accusations included in the report. Liba'i told Lindenstraus he would petition the High Court against the report if Lindenstraus did not correct it. According to Grinberg, Lindenstraus agreed to change "a few words," but no more, and that the changes were insufficient. In his statement on Monday, Lindenstraus added that his office would "not hesitate to monitor the most senior officials in public administration in its professional, fair and straightforward way."