Comptroller seeks to protect whistle-blowers

Presents suggestions to Knesset c'tee on protecting those who expose corruption from punishment.

lindenstrauss 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
lindenstrauss 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"The fight against public sector corruption is of paramount importance and protection must be given to those who expose such acts of corruption," read a special report presented Tuesday to the Knesset State Control Committee by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on the protection of whistle-blowers who are punished by their employers for revealing corruption in their place of work. "Unfortunately, there are some people who view those who expose corruption as 'informers' and certainly do not see their conduct as an example to follow," continued the report. The report includes a list of recommendations including, for example, a legislative initiative to increase the number of bodies whose workers will be eligible for protection as whistle-blowers. According to the state comptroller's spokesman, Shlomo Raz, the Knesset committee asked Lindenstrauss to prepare the report. Raz referred to a case in which a former Israeli president refused to present a certificate of merit to a whistle-blower because "'he said he did not want to encourage informers and was not prepared to have his photo taken with one of them.' The state comptroller's opinion on the matter of protecting whistle-blowers is meant to cope with such attitudes." On October 31, the State Control Committee held a special hearing to discuss the plight of Ma'ayan Agam, who was fired by the National Federation of Workers (NFW) after working there for more than six years. Agam maintained that she was fired because she had revealed instances of corruption on the part of the union's previous management. Her disclosures contributed to the suspicions leading to the investigation against former finance minister Avraham Hirchson, who led the NFW for many years, and some of his colleagues. Hirchson has been charged with embezzling millions of shekels from the union. During the hearing, Lindenstrauss explained that in his capacity as ombudsman, in which he addresses complaints from the public regarding the government and public organizations, he could not protect Agam, including preventing her dismissal, because his authority did not extend to workers' unions. During the meeting, he called on the Knesset to change the law. "The issue of whistle-blowers requires immediate action," he told the committee during October's special hearing. "Therefore, I have asked it to hold an emergency meeting to correct the law." Tuesday's state-comptroller report was the outcome of that meeting.