Lindenstrauss takes aim at corruption

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on Wednesday unveiled a 10-point plan for fighting corruption in the public service. The plan, outlined by Lindestrauss during the final panel discussion of a three-day conference held by the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, included drafting a detailed and realistic master plan, a declaration by the government that the fight against corruption was a top national priority, full and close cooperation between all the public institutions involved in the fight and substantial aid and encouragement to voluntary bodies. Other elements in the plan included using the educational system to teach children about the national dangers posed by corruption, support and protection for whistle-blowers in the public service, stiffer punishments for crimes involving corruption, using the media as a source of investigative material and a means of disseminating information, and support for internal comptrollers in government ministries and other public offices. Lindenstrauss said his office would "continue to act forcefully for honesty in the public sector by preparing reports on many matters in real time, publishing - with great caution, of course - the names of people who had been investigated, and holding those at the head of the pyramid personably accountable for their failures of commission or omission. The state comptroller will reinforce the special unit established in the past few months in his office to fight against corruption and for honest administration." Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz took the opportunity given him to correct what he described as a misunderstanding about comments he made at the time of his appointment to his post. Mazuz said at the time that no one should expect the war against corruption to be fought solely in the criminal arena. He explained that he regarded the use of criminal law as an important element in the fight, but not a sufficient one. "Corruption is a social phenomenon above all and you have to fight it like you fight all phenomena." he said. "You cannot fight only one of its symptoms." All of the institutions and forces in Israeli society must be harnessed to the battle, not instead of each other but altogether, he continued. These include the police, the state prosecution, the Knesset, the media, the political system and the public. He said no one should underestimate the power of public opinion in this fight, using as an example the Likud Party decision to take away the prerogative of its Central Committee to elect the party's slate of parliamentary candidates. The party did so because it realized the public was disgusted by its conduct. Former Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin blasted what he called the "corruption industry" for not dealing seriously with the problem of corruption and, instead, channeling all their efforts to catch "little fish" who perpetrated "stupid" crimes. In this context, he mentioned the investigations and convictions of former MKs Yitzhak Peretz (obtaining a university degree by deceit,) Naomi Blumenthal (paying the hotel accommodations for Central Committee members, which later led to a second investigation of allegations that she had interfered in a police investigation,) and Yair Hazan (double voting.) Rivlin said the police should have been devoting most of their efforts to apprehending serious criminals such as those involved in the sex-trade, or public servants who had perpetrated genuinely serious crimes. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conceded Wednesday that the country is plagued with organized crime. "I think the time has come, unfortunately, to say organized crime," Olmert said in his address, departing from his text which used the words "organized criminal activity." Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this report.