It took a private citizen an average of 218 days to receive a building permit from the Tel Aviv municipality in 1991, compared with "a few days" for paid representatives ("macherim") who knew the bureaucratic ropes, the state comptroller wrote, quoting from a 1991 report by the city's controller. According to the State Comptroller's Report presented last Wednesday, the phenomenon of the "macherim" [a Yiddish word for middlemen and 'fixers'] is widespread in national and district government offices and local authorities providing services to the public. This is particularly true when private citizens "have trouble receiving the services by themselves because of the unavailability of information explaining how to obtain them or the complexity of the procedures involved in obtaining them." In such instances, private citizens will turn to "macherim" to speed up the bureaucratic procedures. This, in and of itself, wrote the state comptroller, is not necessarily bad as long as the service they provide is "professional, legal and does not prejudice the service given to private citizens who are not represented." This, however, is not always the case. The phenomenon of "macherim" can have "negative influences on the ethical standards of the public service, its efficiency and the public's confidence in it," the state comptroller warned. The state comptroller examined the phenomenon in the technical section of the Holon automobile licensing department and found that the proportion of actions conducted by "macherim" was high. Of more than 27,000 actions at the technical center conducted by 11,010 individuals with power of attorney to represent the actual automobile owner, 25 "macherim," i.e. 0.22 percent of all those granted power of attorney, executed almost 25% of the actions. Of these 25, 13 "macherim" executed 20% of all the actions, or 437 actions per person. The state comptroller found that in order to lighten the load on the technical section, the head of the Tel Aviv district of the Transport Ministry had ordered the Holon branch not to accept cars from outside the district unless the vehicle owner came in person. The directive was not carried out. The state comptroller found that two types of "macherim" had also been active in the National Insurance Institute offices - those from the outside who had established personal contacts with officials, and those who had once worked for the NII and knew the procedures and staff from their work together. However, the NII has taken action to reduce the phenomenon by establishing a committee to create a data bank of the "macherim" and organize an information campaign to explain to the public on how to file a claim with the institute.