Olmert accused of cronyism

Allegedly made political appointments as minister of industry, trade and labor.

Olmert pissed off 298 (photo credit: AP [file])
Olmert pissed off 298
(photo credit: AP [file])
Allegations of political appointments in the Authority for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses during Ehud Olmert's term as minister of industry, trade and labor are included in a report released early Monday morning by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. He wrote that he had turned over his findings regarding the allegations to Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz. Although the authority is a private, non-profit organization, it is fully funded by the Industry and Trade Ministry. An official in the Prime Minister's Office said Olmert would respond to the report on Monday. Lindenstrauss found that under the stewardship of Olmert and ministry director-general Ra'anan Dinur, the ministry changed the rules of the authority and appointed a woman with close political ties to Olmert as the deputy director-general. She, in turn, appointed at least three new project managers who were members of the Likud central committee. According to the report, the three were appointed according to improper procedures and without giving others a fair chance at the job. Two of the projects were not even originally included in the annual work schedule for the year in which the politically connected managers were hired. He wrote that although the authority was technically a private organization, it was funded by the government and therefore obligated by the basic laws of public administration. For example, he wrote, "It is only proper that the authority upholds the principles that serve as the basis for public tenders and the laws calling for awarding government jobs and service contracts without extraneous considerations, including political ones." Instead, the Industry and Trade Ministry changed the rules of the authority to increase the minister's influence on the allocation of its budget and the appointment of its director-general. They also added a new position of deputy director-general and appointed attorney Lilach Nehemia to fill it. One year earlier, the Raviv Committee had rejected her candidacy for the job of public representative on the board of directors of the Government Tourism Company because of her personal and political links and lack of any special skills. Nehemia took up her job in mid-2004. One year later, 10 to 14 project managers were heading authority projects, of whom half had started working after her appointment. Three of the managers were members of the Likud central committee. Lindenstrauss investigated the way in which each of the appointments had been made and the way the work was conducted. The first project manager, Shimon Moshe, was appointed head of a project for the disabled. He was paid NIS 27,000 a month including expenses. At the same time, Olmert presented him as a candidate for the job of deputy head of the Employment Service, even though he did not meet the educational requirements. Other candidates were automatically disqualified for failing to meet the same requirements. The Raviv Committee originally approved the appointment, but retracted when they found out that he did not have the required education. Meanwhile, Moshe was forced to leave his job as project manager following a petition to the High Court of Justice. However, the authority appointed him to manage another project. The second project manager, Yitzhak Michaeli, was first put in charge of a project to help Beduin and then to participate in a survey regarding outsourcing for Israeli Arabs. After one month, the Beduin project was stopped for lack of funds. He received NIS 140,000 for the outsourcing project even though it was not clear what work he did. The third project manager was Ya'acov Padida. He was put in charge of a project to transfer small businesses to a new commercial area in Tiberias, for which he received NIS 14,000 a month, a total of NIS 196,000. Lindenstrauss found that Padida did not submit detailed monthly work reports and that it was not clear how much work he had done. Lindenstrauss said he sent the report before its publication to Mazuz, Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander and the accountant-general. Mazuz told Lindenstrauss he would examine the ways to legally correct the problems he had found and to find a way to impose regular supervision over the authority. Because it is a private institution, neither the Civil Service commissioner nor any other supervisory body is responsible for the authority.