'PM abused power over college loan'

State comptroller claims Olmert exerted pressure to approve NIS 10 million for Engineering College.

Olmert worried 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Olmert worried 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
A special report published by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss on Monday accused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of pressuring the Treasury's accountant-general in order to hasten the approval of an irregular loan for Jerusalem's Engineering College. The allegations, based on Olmert's personal acquaintance with the Engineering College president, refer to Olmert's term as finance minister. According to Lindenstrauss' report, officials in the Finance Ministry at the time exerted intense pressure to approve budgets by then-Treasury Accountant-General Yaron Zelekha. The college president, Jerusalem Municipality and Israel Lands Administration (ILA) were also criticized by Lindenstrauss. The case was not made public because of a lengthy undercover police investigation and all cases against people involved have since been closed. The report alleged that Olmert as finance minister directly exerted pressure to approve a loan of NIS 10 million for the college. Uzi Wexler, the president of the college, is an acquaintance of Olmert. Olmert himself was chairman of the board of the Engineering College. Commander (ret.) Meir Gilboa, head of the anti-corruption department in the State Control Officer, said Olmert's pattern of behavior exemplifies unlawful intervention in the decisions of the professional tier of the government. "Olmert's part in the affair is small on the face of it, but his influence was great," Gilboa said. "This is an example of intervening in the professional proceedings of a statutory body. And the intervention was made before all facts were brought before [Olmert]."