Comptroller finds serious flaws in State Attorney’s Office

Lindenstrauss also cites Holocaust restitution body and fund for incapacitated dependents over poor planning and foot-dragging.

311_Micha Lindenstrauss (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
311_Micha Lindenstrauss
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The State Attorney’s Office allowed 500 criminal cases that had been investigated by the police to gather dust on its shelves for more than three years and another 700 cases for more than two years in a four-year period between December 2004 and September 2008, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote, in one of four separate reports he issued Monday.
The reports deal with the processing of criminal files by the State Attorney’s Office, administration and money matters in Beit Hanassi and the performances of the Company for the Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets, and the Fund for the Care of Dependents.
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All the reports were prepared by the Special Tasks Department of the State Comptroller’s Office, which Lindenstrauss established five years ago.
In his report on languishing criminal files in the State Attorney’s Office, Lindenstrauss found that between January 2004 and September 2008, police had handed over 192,000 completed investigations to the state prosecution, which was to decide whether to close the files or indict the suspects. Of these, the State Attorney’s Office decided to prosecute 17,000 cases.
But it did not make up its mind immediately regarding 8,000 additional cases, and most of them waited many months for a decision.
In 2004, when the backlog was 7,300 cases, the State Attorney’s Office launched a special program to clear the shelves. Yet in September 2008, the backlog had reached 8,000, according to the report.
Lindenstrauss wrote that the program “did not achieve its goals. The backlog was not eliminated and further backlog was not prevented. The state comptroller takes a grave view of this delay in the handling of the backlog in criminal cases.”
The Justice Ministry issued a response saying there had been “a dramatic improvement” in the situation since the period investigated by the state comptroller.
“The State Attorney’s Office has cut by half the amount of time between the arrival of the file and the decision about what to do with it,” the ministry spokesman stated in a written response.
On another issue, the state comptroller found “many flaws in the activities of the Company for the Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims’ Assets.
The company was established in 2006 on the basis of Knesset legislation, to handle all assets such as property, real estate and bank accounts belonging to Holocaust survivors or their heirs. Until then, there was no single authority dealing with these matters.
The company was charged with locating and concentrating all housing and other dormant assets under its control and finding their owners or heirs.
According to the law, after three years, the company could sell off properties whose owners had not been found and distribute the money to provide help to Holocaust survivors or to projects meant to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust.
The state comptroller wrote that the main flaws he found in his investigation of the company included “lack of long-term planning and failure to determine policy and programs to achieve the company’s main goals including locating property other than real estate and providing help to the survivors, including examining their needs.”
He also wrote that the company had paid little attention to initiating searches for the actual owners of survivor property.
In its response to the findings, the spokeswoman of the Company for the Location and Restitution of Holocaust Victims Assets wrote that since November 2009, when the report was written, “the company has carried out many significant steps to achieve the goals for which it was established.”
These steps included finding the legal heirs of survivor property, help to survivors and support for educational and Holocaust memorial projects.
The state comptroller also examined the Fund for the Care of Dependants and found that it was guilty of failing to live up to its “basic obligations towards the dependants, including those who receive stipends from the National Insurance Institute.”
The fund was established by the Office of the Custodian- General to look after those who are incapable of looking after themselves and/or their property. It is in charge of 3,200 dependants and 1,800 people who receive NII payments. It also administers their funds, estimated at NIS 400 million and their real estate, estimated at NIS 470 million in December 2008.
The fund is obliged to operate according to a “treatment basket” which lists the basic services it must supply the dependants in return for a fee. The basket was approved by the family court. Nevertheless, according to the state comptroller, “in most cases the fund did not provide a substantial portion of the activities they were obliged to provide.”
For example, the state comptroller found that the treatment coordinator does not meet each dependent within a year of his coming under the care of the fund, as the coordinator is obliged by the basket. The fund does not prepare an action program based on the abilities and needs of the individual dependent.
Each treatment coordinator is responsible for 160 dependents or those receiving stipends, far too many to provide the service they require.
A spokeswoman for the fund said that the report had been written four months after a new management replaced the old.
“The findings of the state comptroller ignore the revolution and renewal that are currently taking place,” wrote the spokeswoman. “It takes time to make so many changes.”