Comptroller’s report slams state for neglect of illegal migrants

Shapira in annual report slams state for negligent, possibly unconstitutional migrant policy; criticizes ministers for too many foreign flights, myriad other issues.

Joseph Shapira at IDC debate 370 (photo credit: Sarit Font)
Joseph Shapira at IDC debate 370
(photo credit: Sarit Font)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on Wednesday published his annual report, lambasting the state’s migrant policy as negligent and possibly unconstitutional and rebuking ministers for too many foreign flights.
Until now, Shapira has been viewed as more modest than his predecessor Micha Lindenstrauss, who was known for a variety of scathing reports virtually calling for ministerial resignations.
But in his 2013 report, presented to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Tuesday (a day before its contents were made public), while he described his foray into the issue as merely continuing to address socioeconomic issues, Shapira blamed the state for mishandling the plight of migrants and south Tel Aviv residents, saying its policies only addressed one-fifth at most of the hot-button issue.
Summarizing the state’s policy as trying to prevent any more migrants from illegally entering Israel via Egypt while placing at most 9,000 of the over 50,000 illegal migrants in open detention centers, the report said the state was responsible for the migrants’ and the south Tel Aviv residents’ problems.
Shapira said that even if all the planned open detention centers were built and filled, more than 80 percent of the migrants would remain in south Tel Aviv.
It was “doubtful” the migrants’ minimum constitutional rights to human dignity were being preserved, he added.
Shapira said the state’s failure to use resources to integrate the migrants into the workforce and to secure them other rights and places to live meant the full burden of spinoff problems fell on south Tel Aviv residents.
Separately, Shapira reported that the number of trips abroad by cabinet ministers and deputies had risen by 60% from when Ariel Sharon was prime minister (2001-2006) to the time of Netanyahu’s previous government (2009-2012).
The rise occurred despite a decision by Netanyahu’s government to cut back on expenses for such trips by 25%.
Netanyahu’s office responded that the comparison was faulty because his government had many more ministers, and that the number of trips per minister had actually fallen.
The proportion of trips that were funded by nongovernmental organizations rose by 43.5%.
There was also a sharp rise in the percentage of trips funded by foreign governments. From 2003 to 2008, 14% of trips were funded by foreign governments. In the years 2008 to 2010, that figure rose to 32%.
From 2010 to 2011, 49% of trips abroad were funded by foreign governments.
Shapira postponed releasing his findings about Netanyahu.
The comptroller’s investigation was initiated by Lindenstrauss, following a Channel 10 report on allegedly excessive expenses incurred by Netanyahu on trips abroad.
The so-called Bibi Tours scandal led to an investigation of every minister and deputy minister.
Information on Netanyahu’s trips was not included in the report because of an ongoing attorney-general’s investigation into the matter, which prevented the prime minister from being able to respond to questions submitted by Lindenstrauss on December 27, 2012.
A government source familiar with the investigation of Netanyahu’s trips said that there will be significant developments soon.
Regarding land reform, the report said that the Israel Lands Authority spent millions of shekels – NIS 35 million a year, plus a considerable amount in one-time expenses – to implement reforms that varied greatly from those approved by the cabinet.
“The state paid millions for a specific set of reforms but received a totally different kind of reform,” the report found.
Among the differences: Refusal to outsource services, hiring people to fill positions that others were offered incentives to leave, and raising wages.
The problems encountered with providing sufficient land and affordable housing are occurring despite the fact that the issue already spurred the social protest movement of 2011 Shapira sharply criticized the government agencies responsible for the inclusion of people with disabilities into the workforce, citing a “bleak” picture across “all aspects” regarding the issue.
“A person with disabilities trying to enter the workforce encounters bureaucratic obstacles from the numerous government ministries and agencies, especially the Welfare and Economy ministries and the National Insurance Institute responsible for their rehabilitation,” he wrote.
In a section regarding issues with gun-control enforcement, the report said that Public Security Ministry officials do not have the tools to enforce gun-control regulations or mechanisms in place for cooperation with police or other ministries.
The report highlighted a series of failures by the Public Security Ministry’s firearms regulations branch to increase regulation and to reduce the number of guns on the street.
The report estimated that 81% of the 151,233 licensed gun owners received their permits under justifications that are no longer relevant.
Regarding prisoner rehabilitation, the report found that out of the around 20,000 prisoners in Israel, every year around 7,300 are released on parole, and that of these, only around a quarter have any sort of post-incarceration transition or rehabilitation plan.
In a section of the report devoted to air pollution originating from vehicle gas emissions, Shapira criticized the progress of the Environmental Protection Ministry and other relevant bodies in achieving the goals of the national program to prevent air pollution.
Citing the 80% budget cuts that occurred between the original programs and the ones that were finally approved, the state comptroller expressed doubt in the effectiveness of the program in its current state.
Particularly problematic has been the ministry’s failure to implement a national air-monitoring system program and to set values for acceptable pollutant levels.
In addition, testing of air pollution coming from vehicle emissions has been sporadic, and commitment of local authorities to launch pollution prevention plans has also been lacking, according to the report.
The “partial implementation” of requirements of the Clean Air Law has caused long-term damage to public health as well as to the economy, Shapira concluded.
In the area of health, the report found shortcomings in preventing disease and promoting good health, with heavy criticism of the administration of vaccinations, placing unprecedented fault with the Health Ministry for failing to reduce the toll of melanoma skin cancer.
The report addressed a variety of other issues, from efforts to support aliya to the country employing too many unqualified math teachers in its schools.
Niv Elis, Lidar Grave-Lazi, Sharon Udasin, Ben Hartman and Judy Siegel contributed to this report.