State Comptroller publishes first 2013 report

State Comptroller report criticizes state on problems with health sector in periphery, violations of migrant rights.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The 2013 State Comptroller’s Report was published on Wednesday, covering Joseph Shapira’s first complete review of everything from problems with government support for and integration of Ethiopian- Israelis, to violations of foreign resident minors’ rights, to a range of serious problems in the health sector.
Shapira submitted the report to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday morning.
For the first time, the report’s executive summary was also submitted in Arabic.
Shapira began the report by stating that at the beginning of his term as state comptroller, he announced that “the struggle against public corruption and in support of higher ethics,” as well as “delving in-depth” into the country’s “socioeconomic issues which impact a decisive majority of the population,” would be important goals.
He noted that these issues are not merely internal problems, but that they also “impact the image of the State of Israel” in the eyes of the international community. In that vein, it was noteworthy that Shapira mentioned violations of the state’s international obligations a number of times throughout the report.Unlike his predecessor, Micha Lindenstrauss, who frequently censored specific individuals with accusations of special responsibility for problems he was reviewing, Shapira avoided naming names.
He did warn, however, that he would follow up on whether progress was being made in correcting the deficiencies discussed in his report and would publish a follow-up report “noting names of key personnel who carry responsibility for correcting the deficiencies” as well as scoring their performance.
Regarding Ethiopian-Israelis, the document says that despite visible and significant efforts by the government to advance the integration of Ethiopian olim into society, undeniable gaps still remain in fields such as employment, education, army service and welfare.
There are 120,000 Ethiopians in Israel, representing some 1.5 percent of the population. In the past 20 years, the government has invested hundreds of millions of shekels for their absorption through various national projects, including a five-year plan established in 2008 to improve their conditions.
Gaps remain, however. For example, the report looks at the 2010-2011 academic year and shows that, despite extra student aid, only a small number of Ethiopian students enrolled in pre-academic programs, about 28.5% dropped out in the middle and more than half did not go on to study at universities.
University and college dropout rates for Ethiopian students are higher than for the rest of the population.
Ethiopians are also much less represented than the rest of the population in governmental roles and the public sector.
According to the state comptroller’s conclusions, to bridge the gaps in the various fields, the issue of integrating Ethiopian olim into Israel society should be handled by one body that will “see the big picture.”
One of the hot issues in the report is the description of the state’s agencies violating the domestic Law of the Child as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding resident minors who are not citizens.
Without specifically identifying them as African migrants and while not referring only to those migrants (the report said it encompasses around 211,000 persons, of whom only a third could be described as African migrants), the report alluded to a large group, noting that many of the minors entered the country illegally, coming over the Egyptian border since 2006.
The report said that “the heart is tormented at the sight of an infant left for many hours in conditions of neglect and filth.”
Shapira continued that the public’s heart was torn by “the sight of a youngster left for long months in a detention facility.”
The report heavily criticized a Welfare and Social Services Ministry decision in 2009 to help non-citizen resident children only if they were explicitly in danger, but not to assist those who were in difficult socioeconomic circumstances, as it does with Israelis.
In the health sector, the report said that 18 years after the National Health Insurance Law went into effect, the government lacks direction and single-minded goals for the health of the nation.
The report highlighted many of the problems with privatization of healthcare. In addition, the report slammed the levels of bacteria in the country’s medical facilities, stating that a staggering 4,000 to 6,000 deaths every year can be attributed to the presence of bacteria found in hospital antibiotics.
“The development of antibiotic- resistant bacteria poses a threat to treating bacterial infections,” the report said. It is possible to cut down on 25%-75% of the bacteria, which will save anywhere from 1,000 to 4,500 lives per year, the report said.
Discussing healthcare problems in the periphery, the report said that even though health services must be provided “on an equal basis,” there are “notable gaps” between the care received in the periphery and that received in the center of the country.
A section on the Finance Ministry found that the state lacked oversight for NIS 29 billion in loans it had extended, either directly or through banks.
Of the loans given out, the ministry made few or insufficient efforts to seek repayment from borrowers that owed a total of NIS 813.6 million and whose payments were seven years overdue. As the new budget proposing tax hikes and welfare cuts to fill the nation’s deficit demonstrates, nearly a billion shekels of lost funds could have eased some of the painful measures.
Next, Shapira performed an in-depth review of problems in the educational system and with weaker sectors of society, including special-needs students, poor implementation of legal assistance to those in need and inadequate assistance to single-parent families.
The report pointed out a number of problems in academic institutions’ ability to deal with complaints of sexual harassment, noting a tendency to “procrastinate” in handling them. It examined the Hebrew University and Bar-Ilan University, finding that in one case Hebrew University provided financial compensation of some NIS 38,000 to a student who had complained, but otherwise backed the faculty member and did not appear ready to take stronger action to deter further incidents.
The report touches on a myriad of other subjects, including failures in internal government oversight, religious controversies surrounding conversion and marriage, a range of economic issues, problems with law and order, defects in local and national agencies and advancing the status of women in sports.
Shapira said that he hoped that the report’s criticism would lead to “improving the quality of life and environment of those living in Israel.”
Niv Elis, Judy Siegel and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.