'Katsav broke law by hiring workers without tender'

Comptroller releases scathing reports on Beit Hanassi; former president meets with lawyers to discuss possible appeal of rape conviction.

katsav enters court 311 (photo credit: Ben Hartman)
katsav enters court 311
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Former president Moshe Katsav violated civil service regulations regarding hiring and manpower policies, salaries and benefits to employees, misused special presidential funds and conducted improper fund-raising activities during his term in office, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss charged in a scathing report released on Monday.
Lindenstrauss published separate reports on the handling of administration and money matters in Beit Hanassi, the processing of criminal files by the State Attorney's Office, 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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The reports were prepared by the Special Tasks Department of the State Comptroller’s Office, which Lindenstrauss established five years ago.
The report on Beit Hanassi covers the period between 2000 and 2008 and was completed at the end of 2008. Katsav served as president from 2001 until January 25, 2007. The incumbent, Shimon Peres, took office later that year after Dalia Itzik, in the capacity of her role as Knesset speaker, served as interim president.
The report points out administrative flaws in both presidential administrations, but most of the report pertained to Katsav’s period.
According to the law, the staff of Beit Hanassi is bound by the terms of employment set down by the civil service commissioner. However, in the special case of the president’s staff, it is the director-general of Beit Hanassi who must see to it that they are applied. He failed to do so, Lindenstrauss said.
“We found that the appointments in the period investigated were improper,” he wrote. “Employees were given jobs without a tender, appointments involving personal trust [between the president and the employee] were distributed without determining the number of such offices, temporary advisers for specific tasks or those who worked voluntarily were not appointed in accordance with the principles set down by the civil service commissioner and temporary appointments were stretched to last more than two years.”
The state comptroller found, for example, that under Katsav and his director-general, Moshe Goral, there were no fixed job positions because they continually changed job descriptions and names in accordance with their needs and the person holding the position.
Permanent positions are supposed to remain that way to allow for the continuity of professional services by the permanent staff no matter which politician is in office, Lindenstrauss explained.
Katsav and Goral also appointed employees to jobs that were defined as temporary, but allowed them to hold these positions for long periods.
During his term in office, Katsav made five senior appointments, but only one by tender. Lindenstrauss wrote that in so doing, the president had acted illegally.
“Holding a tender is mandatory in accordance with the Appointments Law,” he said. “The appointment of the above office-holders was in violation of the law.”
The state comptroller also charged that Peres had made two appointments without tenders.
Peres argued that he had done so because both jobs involved a bond of personal trust and therefore did not require a tender. But Lindenstrauss rejected Peres’s argument and said both jobs should have been filled by a tender.
The state comptroller found several cases in which employees had received benefits far beyond anything provided for by the Civil Service Commission. For example, several employees were paid for days they took off that were not recognized by the civil service manual. Furthermore, Goral was allowed to take 150 days of “sick leave” after Katsav temporarily left office – never to return, as it turned out. This, wrote Lindenstrauss, was a misuse of the benefit.
On another topic, the state comptroller found that Katsav had violated a law prohibiting public servants from soliciting donations for a philanthropic project. According to the report, Goral lobbied public organizations, charity groups and businessmen on behalf of a group called “A Long Life,” which Katsav had founded.
These actions “even if for positive ends, violate the law,” Lindenstrauss wrote.
He added that Katsav had given his patronage to events held at Beit Hanassi by businesses that were promoting public- interest programs of one sort or another. According to a regulation issued by the attorney-general, any public servant considering giving patronage to a business should think the matter over carefully, because even if the event is not motivated by considerations of profit, it will provide publicity for the firm and trigger demands from other companies for equal treatment.
“Providing patronage for events by business interests conflicts with the attorney-general’s directive and could raise allegations of favoritism,” Lindenstrauss warned.
Meanwhile, Katsav met with his lawyers at his home on Monday morning, presumably to discuss options for appealing his conviction last week for rape and other sexual offenses.
Attorney Avigdor Feldman told reporters gathered outside Katsav’s Kiryat Malachi home, “You’re wasting your time,” indicating that there would be no public comments.