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Israel’s state comptroller finds ethical breaches in government

JERUSALEM, May 11 (JTA) — Issuing her annual report on government activity, Israel’s state comptroller said last week that she had found numerous instances of breaches of ethics in the public service. The report, which covered the end of the Labor-led government and beginning of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s
Likud-led coalition, recommended that the attorney general investigate at least three cases of suspected criminal activities. Miriam Ben Porat said she considered the 1,100 page report “one of the most serious” she had ever prepared. The report comes on the heels of the Bar-On affair, a political scandal surrounding the short-lived appointment of an attorney general who stepped down in the wake of sharp criticism about his lack of experience to occupy the post. Among the report’s findings were a long list of political appointments that Porat said failed to meet required standards. “It is natural that a new government would want to appoint people who share its views,” Ben Porat said. “But unfortunately the drive to garner power sometimes pushed individuals to try to circumvent proper procedures and the law.” The report cited the appointment of a legal adviser to the prime minister’s office, who was later forced to step down because he lacked the required experience. In another case, the deputy housing minister promised projects to a contractor on condition that a Likud activist, who did not have the requisite experience, be made a deputy director of the company. The report pointed to conflicts of interest in the disbursement of public funds, when members of organizations seeking such funds also sat on the ministerial committees which allocated them. The state comptroller also criticized the lack of follow-up to ensure that funds distributed to organizations were used for their intended purpose. On a separate issue, the state comptroller raised grave concerns regarding the Israeli army’s preparedness for war. Reserve combat soldiers do not receive adequate training, and there is no follow-up assessment of their training, the report said. The report said that the army’s wartime emergency stores were low, that armored vehicles were found to be flawed and that ammunition had expired. Some 2 million citizens were still without proper gas masks, which must be supplied by the army, the report said. Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai said in response that he was aware of the problems and hoped that the defense establishment would be given the necessary resources to correct them. On another matter, Ben Porat said she had not yet decided whether to investigate the role of former Israel Defense Force chief of staff Ehud Barak in a November 1992 military accident. Five soldiers were killed when a live missile prematurely fired during a training exercise. Ben Porat said that in her initial investigation of the accident she had heard conflicting reports over how, and whether, Barak helped soldiers who were injured in the accident. Barak, is a leading contender for the leadership of the Labor Party, which is set to hold internal elections on June 3. Ben Porat said it was important to clarify the matter, in light of the fact that it involves an individual who could conceivably lead the country. Barak welcomed Ben Porat’s remarks, and said he was sure an investigation would substantiate his version of the events.

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