atias - Tess Scheflan - July 6 2011
Ariel Atias Photo by Tess Scheflan
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In the wake of complaints that Housing Minister Ariel Atias and an aide had tried to interfere in Israel Lands Administration tenders, the two met with a deputy attorney general to provide clarifications. Intervention of the kind that was alleged would contravene procedures that confine the housing minister to setting policy while prohibiting interference in specific transactions.

It is understood that the Justice Ministry was informed about the alleged intervention on the part of Atias and Binyamin Dreifuss, an aide, in specific tenders issued by the Israel Lands Administration.

ILA officials, including director Yaron Bibi, deflected the meddling and complained about it to the Justice Ministry. Deputy attorney general Sarit Dana met with Atias and Dreifuss and clarified the procedures regarding intervention by ministers and their aides in the work of civil servants: specifically, that Atias was not authorized to deal with specific tenders or enforcement. If the minister were to receive a complaint about the ILA, Dana said, he should forward it to the ILA for handling.

Atias is in the process of ousting Bibi as ILA head, claiming that Bibi's performance is sub-par and that the agency is falling short on reform. Insiders say they expect Bibi to resign before he is asked to leave.

Bibi and the Justice Ministry refused to comment. Atias stated that he had been the one to contact Dana, to discuss the horrible bureaucracy at the ILA and his inability to take action as the responsible minister to expedite bureaucratic processes. He utterly rejected the attempts to link professional disputes over goals with implied alien interests, Atias said, adding that he and his team obey the rules.

In his response, Atias painted a picture of the ILA as being deaf to queries by citizens. Sometimes bids for tenders lie unopened for months. He receives hundreds of letters a month, most of which are complaints about the red tape at the ILA, the minister said.