Israel Not Doing Enough to Avoid Defense Sector Corruption, Report Says

International NGO ranks Israel in the same category as Kuwait, Lebanon and Mexico for risk of defense-sector corruption; rails the Jewish state for not implementing anti-corruption warnings.

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Israel has joined a group of countries that aren't doing enough to prevent corruption in their defense establishments, according to a report published Monday by the organization Transparency International. Israel was placed in the D+ group of countries that are considered high-risk for defense sector corruption, alongside India, Mexico, Singapore, Kuwait and Lebanon. According to the organization's report, some 70 percent of governments around the world do not prevent corruption in their defense establishments and are at risk of wasteful spending.

Transparency International, whose headquarters are in the United Kingdom, found that Israel's defense establishment isn't implementing basic provisions like repeated anti-corruption warnings by defense top brass, including the defense minister and the Defense Ministry director general. The organization also found that the defense establishment is not promoting anti-corruption messages and also that it shirks cooperation with legally-mandated supervisory bodies.

Transparency International also called upon the defense industry to act more conspicuously. The industry is a regular recipient of large public contracts, and a lack of transparency is correlated with an increase in bribes.
In response to the report, the Defense Ministry called into question both Transparency International's accuracy and its underlying methodology.

"The report encompasses a long list of topics and surveys them in a very superficial manner," the Defense Ministry said in a statement. "The report includes many fundamental inaccuracies, and in general its findings are based on a few, unidentified sources that aren't necessarily up to date. The Defense Ministry is working on all relevant levels in a transparent manner and is subject to supervisory and control bodies – whether internal or under the purview of other government ministries, the legislature or the office of the state comptroller."

Israel received some of the lowest marks in the report for transparency and maintaining control over the defense budget and defense activities. While the report indicated that Israel has institutional mechanisms in place for supervising the Defense Ministry's conduct, like the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, it appears that the ministry doesn't often cooperate with its supervisory bodies. This limits the Knesset's influence over the Defense Ministry.

Also in the report, Transparency International said the Israeli government has shown in recent years a lack of tolerance toward social organizations that have publicly criticized the defense establishment. It also said the defense budget lacks transparency or accessible information regarding defense expenditure on secret items or extra-budgetary spending.

But the report was not entirely damning. It also made note of some of the defense establishment's strong points, including the structure of its human resources, in which appointments, management and promotion are objective-based. It also has a well-established salary system.

Another count in favor of the Israel defense establishment is that the IDF does not hold stakes in defense manufacturers.

Israeli tanks in the north are clear to the eye; corruption in procurement tends to be less obvious.Credit: Lior Mizrahi
IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the Golan Heights.Credit: Defense Ministry

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