Israeli Ministries No Longer Have to Hire Secretaries Through Tenders

The Civil Service Commissioner changed the policy under pressure from high-ranking staffers who want to be able to employ family and friends.

Senior government secretaries who work for Israel's ministers will no longer have to be hired by tender, thanks to a policy change long pushed for by high-ranking personnel.

The Civil Service Commission, which oversees management and human resources for state employees, effectively ended the 3-year-old requirement for the secretaries, called executive bureau coordinators, by giving them a lower rank and allowing them to be quickly promoted. Those making the hiring decisions have advocated the change so they can employ family and friends.

The previous Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander instituted the requirement that executive bureau coordinators be hired by tender as part of a 2010 reform campaign and immediately came under pressure to change the policy.

“A secretarial position has always been seen as something that ‘can be arranged’ for someone who is looking for a job,” the director of a government ministry's human resources department said, noting that executive bureau coordinator is a position of trust. “They [officials] were very angry that they couldn’t bring in any secretary they wanted, since she was almost always someone’s relative or girlfriend or someone close to the committee.”

Every government minister is given a bureau with a bureau manager and five executive bureau coordinators. Ministers who head more than one ministry receive two additional executive bureau coordinators for each one. For example, Industry Trade and Labor Minister Naftali Bennett is also the religious services minister, so he should have nine secretaries. Deputy ministers get eight secretaries and directors general and other officials of similar rank get two or three executive bureau coordinators, depending on the amount of work. Junior bureau coordinators do not work in the bureaus of minister, deputies or directors general.

Before the 2010 reform, secretaries were assigned Civil Service ranks from 15 to 18, with higher-ranking secretaries working for higher-ranking ministers. The positions, in increasing rank order, were: executive secretary, bureau coordinator, executive bureau coordinator and office manager. The reform abolished the position of executive secretary and bumped all the other secretarial positions up a rank. So bureau coordinator went from rank 17 to rank 18, and the associated salary increased from NIS 5,500 to NIS 6,100 before raises.

But because of the change, tenders had to be issued for the position according to Civil Service regulations for filling a rank-18 position. A letter explaining the reform stated that the lowest position was abolished and the others were consolidated to reflect the diminishment of the distinctions between the positions that had occurred over time.

After years of pressure, Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan and his deputy Motti Aharoni articulated a change of policy in November 2012. They sent a letter to the deputy directors general of the Civil Service human resources departments detailing a new method, called the promotion track, for appointing executive bureau coordinators without a tender. The letter explained that executive bureau coordinators were now to be hired at rank 17, obviating the need for tenders, and promoted to rank 18 after two years, giving them higher status and pay.

 “As things are now, a situation has been created where a public tender is required to advertise a job opening,” the letter said. “This situation causes the hiring process to take longer and leads to a large number of candidates, since the low requirements for the position allow for a very broad variety of applicants. This situation is difficult and makes the hiring process cumbersome. After a deep examination of the matter that includes a desire to shorten the hiring process for the positions and in light of the applications that have reached the government ministries and internal independent units, a promotion track for these positions is being instituted. As is conventional in promotion tracks, the position will return to the beginning of the track when it is vacated.”

A Civil Service Commission spokesperson said Sunday, “As required by Civil Service rules, level-17 positions are exempt from the public-tender requirement, but require a selection procedure on the basis of objective and egalitarian criteria that include advertising and examination by an acceptance committee, as laid out in the regulations. The Civil Service Commission does not feel it necessary to invest resources in managing a public tender for junior positions, and the alternative procedure is appropriate for filling such positions.”

Outgoing Civil Service Commissioner Moshe Dayan.