Analysis / Who Will Guard the Guards?

Rarely have we seen a more visceral battle than that now taking place between two senior figures in the public sector: the civil service commissioner and state comptroller.

Micha Lindenstrauss wrote a harsh critique of the commissioner in a report to be released tomorrow; commissioner Shmuel Hollander did not hold back, and let loose with everything he had, taking no prisoners.

Hollander describes Lindenstrauss' report as "unprofessional, tendentious, full of factual and legal errors." He said the report "casts a heavy shadow over the institution of the state comptroller and credibility of the scrutiny." Hollander also wrote that Lindenstrauss "continued methodically to damage the rules of natural justice," and called the comptroller's attitude toward him "personal persecution."

Hollander also asked a private (and pricey) attorney, Professor David Libai, to represent him. Can any government official hire the best private legal counsel? And what is a private attorney doing in the middle of a public sector debate?

Hollander raises the loaded topic of the unusually high salaries and pension conditions in the State Comptroller's Office. Workers at that office must have a great deal of chutzpah to criticize those others who receive "unlawful salaries" when the salaries of the comptroller and the senior echelons are unimaginably high. Senior personnel between NIS 40,000 and NIS 50,000 a month, and some are even allowed a state-supported pension, while the salary of a director general of a government ministry is NIS 33,000 a month. Is there no end to cynicism?

It all starts with the fact that the State Comptroller's Office's budget is not set by the Finance Ministry, but by the comptroller himself. The Knesset Finance Committee approves it, but it is so fearful that it automatically approves the budget with almost no change.

The present debate will be judged on its merits after the comptroller's report is released tomorrow. But it should be noted that Hollander has been at his post for 10 years and in the civil service for 35 years. A single individual should not occupy such a senior position for such a long time. A four-year term is sufficient, and at the most two such terms, which have long since passed.

Hollander has not excelled in standing up against ministers. For example, he did not prevent numerous political appointments in government ministries. Therefore, it is time for a new broom to clean out the Civil Service stables.

The State Comptroller's Office must also be scrutinized. Its budget should be set by the treasury like any other government office, and the Finance Ministry's director of salaries should create order there as he is doing at the Bank of Israel.

Without supervision, the nation will go wild. And since the State Comptroller's Office is unmonitored and unscrutinized, it must be subject to these restraints, otherwise, a downhill decline is unavoidable.