Findings Should Keep Public Awake at Night'

The president of the Contractors' Association, Sam Ulpiner, said yesterday that he expects the authorities to act in accordance with the findings and recommendations of the Zeiler report. "The Contractors' Association has been complaining for many years about the fact that the construction industry is split between 10 different government ministries and that there is no single minister in charge. Similarly, the Contractors' Association has been calling for years for changes to the planning and construction laws, in order to solve the problems [mentioned in the Zeiler Report] and to ease the bureaucracy involved in obtaining a building permit. One of the main reasons that contractors are reticent to invest in projects in Israel is the foot dragging when it comes to issuing permits."

Ulpiner added that the Contractors' Association calls on the authorities to stop issuing building permits to unlicensed contractors. Most of the local authorities do nothing to ensure that only authorized contractors carry out construction work - something that Ulpiner said was unthinkable in a country with proper and orderly construction regulations.

Minister of Housing and Construction Effi Eitam said yesterday that he agrees that the authority to create and enforce construction laws must be concentrated in one place. At the moment, he said, his own ministry controls only a portion of construction-related issues.

The Interior Ministry has authority over many aspects of construction, such as compelling building owners to fix construction flaws, said Eitam, while the Education Ministry controls the construction of schools.

"I think that if people want to take care of the issue on a long-term basis, they will really have to give the Housing and Construction Ministry concentrated powers," he said, specifically the authority to check the quality of construction and enforce construction laws.

A Housing and Construction Ministry spokesman said yesterday that Eitam had already put forward a proposal calling on the government to adopt the findings of the Zeiler Report, and to empower his ministry to implement the recommendations.

The Organization of Consulting Engineers said that it would be highly difficult to implement the complex solutions put forward by the Zeiler Report. While the solutions were right and proper, a spokesman argued, it would take years to implement them, and there would be no immediate solution to the pressing problems facing the industry.

The Union of Local Authorities echoed that concern, saying that "it could take years for the recommendations to be implemented, and, in the meantime, we do not have the tools to deal with 3 million square meters of unsafe roofing in local authority structures." According to the chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, Adi Eldar, "the committee's findings regarding the safety of the construction industry, should keep the public awake at night."

Eldar warned however, that the proposed solution of a new ministry would meet with objections from the treasury and other ministries, which would mean that nothing would change."