Israel's Treasury Accountant General Vouches for Friend

Finance Ministry’s Michal Abadi-Boiangiu had asked to appoint accountant Yitzhak Ezer to oversee the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s finances on the government’s behalf.

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Finance Ministry Accountant General Michal Abadi-BoiangiuCredit: Ofer Vaknin

The Finance Ministry’s accountant general has been working to throw business to a close friend. A government company on which Michal Abadi-Boiangiu serves as chairwoman of the board hired the friend without a tender on six occasions over the last three years, and she also tried unsuccessfully to get him appointed to oversee the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s finances on the government’s behalf.

The friend, Yitzhak Ezer, is a 65-year-old accountant based in Tel Aviv. About a month ago, he received a part-time position as chairman of the board of the Paz Group, after having served on the board since 2005.

Treasury sources said Abadi-Boiangiu and Ezer are close friends who hold each other in great professional esteem. When Abadi-Boiangiu was chairwoman of the board of MI Holdings, a government company that holds shares in many major banks, she hired Ezer to work on privatizing Israel Discount Bank. Since then, they have grown closer.

The Hebrew University is currently experiencing a serious financial crisis due to its pension liabilities, and it is negotiating with both the Council for Higher Education and Abadi-Boiangiu’s office. The council decided to appoint an accountant to oversee the university’s finances, and sources familiar with the issue said Abadi-Boiangiu pushed for Ezer to get the job despite opposition from Yaffa Zilbershats, who heads the council’s Planning and Budgeting Committee. Ultimately, however, the university also objected to Ezer, so he didn’t get the job.

Zilbershats recounted the incident for Haaretz. During a discussion of the university’s finances, she said, she told Abadi-Boiangiu that her committee needed outside help to monitor them. “She told me, ‘Take the big five,’” referring to Israel’s five biggest accounting firms. “I told her that was unreasonable, since they’re all connected to the universities. She told me, ‘There is someone, Itzik Ezer.’ We checked him out and found he’s completely okay. We passed his name on to the university, and they said no.”

In her capacity as accountant general, Abadi-Boiangiu also serves as chairwoman of the board of Inbal, a government insurance company that has recently branched out into business services and other fields. Over the past three years, Inbal hired Ezer six times without a tender.

In April 2013, it hired Ezer to examine the Israel Electric Corporation, and in February 2014 it hired him for the same purpose. Both those contracts were extended twice.

In March 2015, it hired Ezer to provide services to NTA, the company building Tel Aviv’s light rail. Inbal’s website does not say how much the original contract cost, but in September 2015, it expanded the contract to 400,000 shekels ($105,000).

Inbal said it “regrets the tendentious tone, which attests to a deep lack of understanding of Inbal’s activities.” All its contracts are transparent and reported on the company’s website, Ezer is a widely admired accountant, and the contracts with him were small enough that no tender was required, the company said.

“Any attempt to hint at other ties between the treasury’s accountant general and accountant Ezer is corrupt, beside the point and borders on slander,” it added.

The treasury said Zilbershats had asked Abadi-Boiangiu to recommend an accountant to help draft a recovery program for the Hebrew University. Ezer’s name was mentioned along with the Big Five, but the university opposed him and the treasury wanted an accountant acceptable to all the parties concerned, it said.

Ezer declined to respond to Haaretz’s request for comment.