Transportation Ministry Official Accused of Helping Old Friend Get Gov’t Contract

Civil Service Commission considering whether to suspend Shlomo Katz from his position.

A senior Transportation Ministry official is accused of intervening in a ministry tender on behalf of an old friend.

According to a complaint filed with the Civil Service Commission two weeks ago, Shlomo Katz, the head of the control and projects department in the ministry’s division of public transportation, is suspected of acting to help the company Riba Yehezkel win the public tender for oversight of public transportation, without reporting that a close childhood friend of his, Moshe Burmil, was a senior vice president of the company.

“The defendant acted in a serious conflict of interest in his position and involvement concerning the tender and his personal friendship with Mr. Burmil, while not reporting this connection to the relevant authorities in the Transportation Ministry,” states the complaint.

The Civil Service Commission is considering whether to suspend Katz from his position.

The contract with Riba Yehezkel went into effect in July 2008 and covered a two-year period with an option for extending the contract twice, each time for an additional year. The Transportation Ministry exercised the options and in May 2012 a request was filed to further extend the contract for another year, without a new tender, at a cost of NIS 40 million.

The tender exemption was approved by the government committee that approves such contracts and the Finance Ministry's accountant general, through September of this year. In December 2012 a new tender was published to supervise public transportation lines.

The Civil Service Commission's complaint states that Katz pushed the committee to leave the contract in the hands of a single firm rather than dividing the job among several companies, without reporting his connection to Burmil. Katz allegedly pressured committee members not to change the minimum conditions for the tender, which would have allowed other firms to compete.

Burmil was appointed as a vice president at Riba Yehezkel on Katz's recommendation to CEO Hezi Hacham, according to the complaint. Katz was the ministry official in regular and direct contact with the company.

In addition, Katz reportedly met Burmil twice a week for a bike ride in Tel Aviv, which Katz reported as working hours.