Government Statistician Says Criticism of Israeli Ministries May Have Cost Him His Job

After 11 years in office, Shlomo Yitzhaki, who in the past criticized government ministries, was informed in an email that the Prime Minister's Office will no longer require his services.

Outgoing government statistician Shlomo Yitzhaki says the decision not to extend his term in office may have been the result of criticism he voiced. Yizhaki complained in the past that government ministries failed to turn appropriate data to his office.

Prof. Danny Pfeffermann, 70, a professor of statistics at Hebrew University and the University of Southampton in England, will replace Prof. Shlomo Yitzhaki, whose contract was not renewed this week by the Prime Minister's Office. Pfeffermann, the president of the Israel Statistical Association, will be officially appointed at next Sunday's cabinet meeting.

The government statistician is also the head of the Central Bureau of Statistics. 

Yitzhaki took office in 2001. When he reached the official retirement age of 67 a year and half ago he was asked by the Prime Minister's Office, which oversees the CBS, to stay on until a replacement was found. His contract was subsequently renewed every three months, until this week.

The Prime Minister's Office decision not to extend Yitzhaki's term came in an email sent to the director general of the CBS, who forwarded it on to Yitzhaki himself. The message stated that Yitzhaki's services would be terminated immediately and that a temporary replacement would be appointed until his permanent successor takes office.

For its part, the Prime Minister's Office said Yitzhaki's tenure in his job had formally ended some 18 months ago and that Yitzhaki has known for a month and a half that his job would end at the end of 2012.

Yitzhaki acknowledged that his recent status, in which his employment was extended every three months, created uncertainty both for him and for the CBS. However he complained about the way in which he was dismissed. "After eleven successful years I would expect some notice, a different manner of behaving," he said.

As chief statistician, Yitzhaki was unsparing in his criticism of government bureaucracy over the years, and it may be, he told TheMarker, that his termination was brought about in light of remarks he had made. On Sunday at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, he called the privatization of provident funds "the great pension robbery."

In the past, Yitzhaki had complained about difficulty in getting data, particularly from the Finance Ministry and the Tax Authority, as required by law. In September, he accused the ministry of "playing with the data." Before the annual state budget is approved, he said, the treasury publishes low figures on expected tax receipts, but after it is approved, the forecasted revenues are larger.

Following reports in the media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday called Yitzhaki and apologized for the way he was dismissed.

Michal Fattal