Israel's Treasury Invites People to Apply to Boards of State-owned Companies

In a bid to end political appointments, candidates can nominate themselves via a government website

An ambitious Finance Ministry program to bring an end to the practice of political appointments at government-owned companies got underway on Sunday as the government began accepting nominations for places on boards of directors.

The treasury began publishing notices in the media on Sunday calling for qualified candidates to apply through the Government Corporations Authority website by filling out a questionnaire by the December 1 deadline.

"Today we're taking the first step toward breaking the lock hold of politics from government companies," Finance Minister Yair Lapid said. "I call on everyone who sees himself as qualified for this challenge to come and contribute his time and energy to the process of rehabilitating state-owned enterprises for the benefit of all of Israel's citizens."

Although privatization has shorn the state of many of its biggest business over the last two decades, the government still controls such key businesses as Israel Electric Corporation, Israel Aerospace Industries, the water company Mekorot and the company that controls Israel's two biggest ports.

Israel has 100 government companies with a combined turnover of NIS 67 billion, and payroll of 60,000 people, but as a group they lose money, Uri Yogev, the newly appointed director of the Government Corporations Authority, said last week.

Directors have traditionally been nominated by ministers and there has been nothing to bar them from proposing candidates with whom they have a personal, business or political connection.

"It is critical that the boards of these companies are made up of the highest quality and most professional people so we can improve these businesses' performance and profitability," Yogev said on Sunday.

Candidates for director must be Israeli citizens and be at least 25 years old, the Finance Ministry said. They also need to have an academic degree in a relevant subject, such as economics, business, and engineering or in an area in which the company whose board they want to sit on specializes.

Alternatively, candidates need to show demonstrated experience of at least five years in the same business as the company whose board they want to join. Another alternative is to meet at least two criteria of having at least five years of experience in a senior executive position at a major company, a senior government post involving business or law, or in a government company, or holding a doctoral degree.

Applicants will have to go through a process of examinations and interviews, the treasury said. Half the new directors selected through the process will men and half women, and 10% will come from minorities. 

Ofer Vaknin