Netanyahu Pushes Cabinet to Backtrack, Extend Key Post

The cabinet is expected on Sunday to extend Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander's term by four months, to the end of October. This is contrary to a previous cabinet decision stipulating that Hollander, who has been in office for 14 years, must retire at the end of June.

Two state comptrollers have castigated the civil service commissioner's faulty performance in their reports. "This is a serious malfunction," said attorney Eliad Shraga, head of the Movement for Quality Government, of the move to extend Hollander's appointment.

Shraga had petitioned the High Court of Justice twice against Hollander's continued tenure. "Hollander should have ended his term long ago in view of his deficient performance and the harsh reports of two state comptrollers," he said.

Hollander dismissed the criticism and said he was being persecuted. "Instead of appreciating my working for no wages and contributing to our crazy state, this is what I get - lies and slander," he told Haaretz.

In February last year the cabinet set a six-year limit on the civil service commissioner's term. Since Hollander had already served longer than that, the cabinet decided in December 2009 to give him six more months before ending his tenure.

The cabinet decided that if the term was to be extended further, the minister in charge, in this case Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would have to make this clear within three months. However, Netanyahu proposed to the cabinet to extend Hollander's term only five months after the decision had been made.

The decision to extend Hollander's term is inexplicable, said a senior jurist familiar with the issue. "There is no justification to extend an official's service after he completed his civil service, even by one day," he said.

Hollander's term has drawn continuous criticism. In 2003 former state comptroller Justice (ret. ) Eliezer Goldberg found severe deficiencies in the civil service commission's functioning. In 2006 State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss released a harsh report about the commission's tenders for appointing officials in four ministries. The comptroller said that instead of preventing the appointments of politically-connected candidates, the commission acted on the ministries' demands to advance such candidates, contrary to the tenders' rules.

Among other things, the comptroller found that between 2002 and 2004, in 55 percent of the public tenders examined, the candidates who got the job had already been appointed for a position and contended for it again. He also found serious flaws in 22 percent of the appointment procedures.

The comptroller said the commission didn't function properly, failed to supervise the regulations it was charged to enforce and at times violated them itself.

The Prime Minister's Office's legal advisor provided Netanyahu with an especially lenient interpretation of the cabinet's decision, paving the way to extend Hollander's term contrary to the cabinet's previous decision.

"The cabinet is authorized to change its own decisions," she said.

Another reason given for extending Hollander's term is that his experience and assistance are needed in formulating the two-year budget for 2011-2012, which involves changes in the Economic Arrangements Law and reforms in the civil service.

Hollander said every disgruntled worker hated him for approving his dismissal or holding up his promotion. "Every day I accumulate 10 new enemies," he said.