War of the World-views: Watchdog Renews Attack on Zelekha

Internecine battle pits the Government Companies Authority against the treasury

Haim Fisher, the director of accounting at the Government Companies Authority, claims that accountant-general Yaron Zelekha's financial statement for the government is riddled with mistakes.

Fisher wrote to Ronny Alroei, the state's chief accountant, attacking the alleged mistakes in the government's financial report, which the Accountant General's Office published in April. Alroei rebutted that Fisher is wrong.

He further charges that the report was signed without the authority to do so.

Fisher quotes a government resolution from 2004, requiring the treasury to adopt international accounting standards in its financial statements. The resolution also sets principles under which both government companies and statutory corporations (e.g. the Airports Authority) will publish their financial reports.

The decision was conditional, however, on changes in legislation. Since these changes were never made, Fisher concludes that the entire government decision is invalid, and that the accountant general has no authority to publish the government's financial reports under international accounting standards.

Fisher complains that the report was prepared without the cooperation of the Government Companies Authority, in violation of a promise that was made that there would be no publication of financial data concerning the authority without its authorization.

As a result of this, he claims, there are serious mistakes in what was given out. He says that in the information concerning the status of the financial reports of 83 government companies, there were 51 mistakes, which is a 61 percent rate of error.

Among other items, he mentions that the report stated that the Inbal insurance company had not yet presented its financial figures, when it had. The chairman of Inbal is Yaron Zelekha, who is also the accountant general, who should certainly have known that Inbal had filed its financial figures.

The chief accountant, Alroei, contradicts most of Fisher's claims.

He quotes from the 2004 government decision, which states, "The establishment of standards in government ministries will continue in its present form," in which reporting standards are determined by a government committee headed by a representative of the accountant general.

This committee, according to the government decision, has to prepare "accounting standards for government ministries as far as possible in according with international government standards."

According to Alroei, the decision was worded clearly, because establishment of government financial reporting standards needs to go on regardless of changes in legislation. The changes in legislation, he says, were only meant to affect clauses in the decision regarding government companies and statutory corporations.

Alternatively, if there is a need for changes in legislation, until this is completed the standards committee's work should go on as usual.

In any case, the committee's work is binding on the government.

Alroei said further that apart from a typing error in the case of Inbal, there are no further mistakes anywhere in the report.

He said that the report was prepared with the full cooperation of the Government Companies Authority, and that all the data in the report was received from the authority itself.