9 Ministers Miss Filing Deadline

Nine cabinet ministers and deputy ministers have not yet submitted a declaration of capital to the state comptroller, in violation of rules drafted by a public committee and approved by the Knesset giving them 60 days after assuming office to provide information about their and their families' assets and income in the year preceding the appointment.

The nine scofflaw are as follows: Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud); Vice Prime Minister, Regional Development Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee Silvan Shalom (Likud); Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud); Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu); Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beiteinu); Deputy Education Minister Meir Porush (United Torah Judaism); Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai (Labor); Deputy Finance Minister Yitzhak Cohen (Shas); and Deputy Pensioner Affairs Minister Lea Nass (Likud).

Other ministers and deputy ministers also missed the May 30 due date, but requested and received extensions.

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss is expected to summon the procrastinators to his office shortly to hear their explanations, but observers suspect that the publication of their names will light a fire under the dawdlers and make the personal appearance on the comptroller's carpet superfluous.

"The state comptroller is about to issue reminders to the ministers and deputy ministers who violated the guidelines," the State Comptroller's Office said in a statement. "If the reminders do not produce a rapid response then the ministers or deputy ministers will be summoned by the state comptroller for clarifications."

Ministers and deputy ministers are required to submit declarations of capital within 60 days from assuming office, annually after that and at the end of their term. The state comptroller is responsible for ruling out conflict of interest involving the officeholders or their immediate families, and that the officeholders have not received monies apart from their salaries for the duration of their terms.

Knesset members, in contrast, are required to submit declarations of capital to the speaker of the Knesset. The declarations remain, sealed, in a safe and are not examined by the comptroller. All of the declarations - of ministers, deputy ministers and MKs alike - are not open to public examination. France and Israel are anomalies among Western states in not making the personal financial declarations of elected representatives available to the public.

The slowpokes respond

How do the foot-draggers explain their tardiness? The Finance Ministry said Steinitz's declaration will be filed in the coming days. Shalom's office said the same, adding that the delay was caused by technical problems. Ya'alon's aides responded in a similar manner, citing bureaucratic delays and promising to submit the paperwork shortly.

The Immigrant Absorption Ministry said Landver gave her declaration to the Knesset speaker some weeks ago and was not required to submit it to the state comptroller as well. In fact, however, ministers and deputy ministers - most of whom are also MKs - are indeed obligated to provide the comptroller, too, with the financial statements.

According to the Tourism Ministry, Misezhnikov submitted a declaration to Lindenstrauss less than two months after assuming office. The State Comptroller's Office said that it had not received the minister's declaration, adding that it always sends a written notice of receipt.

Cohen said he will submit his declaration shortly. The office of the deputy defense minister said that for years Vilnai has submitted reports of his personal finances to the state comptroller and will report fully as soon as he ties up loose ends with his accountant.

Porush's spokesman said that the deputy education minister is abroad and unavailable for comment.

Nass's spokesman said the deputy minister of pensioner affairs received a verbal extension of the filing deadline from the State Comptroller's Office and submitted a written request immediately thereafter. The comptroller's said in a statement that it had no record of a request for postponement from Nass, that such requests must be submitted in writing and that the comptroller issues a written response, whether positive or negative, to each request. The statement also emphasized that ministers and their deputies must submit their declarations of capital "only to the state comptroller, and not to any other body."