Spat Between Zelekha and Haber Reaches New Levels

The war of words between the accountant general, Yaron Zelekha, and the head of the Finance Ministry's budgets division, Kobi Haber, has escalated to unprecedented levels of internal conflict in the ministry.

Deputy budgets director Yossi Gordon sent Zelekha a letter asking him to point to "the billion shekels he has saved" in public sector pay and benefits, as he had claimed in media interviews, so he could use it in preparing the 2007 budget.

In reply, Zelekha sent Haber an eight-page letter on Sunday full of sarcastic remarks about the budgetary division.

In the letter, which was obtained by TheMarker, Zelekha wrote that "there is a fundamental difference between the budget cuts carried out from time to time by the budgets division and money-saving measures carried out on a regular basis by the accountant general. These may be more difficult to implement, but make the system more efficient, and divert funding to other ministry activities."

He further wrote that "the budgetary division should examine every clause and every regulation to properly budget the expected expenditure, as correctly and accurately as possible so that we will not see a repeat of what we have witnessed in the past, such as underbudgeting of various items, especially wages."

"The funding division and the wages staff at the accountant general's office will be happy to help in properly budgeting the regulations and to provide their professional criticism," he explained.

Zelekha then proceeds to detail a long list of reforms he claims to have carried out in the budget. Thanks to improvements he made in the budgeting of wages, pensions and benefits,

Zelekha said he forced government ministries to keep to their wage budgets, brought about taxation as laid down by the law in cases of double pensions, made sure names of pensioners were cross-referenced with the names of people who had died, and ensured that debts were paid, among other measures. This, he said, saved billions of shekels.