Corruption has many faces. Sometimes it hides, behind closed doors, with tailored job tenders and perks for cronies. Sometimes it is straightforward and allegedly legal, which is even more infuriating. The past few day gave us some examples of allegedly legal corruption that went straight to the top.
1. Knesset budget. While all government ministries must cut spending, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin decides to increase the Knesset budget by 11 percent to NIS 340 million. He rejects criticism on the size of the budget. After all, he must build a fancy new wing for the legislators with private bathrooms and showers for each and every member and a gym. Even the flooring must be the last word in tiling. And he cannot save on snack or lodging funds. And so that we can all see the wanton waste and luxury, he's building a visitors' wing "so citizens will see the representatives."
They are so detached from the people, MKs have lost all perspective. They plan to raise their parliamentary aides' salaries by 40 percent in three years to NIS 8,000 per month. That is more than the average salary, NIS 7,500 per month, and more than a young attorney or veteran teacher makes.
Someone must put the brakes on the Knesset. It is inconceivable that they set their own budget. Take away their money printing press.
2. Voter contact. In addition to the salary, car, expense account and parliamentary aides the Knesset offers its members, there is also the special "voter contact" budget. This is NIS 68,000 a year for those with offices outside the Knesset building. Knesset members go to town on this money. MK Ruhama Avraham bought a GPS navigation device for her car for NIS 7,500. MK David Azoulay preferred to hand out NIS 12,000 in gifts at weddings to which he was invited. Others bought computers, refrigerators, paper shredders, espresso machines and safes. In short, everything that the regular guy buys with his own money, after paying taxes, the elected officials get for free from the Knesset - at the expense of the taxpayer.
3. The Jobs for the Boys Law. At the beginning of the week, most members of the ministerial committee on legislation voted in favor of the jobs law. They want to make 45 senior public service positions into "positions of trust," whose occupants are appointed by the relevant minister and serve at his pleasure.
And when the minister leaves his position, these personal appointees will leave with him. In other words, instead of public servants serving the public, we will get political servants whose loyalties lie with "their" minister.
This will corrupt the civil service, since those appointed to the most senior positions will be central committee party members, Uzi Cohen and his buddies.
And not just senior positions, because the appointees won't leave their fellow central committee members out in the cold. They will get them into government service to help their minister to the bitter end - the next party elections.
Our ministers don't survive more than two years, so these senior civil servants will also come and go every two years, which will cause tremendous instability and serious damage to the country. And the civil service will become far less attractive. Who wants to go to work in a place where promotion to the senior jobs is based on party membership, not merit?
The public must know which ministers voted in favor of the corrupt bill: Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert, minister without portfolio Haim Ramon, Tourism Minister Avraham Hirchson, Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Jerusalem Affairs Minister Natan Sharansky.
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