Record Number of Complaints Filed Against State in '09

Complaints to the State Ombudsman's Office increased by about 20 percent in 2009 over the previous year with 13,000 complaints coming in against various state bodies. More than 30 percent of the complaints received were found to be justified, which is considered a high percentage compared to most other Western countries.

The figures emerged from a report State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss submitted yesterday to the Knesset State Control Committee.

The report from Lindenstrauss, who also serves as ombudsman, said the National Insurance Institute led the list of institutions drawing fire with 1,109 complaints.

A large portion of the cases filed with the ombudsman focused on alleged failings in social and public services. The local authorities also received their fare share of complaints.

The agencies whose percentage of justified complaints in 2009 proved higher than average included the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Transportation Ministry at 55 percent; the Egged bus company at approximately 53 percent; the Israel Postal Company at 47 percent; the Israel Police at 43 percent; the Haifa municipality at 39 percent; and the Jerusalem municipality at about 32 percent.

There was an increase of about 50 percent in 2009 in the number of people seeking protective orders. Thirteen temporary injunctions were issued to block the dismissal of employees who had acted as whistle blowers at government authorities.

Among those who complained to the ombudsman were a group of Druze women from the Golan Heights who had sought permission from the Interior Ministry to make a pilgrimage to Syria to visit the grave of the prophet Habil al-Islam. The request was turned down. The women claimed this was gender discrimination as Interior Ministry procedure did allow Druze priests to make the trip, whereas the women were flatly turned down. After the ombudsman's office intervened, the ministry relented, and 43 Druze women made the journey.

A complaint against Tel Aviv alleged that a citizen received a bill for property taxes and water on an apartment he did not own. The municipality contended that the apartment was registered in the name of the complainant's deceased brother and the complainant, as the heir to the apartment, had to pay the bill. The complainant, however, submitted a document showing that his late brother had been homeless and had died in the 1950s. The city would not relent. With the ombudsman's intervention, it was agreed the bill was issued in error.

You don't have to be 21 to file a complaint. A ninth grader complained because her school principal refused to her give her a year-end report card, which she needed to enroll in another school. The principal refused over school fees her parents had not paid. The ombudsman and the Education Ministry advised the principal that policy of the ministry director general barred withholding a report card under such circumstances, and the document was issued.

Among other complaints found to be justified was a case in which the Clalit health maintenance organization refused to fund post-treatment care for a cancer patient.