The Corrupt Are the Losers

State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss has carried out a revolution in the work of his office during the year and four months since his appointment.

In the Prime Minister's Bureau, and throughout the public sector, they don't like State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss. In fact they pretty much hate him. Because after all, what was wrong with his predecessors? The ones who issued thick biennial reports that earned a day's coverage in the media and then gathered dust in a forgotten corner. What could have been wrong with comptrollers who were self-effacing and who didn't publish the names of corrupt individuals? What was there to complain about with comptrollers who were sparing with the time of the state prosecutor, and never passed along any criminal findings to his office?

Let's be honest here: The appointment of Lindenstrauss as state comptroller was criticized in this space by the writer of these lines. At that time, Lindenstrauss was considered a convenient and friendly individual who was at the very heart of the establishment: the president of the Haifa District Court and chairman of the judges' representative body. The fact that he was the sole candidate for the position also aroused the suspicion that he was an appointment by an administration that was looking for a quiet, disciplined comptroller, who would not investigate the great and the powerful, and would continue to sleep standing up.

However, Lindenstrauss has carried out a revolution in the work of the State Comptroller's Office during the year and four months since his appointment, and his aim is clear: to follow through with the criticism. To achieve implementation. Not to remain content with learned reports.

To this end, the comptroller has only two paths open to him. The one is Section 14G of the law, which authorizes him to turn over to the attorney general findings in which there is a suspicion of criminality. The other is to obtain public backing for his actions, so that those who are under review will be afraid, will start to take the oversight seriously and will stop treating the state treasury as if it were their own.

This public backing can be obtained only by means of the media. If the public knows about the comptroller's findings - about the cheating, the thievery, the political appointments and the abuse of government power - it will support the comptroller and will also pass along to him material to investigate. And then both the prosecution and the police will relate seriously to his findings, and everyone in the public sector will think twice before the next corrupt deed.

It is worth mentioning that a large part of the comptroller's work has its origins in journalistic investigative reports. The comptroller's staff also receives material from journalists, who shared with him a goal: eliminating corruption. And if at the same time Lindenstrauss enjoys considerable exposure, what's wrong with that?

The comptroller's office has started to work at a completely new pace. A special unit has been established for "the fight against public corruption," and in it there are 12 accountants, economists and lawyers. Two new branches of the office have been opened, in Nazareth and Beer Sheva. All of the records of the past with regard to the number of review reports and the issues reviewed have been broken. The activity of the office has become far more aggressive, in real time, and there are many complaints turned over to the attorney general. And this is bad only for the corrupt.

Therefore, there is no need to get overly excited about the attempts on the part of a number of politicians, businesspeople and well-connected lawyers to harm the messenger. The baseless criticism by five professors who came out against the comptroller's plan to fight corruption should also not be taken seriously. They fear that his activities are liable to "paralyze the conduct of the elected prime minister." But just what, in their opinion, should be done with the many and well-founded complaints against the prime minister that the comptroller has received? Throw them in the garbage?

And in general, what does the prime minister have to be scared of? People of integrity need not be scared of review. Anyone who acts honestly, without favoritism and without exploiting his position to garner wealth cannot be "paralyzed," because he has nothing to fear.

The aim of the well-orchestrated campaign, emanating from many and varied corners of the establishment, is to weaken the state comptroller in order to reduce the pressure. To ensure that he will not increase the size of the special anti-corruption unit, that he will not open additional branches and that the comptroller will be returned to his previous dwarflike stature.

But the public knows that Israel is rapidly degenerating into a corrupt, third-world country, and therefore it is giving sweeping backing to the comptroller. According to a survey undertaken by Haaretz, 67 percent of the public is pleased with his functioning, in contrast to 70 percent who are not pleased with Ehud Olmert's functioning. Therefore, it appears that the campaign against the comptroller has achieved precisely the opposite of its goal: It wanted to curse him, but has turned out to be a blessing.