Watchdog Blasts Ballooning Personal Appointments at PMO

According to a report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, the appointments have climbed six-fold in the last decade and a half to 53.

Personal appointments in the Prime Minister's Office have increased rapidly in the past 15 years, have not been properly approved and have not been made based on an examination of the ministry's needs, the state comptroller said on Tuesday.

According to a report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss, the appointments have climbed six-fold in the last decade and a half to 53.

Shmuel Hollander - Tomer Appelbaum - 02112011
Tomer Appelbaum

The report reveals that many appointments did not require the candidate to go through a tender, which is against the law. There were no rules governing the growth in the number of personal appointments. Meanwhile, faulty human resources management led to clashes in defining functions.

The comptroller's report covers Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's current term in office, but also touches on previous premiers.

Of the 53 positions for personal appointments for consultants and advisers, 48 were for the prime minister, three for the PMO director general and two for the cabinet secretary.

According to the report, most of the positions were not filled according to the civil service's rules, which are legally binding.

The report reveals that three aides to the PMO director general were placed in positions earmarked for advisers to the prime minister and that one position earmarked for an aide to the director general went to a person who served as head of the PMO's economics department. Another position went to the premier's personal appointee for Hebrew correspondence.

Lindenstrauss said the placement of personal appointees in the director general's office and the Prime Minister's Bureau, for whom no such position officially exists, leads to deviations from rules.

According to Lindenstrauss, "Mixing positions of aides and advisers to an elected official with those of his ministry's director general could blur the boundaries of authority."

The report found that the salary of all three aides to the director general exceeded by 50 percent the civil service ceiling for salaries of personal appointees to a director general.

The report also pointed out that the Civil Service Commission had in recent years allowed the cabinet secretary to employ two aides in positions that do not require tenders but that the decision violated the law.

The report found that many of the personal appointees were in positions where they were the direct superiors of professional ministry employees, violating civil service rules. In some units, personal appointees held positions similar to those of professional employees, including in the National Economic Council and departments in charge of ceremonies, oversight and public affairs.

Lindenstrauss also criticized the fact that agreements on salaries for personal appointees between the Civil Service Commission and the PMO were not made in writing, were partial and were not coordinated with the Finance Ministry's budget director, as civil service rules require.

The report also found that in 21 of 30 positions scrutinized, the qualifications of the person in the job had nothing to do with the position.

Lindenstrauss added that the State Comptroller's Office had alerted the PMO to the fact that "according to the law, a situation is not to be tolerated in which civil service positions lack a definition and requirements for the job."

The PMO responded that the report discusses the years 1995 to 2010, over seven governments and five prime ministers. "While in the term of the previous government personal appointments grew, since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu entered office the number of personal appointments has been reduced by six despite a significant increase in work."

The PMO also said the comptroller's report did not mention the names of the holders of the positions, which was significant because "there is no doubt that the actions of specific employees currently serving are without fault."

The former civil service commissioner, Shmuel Hollander, objected to most of the report's findings. "The report enters areas that are clearly matters of policy ... and seeks to strengthen the power of the professional bureaucracy at the expense of the elected prime minister's discretion and ability to function," he said.

Hollander said the PMO has always been a special case in that the core of the office's employees were people who served the prime minister's professional needs and were personal appointees. He said the fact that the number has grown is a policy prerogative of the officials who approved the appointments.