Update on the Activities in 2017 Projects – Updated as of August 2017
Municipal Activity: A summary of activity over recent months.
Municipal activity is a core issue for the MQG’s activities, encompassing more than 60% of the workload of the MQG’s legal department. Local authorities are the primary service provider for their residents and so, shortcomings in the management of these local authorities leads to considerable damage to the welfare, infrastructure, health, and education services that residents receive. Negative practices rooted in local government penetrate national government in turn, with local government heads being a necessary source of political power for those wishing to be elected to Israel’s legislature.
Representative examples of broad engagement in the field:
Important achievement for MQG petition regarding internal auditors in town halls. A petition by the MQG resulted in the Home Office finally setting standards for internal auditors in town halls, so that they can no longer hide away from real criticism and will have to put the full efforts and resources necessary into effective and thorough oversight. The battle continues for a similar decision to be adopted regarding local and regional authorities.
Time for an external audit of religious councils. The MQG approached the Minister for Religious Services with a request to exercise his authority under the Jewish Religious Services Law and establish a framework for an impartial financial audit of all religious councils. This would externally oversee financial reports submitted by religious councils according to established financial standards. The MQG also calls upon Finance Minister MK Moshe Kachlon to support and accompany the exercising of this authority.
Demands to reveal full information on the “forbidden funds” in moshavim. The MQG approached the Ministry of Justice requesting information and documents including detailed information regarding the State Attorney’s office’s tackling of forbidden funds. “Globus” newspaper published that Jerusalem’s regional attorney’s office decided to advance a police investigation dealing with the collection of “forbidden funds” during the expansion of Moshav Nacham. Following the publication of the information on Moshav Nacham the MQG approached the Jerusalem regional attorney’s office, and asked to know if the subject of the investigation had been dealt with in that specific case, and if so, whether additional cases exist regarding the “forbidden funds” phenomenon that were compiled into indictments.
Amending the Municipalities Directive. The MQG, alongside the Association of Lawyers for Fair Management, submitted a document of comments on the memorandum for the Law Amending the Municipalities Directive. Among the comments in the document, both organisations call for bringing the matter under a single unified law.
MQG to Culture Minister: ensure the continuation of Book Week even in the periphery. Following news regarding the Culture Ministry’s refusal to fund the events of national book week through the Publishers’ Union, and to hold events funded by the Ministry itself instead, the MQG approached the Minister and requested clarification as to how expenditure on book week was to be planned in effect, what the events would include, and where they would take place. Following the MQG’s request, Book Week did not only take place in the centre of the country.
Concrete examples of activities and achievements throughout Israel in recent months:
Important achievement: MQG petitions against 17 local authorities resulted in the publication of freedom of information reports as required by law. The MQG recently submitted to court 12 petitions against local authorities, requesting that they publish a yearly report by their respective freedom of information officers as is required by law. The local authorities petitioned against included: Beit She’an Municipality, Basmat Tab’un Local Council, Chatzor Haglilit Local Council, Ka’abiyye-Tabbash-Hajajre Local Council, Bu’eine Nujeidat Local Council, Sderot Municipality, Kadima Zoran Local Council, Gedera Local Council, Beit Dagan Local Council, Be’er Ya’akov Local Council, Kfar Vradim Local Council, Basma Local Council, Migdal Tefen Local Council, Ma’ale Iron Local Council and Ma’aleh Yosef Local Council. Following the MQG’s request, all the authorities published their reports.
Mevaseret Tzion. An MQG petition succeeded in halting an immense bidding process worth 250m NIS in which the Jewish Agency requested the clearing of an absorption centre for Ethiopian migrants to Israel in Mevaseret Tzion in in order to establish a real-estate development. The resultant funds were due to finance the Agency’s workers’ pension fund, in total opposition to the plot’s original purpose. Most recently, the MQG submitted an additional petition against the improper transfer of the plot. Additionally, the MQG approached the Minister of Finance and the head of the Capital Markets Authority in order to establish whether the Ministry of Finance authorised the transfer of the plot. Alongside this, the public battle continues over the future of the 700 Ethiopian migrants living in the centre in question.
Netanya. The police recently recommended that the mayor of Netanya be put to trial. This follows the MQG’s passing of information and recordings to the police and the State Attorney’s office regarding suspicions of bribery and corruption in Netanya City Hall, after which a case was opened and suspects arrested including the Mayor. The uncovering of this affair also created waves in the media. Additionally, following the announcement by the police that a sufficient body of evidence had been collected to issue an indictment against the mayor Miriyam Feierberg on suspicion of committing bribery offences, deception, and breaches of trust during her term in office, the MQG called on Feierberg to suspend herself immediately until matters had been clarified.
Tel-Aviv – stopping the Dolphinarium business plan. In a serious affair reeking of crony capitalism, real estate tycoons are set to receive a massive bonus on real estate rights estimated to be worth around 1.3bn NIS at the expense of public funds, in exchange for the clearing of the dilapidated Dolphinarium compound. The compound’s estimated worth is thirty times less than the amount finalised in the deal struck with Tel-Aviv Municipality. The MQG has been very active in this matter before the Committee for Planning and Construction, the Israel Land Authority, and other related authorities. After we succeeded in halting the underhanded passage of the matter at the Regional Council, we submitted a statement of opposition to the Local Council. Still, it appears that the scheme continues. As such, we petitioned the High Court to say that one cannot simply grant such an anomalous “gift” to a private entrepreneur. The government recently issued a response to the MQG’s petition to the High Court against the Dolphinarium deal, a land transfer deal in which a public asset will be transferred into private hands in exchange for a dilapidated compound worth significantly less than it (over 1bn NIS). According to the MQG, the contents of the response issued by the state proves that the state stubbornly persists in handing over a private asset to the owners of the Dolphinarium with neither justification nor a fair bidding process. The MQG also approached Tel-Aviv Municipality asking for all relevant information and documentation on the matter.
Holon. After an examination of the behaviour of Holon Municipality by the State Comptroller, the MQG approached the Comptroller and submitted to him its information on the matter. The MQG asked that conclusions be reached personally against the Municipality’s CEO and whomever allowed her to act illegally, and that the Comptroller should rule that she should no longer be allowed to serve in public office. Additionally, the MQG is occupied with the fact of the appointment of a lawyer to the position of legal advisor to the Municipality in 2011 despite not fitting the minimum requirements, as well as the behaviour of the CEO regarding publicly-funded trips abroad without requisite permits, andother issues with reporting attendance, a subject that was raised in the chapter dedicated to the CEO in a critical report on local authorities in 2016. Furthermore, the MQG approached the Interior Ministry requesting a response to the claim that the Municipality’s legal advisor was appointed without meeting the requirements for the position. Also in Holon, the MQG approached the Interior Ministry requesting that it examine the option of imposing a personal debt on the CEO as part of an examination of claims in which it appears that there is a serious concern that she is responsible on a number of occasions for illegal spending out of municipal funds.
Gilboa Regional Council. After a severe report by the State Comptroller regarding disorder in the management of transportation of students to educational establishments, which included personal recommendations regarding several of the Council’s employees, it transpired that two of those are still employed by the council. A report was also recently published in the media mentioning both the employees that related once more to disorder in the budgets, accounts, and bidding processes relating to the school transportation. The MQG approached the Interior Ministry to ascertain whether the Committee for Personal Accountability had dealt with the matter of these two employees.
Ramat-Gan. The MQG approached Ramat-Gan Municipality and the Ramat-Gan Economic Development Company to request documents pertaining to the appointment of Channah Hertzman as artistic and cultural advisor at the company despite past issues with her behaviour during her employment at Holon City Hall, which came to light in the critical review of local authorities.
Jerusalem. The MQG approached Jerusalem City Hall requesting all relevant information regarding the matter of Eyni Parking Lot, following on from the opposition the MQG presented to the committee alongside the Israel Union for Environmental Defense. The fact that this project has been advanced for thirteen years at the expense of public coffers despite the many difficulties it creates (defects in its outline, and ignoring the changes that the area around the market has undergone in recent years) raises the need to examine the manner in which it was advanced and the costs this involved. The MQG also called to delay the decision-making process regarding the grant of a permit to the market parking lot in Jerusalem after discovering a severe distortion in the figures given to the sub-committee for permits. ◆ The MQG approached Jerusalem Municipality requesting details on the subject of the absence of council member Rami Levi from City Council meetings. Also in Jerusalem, the MQG approached the Municipality demanding that it refrain from entering into an apparent conflict of interests with future City Council member Chaim Cohen. ◆ The MQG requests a criminal investigation by the police: where did the garbage come from? This follows the piles of rubbish that built up during the strike at Jerusalem City Hall.
Zichron Ya’akov. The MQG approached the Attorney General over a year ago calling for him to order an investigation into the findings that arise from the State Comptroller’s decisions following complaints by a number of Zichron Ya’akov Local Council employees against the Council itself. As we know, in their complaints the employees claimed that the Council was harassing them in a number of ways as a result of them revealing corrupt activities at the Council. After repeated attempts to make contact, the MQG finally received a response, according to which matters raised by the MQG have “been passed on to be handled by the relevant authorities within the police”. In light of the update the MQG requested new information regarding a decision on whether to begin a criminal investigation as a result of the various claims raised.
Ghajar. The MQG approached the Home Office, requesting that it pursue claims that the council’s external legal advisor has been serving in his position for twelve years, contravening the standards that limit tenure in this post to six years only. Additionally, the MQG demands to know whether a selection process has been adopted after the cancellation of bidding on the matter and to ascertain the veracity of the claims that the advisor has been serving in parallel as legal advisor for three distinct local authorities. This, too, contravenes standards that do not permit individuals to hold this office in more than one local authority. Furthermore, the MQG approached the Head of the Department for Capital Management in Local Authorities in order to inquire about the lack of the appointment of an internal auditor at the Local Council.
Following an inquiry by the MQG about a suspected conflict of interests: Rabbinate announces that Carmiel Religious Council will no longer be permitted responsibility over “Dabah” abattoir. After the MQG contacted the Rabbinate to examine suspicions of a conflict of interest between the local rabbi and the official for Carmiel Religious Council, the Chief Rabbinate ruled that responsibility for the kashrut of “Dabah” abattoir be transferred to another local rabbinate. The MQG’s position is that this does not comply with standards since there is allegedly a familial relation between the kashrut certifier and the kashrut inspector within the company. In addition to this, there is information present indicating that the religious council official is also in a conflict of interests in relation to the same abattoir.
Additional activities: Daliyat el-Karmel. The MQG approached the Attorney General’s office requesting a status update on the case relating to the matter of payments ordered by the local council to the companies “Sonol” and “Kramim”. Lod. The MQG approached the Interior Minister with regard to a possible conflict of interests by the Municipality’s CEO. Haifa. The MQG approached the Ministry of Justice urgently demanding that it investigate whether a member of the city council who is also the head of the board of directors of Haifa Arts Culture and Sports Company, is in a conflict of interests. Givatayim. Following an inquiry by the MQG, the Interior Ministry’s Department for Local Authority Audit announced that it will investigate the city’s mayor and his assistant’s trip to Poland. Kiryat Gat. The MQG approached the Department for Religious Services inquiring as to whether there was allegedly improper behaviour by Kiryat Gat’s rabbi including additional jobs and a place of residence not in line with the law. Bat Yam. The MQG requested to join the appeal proceedings for the election of the mayor of Bay Yam with the status of “Friend of the Court”. This follows multiple shortcomings during the election process that severely harmed their validity. The MQG also submitted a freedom of information request for protocols and information from the high steering committee for the Red Line project of Gush Dan’s light rail. Kfar Saba. The MQG approached the State Attorney regarding the city’s rabbi who allegedly does not reside in the city. Kiryat Bialik. The MQG approached the Interior Minister in order to ascertain whether members of the opposition in the local council will receive fitting representation on committees. After it transpired that members of the opposition were not placed in line with the slate’s list, the MQG approached the Minister in order for him to instruct the Municipality to rectify the situation as is required by law.