October 2014

October 2014 | Quality Report Headlines

For full report (in Hebrew) visit our Hebrew website: http://www.mqg.org.il

Gas monopoly: Nearly a year has passed since the government decided to export its newly found natural gas, and while the drilling and energy companies have been rushing to strike deals to sell the gas, the legislative process for regulating tax rates on this monumental sale of a vast part of Israel’s natural resources is still stuck in its early stages. If the legislation is not completed soon, the losses to the Israeli public could be astronomical and incomprehensible. We called on the finance minister to speed up the legislative process in order to avoid tremendous losses; In addition, earlier this month we attended a hearing of the Knesset Finance Committee on the subject of the monopoly in the gas industry.

Petition against plea bargain with Rabbi Pinto: This month we celebrated a great achievement in our petition to the Supreme Court regarding the plea bargain signed with Rabbi Pinto. The justices decided to reject the scandalous plea bargain, which would have possibly resulted in an exemption from a prison sentence, regardless of whether Pinto were to be convicted for attempted bribery.

Following the conclusions of the Sheshinski Committee: MQG calls for the establishment of a commission of inquiry – Following the recommendations made by the Sheshinski Committee on October 2014, which do not properly address the matter of the outrageously low royalties expected from exporting natural resources, MQG along with the Israel Union for Environmental Defense calls on the Knesset to establish a parliamentary commission of inquiry to discuss the matter without succumbing to pressure or threats from groups of interest.

Bill for budget transparency: The bill hopes to put an end to the absurdity where members of the Finance Committee approve budget transfers amounting in billions of Shekels without knowing what becomes of them. MQG calls for the ministerial committee for legislation to approve the bill which will settle once and for all the matter of budget transfers in a way that will ensure transparency.

Attendance of MKs: The Knesset currently releases information showing attendance levels of MKs only in real time but not over time. As a result of this, MQG called on the Speaker of the Knesset, the CEO of the Knesset and the Knesset secretariat to alter this procedure and to publicize a complete database of attendance levels of Knesset members over time; In addition, former Speaker and current President, Reuven Rivlin, ruled in the past that a monthly reports are to be submitted to show attendance levels of MKs, however, this procedure is not currently implemented. We demand that such data will be made available to the public once again.

Petition against the appointment of Tzachi Hanegbi as Vice-Minister due to being being a convicted felon: Earlier in October, the Supreme Court held a hearing on MQGs petition which opposes the appointment of Hanegbi as Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. This appointment is a blatant disregard to the boundaries of ethics, since Hanegbi is a convicted felon and was charged in the past with crimes involving moral turpitude.

Ending the unpaid leave of absence of MK Haim Katz: MK Haim Katz holds a double position: He serves as the Chairman of the Israeli Aerospace Industries workers union, as well a being a member of the Knesset and Chairman of the Labor Committee. This has been made possible due to currently enjoying a 21 years long unpaid leave of absence from the IAI; This causes a precarious situation that might lead to a conflict of interest (even the State Comptroller stated in his report that Katz’s conduct is unacceptable and that he used his dual role to strategically use IAI employees in the Likud primaries). MQG called on the Director of the Government Companies Authority to act towards ending Katz’s leave of absence. At the end October we received word by which he accepts our position and intends to participate in the discussion at the IAI offices where he will demand an immediate end to Katz’s leave of absence.

0-VAT plan must not promoted without presenting its cost: MQG called on the Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Finance Committee demanding that the 0-VAT bill must not be promoted before the costs of the bill and its economic repercussions are clarified to the public, as required by the Budget Foundation Act, which dictates that a bill with such broad implications must not be passed through expedited proceedings; In addition, we called on the Finance Minister to reconsider his plan, in light of the recent military campaign, due to its high cost and the harsh criticism it has received from many economists.

MQG activity results in dozens of authorities releasing information belonging to the public: In recent months, MQG has been conducting random reviews of some 100 authorities (government companies, local authorities, etc.) to determine whether they publicize certain information as required by law, such as annual reports concerning the conduct of the Authority and the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. Following the review, it became clear that dozens of authorities don’t fulfill this obligation. MQG turned to all authorities who didn’t disclose such information, which resulted in some of them publicizing the information. However, some of the authorities persisted in their objection to publicize the information, which subsequently led MQG to file petitions against them. Following these petitions, the court’s many rulings forcing all authorities to publicize the information finally came to an end in October 2014 – and thus ended the long process. Among the authorities which publicized the information due to MQG activity – Amidar, the President’s house, the Company Petroleum and Energy Infrastructures, the Galilee Development Authority, Municipality of Ofakim, Municipality of Rehovot, Municipality of Afula and more.

Objection to the bill which allows to circumvent Supreme Court Rulings: MQG turned to Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and backed her for blocking the bill, and called on her to continue in her activity in this matter. MQGs position is that the constitutional system in Israel cannot be changed in response to one ruling or another which displeases the political leadership – regardless to whether the decision is right or wrong. A civilized country cannot withstand a constitutional change whenever the political level doesn’t like a decision made by the courts.

Drafting a code of ethics for government ministers: Despite the multiple voices calling to draft a code of ethics for government ministers, the government continues to operate without such code. The State Control Committee held a discussion on the matter close to a year ago, where the need for the anchoring of ethical principles was raised – yet such rules have yet to be brought to the government’s approval. This October we called on the committee’s chairman to further address the matter in order to promote the issue and to bring to approval a code of ethics for the ministers.

Following the State Comptroller’s report on the local elections: MQG demands an investigation and indictment – A report publicized by the state comptroller found that many candidates in the local elections used illegal funds. Consequently, their expenses were not recognized and 15% of the funds were appropriated – however these measures are insufficient. We called on the Attorney General and the State Comptroller to investigate whether criminal offenses were committed, and if so, to bring to justice all parties involved.