Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Iyar 5762 - May 2, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family
2002 Comptroller's Report: Neglect of Arabs and the Handicapped
by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

State Comptroller Eliezer Goldberg issued the 52nd annual report on Monday, saying it found huge public waste and neglect of the Arab sector and the handicapped.

Though these are the really consequential findings, most Israeli newspapers highlighted the criticism in the report of Former Bank of Israel governor Jacob Frenkel and of former High Court Justice Tzvi Tal. Perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not, both are Jewishly observant and wear kippot.

Frenkel is censured in the report for receiving wage benefits beyond the level of his position, though they were approved by subordinates. A spokesman for Frenkel said he had acted "in accordance with all of the regulations and in good faith."

Former High Court justice Zvi Tal was cited for a conflict of interests while serving as head of the State Legacies Committee. Tal took part in meetings that granted money to a nonprofit organization managed by his wife. He is not accused of voting in the decisions nor of benefiting materially from the allocations. The organizations cited in press reports were large established organizations.

Goldberg also said that, in his opinion, the most significant aspects of this year's report, as in past years, relate to social issues, citing poor physical infrastructure in the Arab sector and handicapped citizens being blocked from opportunities because of poor access to facilities and job training.

Nonetheless, the headlines were about Frenkel and Tal, and the stories emphasized that Comptroller Goldberg had not decided which, if any, findings to hand over for possible criminal prosecution. The innuendo put all those criticized in the report under a cloud, but it remains to be seen how deserved it is. Comptroller Goldberg is a former High Court justice, and if there were clear evidence of criminal behavior it should be evident to him and not require further deliberation.

The report illustrates the "bleak situation" in infrastructure in the Arab sector, including in transportation and sewerage, he noted. He said that, while the government has set a goal to rectify the situation, "plans have not yet begun to be implemented" with the exception of partial programs for Bedouin in the north and in the Druse sector.

Goldberg said the state must ensure that the Arab sector does not feel like "second-class citizens," adding that "declarations are not enough." He said the report also revealed "difficult findings" about the management of local authorities in the Arab sector by local leaders. These leaders must also show responsibility by collecting taxes and investing the money in keeping with the needs of the population, he said. The report said that 70 percent of the 82 local Arab councils do not have efficient sewage systems. The report also includes a scathing section on the failure to provide adequate funding for schools in the Arab sector.

As for the handicapped, Goldberg said the laws to protect their equal rights are not being implemented or enforced and there is not enough awareness of the special needs of these citizens. The environment must be suited for them, including transportation, and they must be given an opportunity to contribute to the economy.

The report includes harsh criticism of police interrogation methods, the allotment of $700 million in aid to two foreign concerns investing in Israel without any financial feasibility check, and many other failures on the part of the local and national authorities.

A sample of other findings as reported in Ha'aretz: * Only 3 percent of the work accidents reported to the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry were investigated. * The Health Ministry has not been overseeing the quality of the medical services offered by the various health maintenance organizations. * The road infrastructure in many Arab towns is substandard; 43 percent of children up to the age of 10 who were killed in road accidents during the period 1996-1999 lived in Arab and Druse towns. * The number of government employees increased, despite a series of government decisions to slash ministry workforces. * Some 28 percent of 1st-9th Grade students in the Jerusalem area did not receive any health services -- vaccinations, in particular.


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