In advance of the appointment of the new Attorney General, Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer and Dr. Guy Lurie recommend ways of ensuring that the performance of the Israeli Attorney General is evaluated on a regular and systematic basis.
Published in: The Marker
The Israeli government will soon be appointing a new Attorney General, who will succeed Yehuda Weinstein. This type of selection process, by its very nature, raises the question of the suitability of the various candidates for the post. Are they skilled, independent, ethical, and diligent jurists?
The position of Attorney General is one of the most important and difficult positions in Israel's public service. The Attorney General heads the State Prosecution, represents the State and the public interest in legal proceedings, and serves as the chief legal advisor to the government. Since his or her success depends on personal traits and professional qualifications, the importance of the selection process is of utmost importance.
The fact that criteria for the success of the Attorney General are only discussed once every six years, when a new Attorney General is chosen, is very problematic. During the tenure of an incumbent Attorney General, it would also be appropriate to assess his or her performance. Has the candidate who made such a good impression at the outset continued to function well after being appointed to the position? Is the Attorney General defending and promoting the rule of law and the constitutional principles of Israel? Is he providing independent, responsible, and effective advice and legal representation that enables the authorities to do their jobs according to the law? Is he monitoring the authorities successfully, preventing them from deviating from Israeli law and constitutional principles? Is the Attorney General independent, unbiased, and accountable? Is he or she a good administrator? Does the system that he or she heads work quickly enough? Does the Attorney General make sure that the State Prosecution treats everyone fairly and equally?
These questions are sometimes discussed when the public looks back at the term of an outgoing Attorney General, and are only occasionally discussed mid-term. But whenever these deliberations take place, they are at a serious disadvantage, since there has never been any kind of regular and systematic evaluation of the performance of the Israeli Attorney General. This is simply because no one in Israel has the tools for such oversight. This is because unlike his or her counterparts in countries such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and Australia, the Israeli Attorney General is not required to publish an annual report. Moreover, the annual report of the Justice Ministry only includes a brief summary of the activities of the Attorney General's office.
Why doesn’t the Israeli Attorney General issue a public statement regarding his or her objectives and define indicators of success, as is done in other countries Is there no obligation of transparency and accountability?
In order to assess the Attorney General's performance on a regular and systematic basis, there is a need for information based on clear criteria; however, at the present time, the Israeli public does not receive such information. In order to fill this gap, we recommend the following:
- The Attorney General should publish a multi-year work plan and a detailed annual report.
- Performance measures for reporting outputs and outcomes, as well as for assessing the quality of management, should be determined. These will be used for the Attorney General’s report on his own activities and on those of the departments that he heads.
- A full set of performance measures should be developed by the Attorney General in conjunction with the public, as an expression of his or her public accountability.
The public has a supreme interest in ensuring that the Attorney General performs his or her many duties in the best manner possible. To achieve this, we need more than a general, random discussion that takes place, at best, once every six years. The Attorney General should issue regular reports to the public on the activities of his office, based on clearly defined objectives and indicators that will make it possible to assess performance. A good Attorney General will not only deal with current issues that cross his desk, but will also submit a strategic plan and work to implement it.
Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer is Vice President of Research at the Israel Democracy Institute. Dr. Guy Lurie is a Researcher at the Institute.
A Hebrew version of this article was published in The Marker on June 16, 2015.