Press Release

Tensions Arise Between Civil Service Comissioner and Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office

Conversation at the Israel Democracy Institute on How to Appoint Senior-Level Civil Service Professionals

Yesterday, IDI held a roundtable discussion on how to appoint senior-level civil service professionals, under the direction of Eli Groner, director-general of the Prime Minister's office. At the forum, Groner discussed a dialogue that will take place Sunday in the Cabinet on the subject of establishing hiring search committees.

Groner said, "The decision to discuss a new framework for appointing civil service professionals came out of the constant complaining by ministers that they do not have with whom to work. We have reached the absurd situation in which ministers express a lack of trust in the system and take steps to bypass it. The issue of appointing deputy directors general will likely not be finalized in the upcoming weeks."

Dayan said, "I voted against the first proposal for a new framework. Groner's proposal may be less horrific than the initial proposal, but it will still deter people from competing for civil service posts. We cannot forget that we are speaking of the highest level professionals; the framework Groner recommends will chase away candidates."

He continued, "We should ensure that the top level has its say behind closed doors. But we cannot develop a civil service in which the professionals must fit themselves to the minister. Already in 2013, I said that in instances in which there was more than one appropriate person for a given role, then the choices should be brought to the minister to choose. The fact of the matter is, that even today, more than 30 percent of the search process involves more than one candidate. In parallel, I want to note, that women should also be given preference for management positions."

In connection to this Amy Palmer, Director-General of the Justice Ministry, said, "Many women do not compete for senior positions because they are concerned that the next day they will not remain in their job. Even in my case, one of my colleagues said to me recently when we changed ministers that the new justice minister would throw me out – but it did not happen."

MK Avi Gabay said, "I am not sure whether on Sunday I will vote in favor of [Groner's] proposal regarding how senior civil service professionals are appointed. We must get to a situation where both the director-general and the deputy director-general of any government office are selected from a pool of at least three candidates. Further, a candidate's character trait and his or her chemistry with the minister must be evaluated."

He continued, "Sometimes there is confusion on the question of who serves who. Does the state serve the civil service or the civil service the state? We all know that the tenders are bogus. When I, in my role as a minister, have to hire someone for a position, I know I will have to wait a year before that process is completed. Hence, I simply turn to an external advisor. We have not yet improved this facet of the civil service. In contrast, the stringencies we have created harm the civil service."

Judge Dorit Beinisch said, "It is important to understand we can unfortunately not assume that the way a civil service professional is selected will impact his loyalty to his post. This has more to do with the relationship between the ministers and the clerks. Those who work in government ministries are afraid to cooperate with other ministries for fear of the ministers."

IDI President Yohanan Plesner said, "One must address the connection between politicization and effectiveness in the civil service; the more political appointments, the less effective the civil service. Ministers beg to appoint staff quickly because of low political stability and sometimes, as result of making quick decisions, mistakes are made. Israel's political stability is comparatively low to other parliaments. If we have the same standards for civil service as we do for political service, we are in trouble."

MK Roy Folkman said, "The situation in the civil service is that employees are not being replaced and stagnation has set in. The current challenge is to enable employees to move among appropriate roles and to increase production."

MK Yael German said, "When I was the mayor of Herzilya, I had the authority to replace a person who was unfit for his role. I had the ability to choose the best people for the posts I had open in order to make sure the city ran in the most effective way possible. As a minister, I have extraordinary responsibility, but I do not have this authority. The clerks in the ministry do not feel responsible to the minister; from their perspective, he or she will be replaced with a new minister soon. For example, in the Health Ministry, there were those employees who did not agree with my policies, so they simply didn’t advance them."

In addition to the above, the following people participated in yesterday's event: Adv. Mike Blass, Shmuel Hollander, Tomer Lotan, Prof. Yuval Feldman and Prof. Yedidia Stern.