JERUSALEM - The Attorney-General's Office will debate Monday the Comptroller's report on improper political appointments in the Agriculture Ministry.
The report was passed on to the Justice Ministry, and Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz will decide whether to open a criminal investigation of Minister Katz, as was done in the case of Tzachi Hanegbi.
"During his term, there were political and other improper appointments," the Comptroller's report stated in regards to Katz.
For example, the ministry's Inspection Authority employed last year 24 seasonal workers. Of them, 11 were Likud party Central Committee members; four were the children of Central Committee members, and another was a Likud party activist.
The Agriculture Ministry chose political affiliation over professional competence in picking officials to fill its offices, the report said, adding that there was a "window of opportunity" for such shady dealings because the ministry took a long time to fill the seat of legal advisor.
"I never supported, directly or indirectly, political or improper appointments in the Agriculture Ministry or any of its statutory bodies … and never let anyone work in my name and make such appointments," Latz said in response.
However, the Comptroller has argued that even "recommendations" by the minister counts as improper involvement in the appointment process "because it gives ministry personnel the impression that it is an order to be followed through on."
Politicians weigh in
Knesset Member Avshalom Vilan (Yachad), head of the Knesset Farmers' Lobby, asked Katz to take a leave of absence from the Agriculture Ministry. If Katz does not do so voluntarily, Vilan said the attorney-general should then force his hand.
Knesset Member Gilad Erdan (Likud), who has been pushing for a law to loosen up restrictions on political appointees, said, "The fact that the Comptroller is doing is faithful work proves that not every person appointed by a politician is awful. The approach of the Comptroller is mistaken and extreme."
The Movement for Quality Government in Israel called upon the government to establish a national anti-corruption committee.
In a letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Movement wrote, "The serious findings of the Comptroller are just a few in a long line of indications we've been witnessing about a dangerous trend of corruption in Israel."