Yishai. Not to blame
Photo: Tsafrir Abayov
Carmel fire disaster

Minister Yishai not at fault

Op-ed: Fire disaster result of government structure; Israel needs to adopt US model

Even before the first bodies were identified, and much before the blaze was contained, people were blaming the interior minister for the ongoing failure, with some going as far as urging him to resign.


Only those unfamiliar with what goes on at government ministries can speak out and demand that one minister or another quit. The time has come to say it in a loud and clear voice: This isn’t right and isn’t fair. Ministers are granted responsibility but not authority. They get many perks but almost zero consideration.


An overwhelming majority of government ministry budgets is predetermined. Treasury officials are the ones who determine where each shekel will be earmarked. The minister has no authority to shift funds from one clause to another as he sees fit. If he tries to do so, he has to go through a hellish process to overcome the bureaucracy.


Yet I do not suggest shifting the blame from elected officials to the bureaucracy. Treasury officials (who are so easy to smear) include a great, open and serious bunch of people who are talented according to any criteria. They are also not mean-spirited people, as some portray them. The problem has to do with the structure. Someone here bears the responsibility while someone else dictates policy.


This combination is destructive. It does not allow ministers and elected officials to work, while the bureaucrats, especially in the Treasury, are not required to pay the price of failures.


Courage, vision needed

The British model, where a minister is allowed to make fewer than 10 personal appointments, does not allow ministers to get things done. They can pound the table, scream, or beg yet the bureaucrats will sit there, nod their heads, and then leave the room and do as they see fit. Yet once the failure takes place, the minister will be the one blamed and crucified by the media.


My words do not constitute an unequivocal backing for elected ministers, just like I have no qualms with the bureaucrats. Life for the most part takes place in the grey area. The minister is not always right, just like the bureaucrat is sometimes wrong. It is the structure that is the root of all evil.


The government had been presented with a proposal to change our model to the one in place in America. All we need is courage and vision to adopt it.


The conclusions of a commission of inquiry or a probe won’t help here. We need to change the framework and system. We need to grant the executive the authority and add substance to its responsibility, beyond a minister’s ability to choose his state-issued car.



פרסום ראשון: 12.06.10, 00:05
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