Biometric database in private hands?
Who controls Israel's government ministries?
New report details how the government is outsourcing not only services but also policy formulation and decision making to private bodies, raising the question who runs the country?

Private bodies are growing increasingly involved in almost every aspect of governmental activities and in almost every government ministry, a new report claims, pointing to massive privatization efforts by the government.



The report, penned by Sarit Ben Simhon-Peleg and Amir Paz-Fuchs for the Chazan Center for Social Justice and Democracy in the Van Leer Institute, raises concerns about who in fact controls the government and detailed both the privatization processes and the possible dangers they entail, including the possibility that the biometric data of Israeli citizens could fall into the wrong hands.


A step too far

"A close review of the recent year (2013) revealed that privatization, especially outsourcing, continues to be promoted past the point of no return, without advanced planning regarding which fields should be privatized and without the proper public transparency," the report claims.


According to the paper by the prestigious Jerusalem think-tank, the process of privatizing risks spinning out of control and poses a serious risk to the government's ability to rule.


"Governmental ministries are loosing their professional abilities and the relevant knowhow by transferring them and key positions to private bodies, without developing proper regulation."


According to the report's authors, governmental offices can be aided by external consultants, but they must do so in service of the public interest. However, they noted that the most concerning process in this regard was the outsourcing of strategy formulation, a move they said was a "a step too much," and could turn out to be irreversible, because it creates a de facto professional lacuna within the ministries.


The report is divided into chapters according to governmental ministries and reviews the different process of privatization promoted by them during 2013.


Justice: Biometrics in private hands

In the Justice Department, the responsibility for formulating tenders, laws and directives for government ministries have all been privatized.


While private law firms were charged with formulating tenders in a wide array of fields, the process of formulating laws and official directives governing the way government offices conduct their business was given to private bodies, despite the fact the process demands in-depth knowledge of the workings of government.


Interior Ministry: Private data, private control

The controversial biometric database project being spearheaded by the Interior Ministry as an alternative to ID cards, was formulated, established, regulated and supervised by an independent consultant.


According to the report's authors, such a process could lead to a leak in data, and thus pose a risk to Israeli citizen's private information.


Education: Subcontracted teachers, more costs for parents

In education, the number of payments parents must pay for private programs has grown in 2013. In addition, a new international private school was green-lighted, despite the fact the only few parents can allow themselves to pay the hefty tuition.


In addition, despite promises to nationalize scores of subcontracted teachers, in 2013 a slew of new tenders for just such teachers were published.


More so, private firms are now vying for a new tender to oversee the implementation of the last education reform program New Horizons, thus disconnecting the process of implementing the reform from the process of its supervision and review.


Public transportation: Private planning

The transportation ministry has undergone massive outsourcing in recent years, the most recent of which includes the outsourcing of key managerial responsibilities.


Last year the ministry published a tender for the "establishment of a Transportation Planning Administration" which is intended to aid the ministry's planning department, an integral part of the ministry's policy formulation apparatus, and thus, like in previous cases, risks disconnecting policy from implementation, a move which the reports author's claim will hollow out the ministry.


Internal security: Sensitive information in private hands

The Interior Security Ministry has published a tender for "overseeing strategic planning." Privatizing this field will give private bodies access to sensitive information pertaining to security. This also raises the concern that the ministry will be depleted from professional knowhow, in addition to allowing a private body a large role in decision making and policy formulation.


Labor and Welfare: Outsourcing decision making

In the field of labor and welfare, the process of screening potential candidates for the state employees has passed onto a private company.


In addition, the responsibility for formulating external tenders is being outsourced by the Welfare Ministry. The process is concerning as the ministry deals mostly with service providers and now the details of tenders these services providers vie for are being formulated by a private body, as are the description of job openings within the ministry itself, thus harming the ministry's discretion in formulating policy and implementing it, in addition to forcing external companies to school themselves on internal ministry process which the workers are already well versed in.


Health: External advisor for rehabilitation

Privations is ramped in the Health Ministry, the report claims. Health services for schoolchildren are continually outsources and passed onto the private contractors while the rights of the school nurses are being trampled on.


A key investigator role in charge of formulating policy for securing health facilities has been outsourced within the office and thus an external advisors know holds a key position in a body charged with oversight over the entire ministry and its facilities.


Also privatized was consultation on rehabilitation equipment, so that a private body is now in charge of examining reimbursement claims made by citizens in need of special equipment. According to the tenders for the privatization, the company in charge of the process is also charged with formulating policy regarding who is a candidate for reimbursement.



And what do the researches at Van Leer recommend? Firstly, adequate manpower must be enlisted into government service, in a bid to strengthen the ministries professional capabilities. In addition, the general recommendation was keeping planning and policy formulation within the ministries, as well as conducting discussions regarding privatization policy and making them openly available to the public.




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