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Israel State Comptroller to Probe Government Handling of Coronavirus Pandemic

State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman will investigate the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, his office announced Sunday.

He said the probe will examine the Prime Minister’s Office and the health, defense, finance, interior and social affairs ministries. It will also cover the Mossad, the National Security Council, the Israel Defense Forces, the health maintenance organizations, the Bank of Israel, the National Insurance Institute and certain local governments.

In his announcement, sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and all the relevant cabinet ministers, Englman said he will look into how various agencies cooperated in managing the crisis, and in particularly how the National Security Council worked with each of the other agencies.

He will also examine the way government delivered information to the public during the crisis and how it dealt with the elderly population, virus testing, remote learning in the schools and preparations for the future.

Englman had informed the good-government nonprofit Movement for Integrity (Hatnuah Letohar Hamidot) in early May that his office was looking into certain aspects of the coronavirus crisis. That letter was in response to the organization’s request that he open an urgent probe into the way the crisis was handled.

In Sunday’s announcement, Englman said his office has spent the last two months gathering information, studying the issue and meeting with professional staff from various ministries. It has also looked into how oversight of the crisis is being handled by European countries and the United States.

Englman was harshly criticized in March for refusing to say if and when he would look into Israel’s handling of the coronavirus and for putting some of his office’s staffers on leave, in compliance with Health Ministry regulations on cutting back work in the public sector.

He was appointed comptroller last year with Netanyahu’s backing. In March, after various delays, his office published a report written under his predecessor, Joseph Shapira, about flaws in the state’s preparations for dealing with epidemics.

Sources in his office said at the time that Englman had systematically sought to soften the report’s criticisms and moderate wording that might cast blame for the problems on Netanyahu. Moreover, they said, he sought to remove the names of all ministers and civil servants whom the report’s authors had fingered as responsible for the problems.

Original: HAARETZ – Netael Bandel