The State Comptroller
The power of the Knesset to supervise and review government policies and operations is exercised mainly through the state comptroller, also known as the ombudsman or ombudswoman. The state comptroller is appointed by the president upon the recommendation of the House Committee of the Knesset for a renewable term of five years. The incumbent is completely independent of the government and is responsible to the Knesset alone (the state controller's budget is submitted directly to the Knesset's Finance Committee and is exempt from prior consideration by the Ministry of Finance). The state comptroller can be relieved only by the Knesset or by resignation or demise. During the incumbent's term of office, he or she may not be a member of the Knesset or otherwise engage in politics and is prohibited from any public or private activity that could create a conflict of interest with the independent performance of the duties of the office. The state comptroller, although lacking in authority to enforce compliance, has broad investigative powers and employs hundreds of staff members, including accountants, lawyers, and other relevant professionals. Since 1949, when the state comptrollership was created, three individuals have held the office, with each having served for an extended period.
The principal function of the state comptroller is to check on the legality, regularity, efficiency, economy, and ethical conduct of public institutions. The checks are performed by continuous and spot inspections of the financial accounts and activities of all ministries, the armed forces and security services, local government bodies, and any corporations, enterprises, or organizations subsidized or managed by the state in any form.
The state comptroller acts in conjunction with the Finance Committee of the Knesset and reports to it whenever necessary. The state comptroller may recommend that the Finance Committee appoint a special commission of inquiry, but having no statutory authority of its own it relies on the Knesset to impose sanctions on errant bodies. The state comptroller's office is divided into five major inspection units. The first four are concerned with ministries, defense services, local authorities, and corporations; the fifth deals with public complaints concerning government bodies.
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