Comptroller hands out final draft of Carmel report

Comptroller hands out final draft of Carmel report

09 February 2012

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Israel — The State Comptroller, Judge Emeritus Micha Lindenstrauss, sent the final draft of his detailed report into the Carmel Fire to ministers and senior officials on Thursday, instructing them to file their responses within two weeks.

Lindenstrauss also warned once again that his report will “expose serious failures that require immediate correction.”

The State Comptroller said he has sent copies of the report, which is entitled The Carmel Fire December 2010 – Omissions, Failures and Conclusions, to everyone who has been audited, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aronovich. and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Senior police, prison service, fire services, home front command and Parks and Nature Authority officials also received a copy of draft report, and a copy has been sent to the attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein.

After the State Comptroller’s Office has received responses from all those audited, Lindenstrauss said he will compile the final report and release it to the public.

The Carmel Fire in December 2010 claimed the lives of 44 people, among them 37 prison service cadets and their commanding officers, who died when their bus was engulfed by flames.

The fire also caused widespread damage to land and property, totaling million of shekels. An estimated 1.5 million trees were destroyed in the fire.

Thursday’s announcement comes after Lindenstrauss sent an initial draft of the report to ministers and officials in August 2011. The State Comptroller said his office prepared the final draft after receiving responses from all those who had been audited in the report. Lindenstrauss said that many of those audited also attended a hearing at his office.

The State Comptroller said his Carmel Fire report focuses on six key issues: the events of the first day of the fire, from the morning until after the bus tragedy; security services’ preparedness for emergency situations; prevention of forest fires; the firefighting services; local government and Interior Ministry preparedness for fires and their functioning during the fire; and failures of those ministers responsible, including in previous governments.

In a statement on Thursday, Lindenstrauss noted that in his previous reports, including regarding the Second Lebanon War, his office has “warned repeatedly about the dangers to the state and its citizens of failures in firefighting.”

Lindenstrauss’s full report into the Carmel Fire also comes after the State Comptroller dubbed Israel’s Fire and Rescue Services in a previous report the “weak link” in emergency readiness and said that ministerial responsibility lay with Interior Minister Yishai,

In January, Hebrew language press reports said that in his report Lindenstrauss may recommend that Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz be dismissed from their respective posts. Sources who read leaked copies of the report said that the State Comptroller is not expected to call for Yishai and Steinitz to resign, but may recommend they be transferred to different government positions, so that they may remain in the cabinet.

Also last month, Channel 2 reported that Lindenstrauss told the families of those who died in the fire that criticism would be “directed at ministers” in the report.

“The first movers are always the ministers who are at the top of the pyramid,” Lindenstrauss said in a recent meeting with bereaved families, according to a recording revealed by Channel 2, and cited the Israeli saying, “blame the guard at the gate”.

Lindenstrauss warned that whoever refused to carry out his recommendations would be put “in a very difficult situation” with the public and would face a disciplinary punishment. “I don’t think they should mess with us,” he said.

A team of 30 auditors, led by deputy director general of the State Comptroller’s office Boaz Aner, have worked around the clock on the report, Lindenstrauss’s office have said. The report’s length directly correlated with the “scale of the disaster and its serious consequences” and that it reveals “a long series of blunders and failures, the tragic outcome of which is that the fatal fire in the Carmel – which took a toll of unprecedented magnitude- was not avoided”, the State Comptroller’s office said in August.

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