The functions and powers of the State Comptroller

The State Comptroller carries out external audits on activities undertaken by Ministries, local government and various public organizations, in order to ensure that they comply with the law, good governance and the principles of integrity and efficiency

In accordance with the Basic Law: The State Comptroller, the Comptroller carries out external audits on a range of activities undertaken by Ministries, local government and various public organizations (the audited bodies), in order to ensure that they comply with the law, good governance and the principles of integrity, efficiency and thrift. The State Comptroller is likewise authorized to examine such other matters as he deems necessary. In order for him to perform his functions, the Basic Law grants the State Comptroller broad authority to receive information from the audited bodies, in accordance with section 3 of the Basic Law, which states that "A body which is subject to the State Comptroller's audit shall without delay provide him with whatever information, documents, explanations or other material he deems necessary for the purposes of the audit."

The status, objectives and methods of the State Audit differ from other manifestations of public scrutiny. It may be defined as a collection of data on the activities of the audited bodies and its evaluation in the light of obligatory norms in various areas. It is a process involving an independent assessment of actions taken by the State, its institutions and corporations. Within the framework of the Audit, the State Comptroller examines the following aspects of public administration:

1. Legality and regularity: The purpose of examining the legality of action taken by a public employee or a person exercising public authority or spending public funds is  to determine whether he had acted lawfully (under the Basic Laws, primary and secondary legislation) and in accordance with the relevant judicial rulings, while the purpose of examining the regularity of actions taken or funds expended is to clarify how closely laws, operating procedures and the appropriate norms are being observed.

2. Economy, efficiency and effectiveness: The economy audit principally involves an examination of the inputs involved in the activity under review, the efficiency audit examines the relationship between input and output, while the effectiveness audit reviews the results obtained, i.e., whether the purpose of the activity was in fact achieved.

3. Integrity: An examination of the degree to which state employees observe the norms and rules of conduct by which they are bound as public servants. For example: Whether actions were taken because of a conflict of interest, extraneous considerations, favoritism or exploitation of status and authority. In those areas in which the rules of conduct are not regulated by statute, common law or written codes of practice, the State Comptroller will determine the appropriate norm, in order to prevent improper decisions and actions from being taken. Not infrequently, these norms will subsequently assume binding status after being incorporated in laws or codes of practice. In the wake of his findings, the Comptroller may recommend that statutory changes be considered.

4. Protection of individual rights: An evaluation of the degree to which the audited bodies comply with the binding constitutional and legal norms relating to the protection and realization of individual rights as set out in the Basic Laws, the statutory arrangements and judicial rulings.

In terms of its scope, the State Audit in Israel is one of the most comprehensive in the world. The State Audit applies to all government ministries, state institutions, branches of the defense establishment (the Ministry of Defense, the IDF, the military industries and even the most clandestine units) and local authorities. The audited bodies include all the government companies (of which there are approximately 100) and corporations established by law (statutory corporations), many of which perform important functions in the national economy, such as the exploitation of natural resources and the provision of essential public services.

Similarly, all organizations which are partially managed by the government, a local authority, government company or statutory corporation or which are supported by the government are also audited bodies, although they will not be included in the State Audit unless and to the extent that the Knesset State Audit Committee or the State Comptroller decides that they should be. These include large public institutions, such as the universities and cooperatives, public transport and other bodies. An audited body is also one which is required to be audited by law, a decision of the Knesset or an agreement which it has with the government. The Comptroller may also audit any workers organization, provided that his audit does not extend to its activities as a trade union and meets the requirements of the relevant international conventions. All in all, the State Comptroller's audit encompasses more than 1,400 organizations.

In addition to his audit responsibilities as described above, the State Comptroller also performs other functions: (A) The State Audit applies to the financial management of the factions and parties in the Knesset under the Political Parties Financing Law, 5733-1973 and to the financial affairs of the factions and lists participating in local authority elections under the Local Authorities (Financing of Elections) Law, 5753-1993. The laws are designed to ensure equal opportunities between the candidates and to prevent the undermining of integrity by moderating their expenses and preventing their dependence on donations from interested parties. They also require that an audit be carried out into the use of public funds allocated to political parties under the statutory rules. The State Comptroller scrutinizes the ongoing and election expenses and revenues of the factions and political parties in the Knesset. (B) Under the Political Parties Law, 5752-1992, the State Comptroller reviews the accounts of candidates running in internal party primaries; (C) Under the rules introduced by the Government in 1977 for preventing conflicts of interest, upon entering office and each year thereafter, Ministers and Deputy Ministers are required to submit a declaration giving details of their income, assets, capital, vocations and any additional positions they hold. The rules impose on them obligations and restrictions concerning the aforementioned matters and it is the State Comptroller's duty to check whether they are complying with them.

The State Comptroller also serves as Ombudsman under section 4 of the Basic Law: The State Comptroller, in which capacity he receives and investigates complaints from persons who have personally been detrimentally affected by the actions of national and public authorities as defined by law (investigated bodies).

To summarize, the State Audit in Israel occupies a unique place in the democratic regime of the State of Israel, even by comparison to other countries. The areas covered by the Audit are broad and varied and involve an assessment of legality, regularity, accounting, economy, efficiency, effectiveness, integrity and party political funding. The State Comptroller in his capacity as Ombudsman is endowed with a unique combination of powers to investigate individual public complaints. The ambit of the State Audit and the investigation of public complaints are so extensive that virtually all public bodies in the State of Israel come under the scrutiny of the State Comptroller and Ombudsman.