State Comptroller Netanyahu Engelman today (Wednesday) published an audit report on the conduct of local authorities during the Corona crisis, which shows that there were deficiencies in their preparations for a pandemic event. According to the comptroller, “in a time of uncertainty, local authorities had an extremely important role to play – to serve as an anchor for the residents and for the community – while working to continue providing the necessary services to residents and reduce damage, if possible.”
The State Comptroller examined various aspects of the activities of local authorities during the Corona crisis – especially in the first wave of illness. The test was conducted among ten local authorities. Questionnaires were also distributed among 102 local authorities, selected on the basis of a statistical sample, regarding their emergency activities in the period between March and July 2020, and 85 of those authorities responded to the questionnaire (sample authorities). A public participation procedure was also carried out.
The audit revealed that 31% of the sample authorities were aware of the Ministry of the Interior’s Director General’s circular from 2008, according to which local authorities are required to prepare an operating procedure according to the “Local Flu Preparedness Authority Preparedness Procedure” distributed by the National Salt Headquarters in May 2007. 18% of the sample authorities did not recognize the circular of the Director General of the Ministry of the Interior and did not prepare a procedure for preparing for the flu pandemic.
Only half of the sample authorities fully documented the situation assessment meetings they conducted. Three of the ten local authorities surveyed did not conduct or document the learning process at the end of the first wave, in order to map out the aspects that need to be preserved or improved in their functioning. In addition, 82% of the sample authorities indicated that they had difficulty implementing the central government guidelines due to multiple guidelines, and 56% of them indicated that there were conflicting guidelines.
The public participation survey shows that about 20% of the residents were very dissatisfied with the functioning of the local authorities, and about 40% were partially satisfied with their functioning during the corona crisis. Local authorities differ in the reasons for lack of satisfaction. The auditor further states that less than 20% of the corona fines imposed were indeed collected – about NIS 1.3 million out of 7.3 million.
The comptroller further states that the local authorities did not staff all the standards of welfare workers even after the question was exceeded by the corona restrictions. Also, local authorities that did not allow remote work had social workers and educational psychologists who had to go on vacation during the emergency, either because they could not get to work in the authority’s offices, or because they chose not to go to the ward (among other things due to risk group exposure or virus exposure). ; Also, no orderly methodologies and guidelines have been established for remote professional care.
In addition, the social services departments were required to invest a significant portion of their resources, time and vital manpower in the management and implementation of the nutrition plant – this came at the expense of the professional care that was more needed during the crisis for welfare populations and residents.
Difficulties in opening educational institutions
Regarding the return to studies in educational institutions, it emerged that in about 50% of the cases (in kindergartens to third grades and grades 11-12), the heads of the local authorities set the return dates for studies later than those set in the order, mainly due to local authorities’ difficulties in preparation. To open educational institutions in accordance with the guidelines.
The audit found that all the local authorities examined found alternative ways to hold events to raise the morale of the residents, in a variety of activities that complied with the various guidelines and regulations. The State Comptroller notes positively the extensive volunteer activity in the organization of local authorities, in cooperation with associations, public organizations and business companies.
The State Comptroller recommends, among other things, that the Ministry of the Interior instruct all authorities to carry out lessons learned procedures at the end of each wave of illness, and report to them through its districts on their results, so that lessons learned will serve as an outline for action in emergencies and for further waves of illness. It is also recommended that the Ministry of the Interior regulate the insurance aspect of the activities of local authorities in the field of epidemiological investigations, in cooperation with the parties responsible for this.