In August 2016, Israel Police held a discussion with the participation of then-police chief Roni Alsheikh, senior officers from the national police headquarters, and senior representatives of the intelligence gathering and analysis startup Fifth Dimension, including its chairman, Benny Gantz and CEO Doron Cohen. At the end of the discussion, Alsheikh decided that the police would buy the company's system without a tender.
A report by the State Comptroller published today states, "Participation of senior representatives of a given company (Fifth Dimension, Y.A.) in this discussion was improper. The company had an interest, and according to the course of the discussion, it was likely that the police would have to negotiate an agreement with the company. In this state of affairs, senior representatives of the company should not have been present at a meeting in which senior police officeholders discussed the agreement with the company in the framework of a professional discussion."
In response, Fifth Dimension told the State Comptroller's Office, "The discussion involved a general presentation of the company, the system, and the unique solution developed by the company. Potential cooperation between the police and the company and possible directions of action were discussed at the meeting. Particulars of a business agreement were not discussed, and certainly no commercial arrangement was agreed. Insofar as these matters were discussed at the meeting, it was at a discussion that took place after the company's representatives left."
In response to the State Comptroller, the police said, "The company's representatives took part in the discussion in which an initial assessment of capabilities was presented. The discussion of the procurement aspects took place without the presence of the company's representatives, after they left the room."
The State Comptroller, however, is convinced otherwise. In his report, he wrote, "According to the minutes of the discussion, the company's representatives were present during the remarks by the police, including comment about the agreement with the company."
Drafts were exchanged
The State Comptroller's report indicates that Fifth Dimension tried to sell the technological system it developed to the police, and aimed at an agreement classified as a mega-project amounting to NIS 50 million.
After Fifth Dimension contacted the police, Alsheikh instructed professional parties to conduct thorough tests of the proposed system's capabilities and its fitness for the police's needs. In view of this requirement, Fifth Dimension conducted an initial test of the system's fitness for the police's needs according to success criteria set by the police. The State Comptroller wrote that the company conducted the test without payment from the police and without approval from the police's tenders committee.
The system passed the test successfully, and the police's professional personnel began negotiations with Fifth Dimension and exchanged draft contracts for a procurement agreement. According to these drafts, the agreement between the police and the company was to have been in stages. In the first stage a more thorough test was to be conducted as part of a comprehensive pilot, following by a second stage, contingent on the first, in which the system would be fully procured, including training and consultant services.
Last December, Fifth Dimension went bankrupt, fired its employees, and closed down, after raising tens of millions of shekels in capital from investors.
"No commitment was made"
The police said in response, "The decision to adopt artificial intelligence technology was taken aby the police from a long-term perspective, given the emerging technological situation, and in order to give the police tools for coping with these challenges and fulfilling its duties as a law enforcement and investigative agency. The decision to begin the pilot was designed to test the justification for establishing an artificial intelligence platform for the police. In any case, no commitment was made and no agreement was reached beyond this pilot. The pilot was necessary in order to be precise about the operational requirement that would make it possible to conduct a competitive procedure.
"The decision about the tender exemption for carrying out the pilot was taken by the tenders committee and approved by the Israel Police office exemption committee. The pilot was carried out at a police facility in which special infrastructure was built for the pilot. All of the company's representatives dealing with the pilot underwent the required information security checks. The company set up the platform exclusively on the police's servers, and all of the information retrieved was immediately deleted when the pilot was completed. We are confident that the results of the pilot, which are now being carried out by the police, will significantly upgrade the police's future technological capability to fulfill its function, and will constitute an additional tool in the fight against all types of crime."
The Blue and White political party said in response, "We thank the State Comptroller for his important work. The report deals with the conduct of the police with respect to tenders and exemptions from them. There was nothing improper about Gantz's activity as chairperson of Fifth Dimension. Unfortunately, in the security affair concerning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the State Comptroller is unable to investigate, due to the ongoing police investigation. We hope that the public will eventually learn why Netanyahu lied, and then admitted that he approved the sale of advanced submarines to Egypt under the nose of the Ministry of Defense, and how it is logical that the prime minister earned NIS 16 million in the submarines for commissions deal."
In response to the State Comptroller's report, the Likud said, "The Likud submitted a demand to the Attorney General to immediately open a criminal investigation against Benny Gantz. The complaint was submitted in view of the severe findings arising from the State Comptroller's report, which raise a suspicion that Gantz illegally conspired with former police chief Roni Alsheikh in an attempt to fraudulently extract NIS 50 million form the public's money for the Fifth Dimension company that he headed. According to the State Comptroller's report, Gantz's company lied to the tenders committee, Gantz and Alsheikh acted with lack of transparency, Gantz's company cost the police NIS 4 million, a loss that would have grown to NIS 50 million, had Gantz not gone bankrupt first. The media and the law enforcement agencies have set game rules under which the public must know everything about a candidate for prime minister before the elections. Moshe Ya'alon, 'Israel needs a prime minister about whom there is nothing to investigate.' There must not be one standard for Netanyahu and another for Benny Gantz. An investigation of Benny Gantz should be ordered immediately."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on March 27, 2019
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