Israel’s State Comptroller Justice (Retired) Joseph Shapira, today released three special audit reports, covering the Prime Minister’s residence expenses, issues in running the Knesset administration, and a follow-up on the administration and finance at the presidential palace.
The first of those three report has attracted the greatest interest, especially since it appears to rebuke Prime Minister Netanyahu, and his wife, Sara, for over spending.
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It should be noted that the PM’s staff—or his wife—have been alerted to the findings of the report and, as the report notes, significantly reduced spending last year.
Here is part of the PM residence report:
Expenses on food and official accommodation: These expenses increased from $54, 500 in 2009, when Netanyahu took office (March 31), to a whopping $126, 563 in 2011. In 2012, expenses were only marginally lower.
In 2013, however, following several media reports on the subject and a review by the state comptroller’s office, there has been a marked decline in food expenses, which totaled $58, 374.
Ordering meals for the official residence: One of the cleaning women at the residence was also employed as cook from March 2009 to October 2011. In 2010, the Residence made meal orders totaling $18, 559, equal to more than a quarter of total food expenditures that year. In 2011 orders reached $23, 965, even though they employed a cook.
This conduct of the prime minister’s office was improper, says the comptroller.
Seeing as expenses were reduced so significantly in 2013, the comptroller concluded that spending in the previous two years was not in line with the basic principles of proportionality, reasonableness, savings and efficiency.
The audit was also critical of the PM using too much water (he was fined by the water authority), spending more than double his allowance on clothing, over-using the services of an electrician, and failing to reimburse staff from petty cash for their expenditure.
There was also the returned bottles, which Mrs. Netanyahu ended up paying for about $1, 000, and there were the furniture, which somehow ended up in the Netanyahus’ private mansion in Caesarea—but were swiftly returned to Jerusalem as soon as the move was exposed.
So, obviously, the PM and his wife are pretty loose with public funds, which probably happens to a person when they come close to a decade in office. The difference between “L’Etat” and “Moi” gets fuzzy.
The two other reports rebuked the Knesset and the presidential palace for over-spending as well, but, in the case of the president, only by 20 percent, not double the budget.
Just for comparison, while the Netanyahus were spending as much as $126, 563 a year on their dining, the Obama White House operating expenses reached $1.4 billion.
At the same time, seeing as half the Israeli population is earning less that $1, 500 a month, it could be wise for future prime ministers to stop ordering out. And maybe the wife could cook? I’m just saying…