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Photo: Knesset Spokesperson
The state comptroller report
Photo: Knesset Spokesperson

State comptroller releases report on gov't failures

New report criticizes government on benefit payments, food waste, education, the environment, child abuse and poor construction standards, among other issues.

A new report from State Comptroller Yosef Shapira released Tuesday afternoon harshly criticized the government in nearly every area of administration including education, reserve military duty, corruption, and benefit payments to civilians.

 

 

State Comptroller Shapira (right) presenting the report to Knesset Speaker Edelstein (Photo: Knesset Spokesperson)
State Comptroller Shapira (right) presenting the report to Knesset Speaker Edelstein (Photo: Knesset Spokesperson)

 

Army exemptions

The report claimed that as a result of poor coordination between different government ministries as well as the IDF, some students at religious institutions were receiving double scholarships, while there is no monitoring of those who received an exemption but do not attend a yeshiva.

 

While the Ministry of Education has been asking the IDF since 2011 for a list of students who were exempted from service for religious reasons, it has yet to receive this information – which it needs in order to check whether these individuals indeed study at yeshivas.

 

Social security

Among other findings, the Comptroller said that the National Insurance Institute did not pay some 1 billion shekels to those entitled to supplemental payment and government financial aid. According to the report, most of the missing money was meant to go to reserve soldiers between the years 2008-2012.

 

State Comptroller Shapira presenting his new report to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Photo: Knesset Spokesperson)
State Comptroller Shapira presenting his new report to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Photo: Knesset Spokesperson)
 

 

The report claimed that NIS 100 million in unemployment benefits never went through, while NIS 35 million in maternity benefits were also never paid. A total of NIS 670 million intended as benefit payment to reserve soldiers never reached the benefactors.

 

According to statistics provided to the comptroller from the National Insurance Institution, reservists or their employers never took advantage of their right to receive payment for a total of one million days of duty covering 435,000 periods of service. Most of the money is connected to periods of one or two days.

 

Food waste

The comptroller also said that massive amounts of fruit and vegetables – tens of thousands of tons, sometimes in good condition – are destroyed every year because of kosher laws. The Ministry of Agriculture, Plants Production & Marketing Board, Ministry of Religious Services, and Chief Rabbinate, are not aware of the quantity or quality of this produce, the report said.

 

The comptroller found that these bodies did not examine the possibility, in accordance with Jewish law, of directing this produce to feed the poor, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Instead, the food is almost entirely taken to landfills.

 

Shapira also said that many private businesses - including hotels, catering services, and restaurants – avoid donating surplus food or limit it for legal, financial, and other reasons.

 

The subject of food waste has not received thorough attention by the government, the report stated, and no plan has been made to deal with it.

 

Education

On the issue of education, the report claimed that planned reforms have not been successfully implemented. The Ministry of Education has not discussed changing the standard for the adult-to-child ratio in kindergartens, despite the fact that Israeli kindergartens are significantly more crowded than in other developed nations.

 

An Israeli kindergarten (Archive photo: Yariv Katz)
An Israeli kindergarten (Archive photo: Yariv Katz)

 

Meanwhile, some local authorities are allocating part of their budgets to aid the kindergartens, leading to a gap between low and medium-to-high socioeconomic local authorities.

 

Shapira found a low level of implementation of a planned reform for kindergartens, which called for personal meetings between the teacher with each child, regular meetings with a small group of the children, and bolstering communication between teachers and parents.

 

The Ministry of Education said the report only examined the first year of this program and that progress had been made since.

 

The comptroller added that reforms planned for secondary schools were also not fully implemented. The Ministry of Education did not reach its target of 450 schools that were to fully implement reforms. Only 231 schools joined the reform program, about half of the targeted number.

 

Furthermore, about 36 percent of teachers at the schools participating in the program chose not to join it, either because they did not want to or because they didn't meet the requirements.

 

The environment

Shapira also described severe shortcomings in the work of the Ministry for Environmental Protection.

 

Among other things, the report said that new regulations on pollution have not been enacted and very old regulations were not updated, factories have not been fully re-categorized based on their potential environmental damage, use of computer systems the ministry developed to help monitoring has been unsatisfactory, and that the ministry does not closely monitor pollutant emissions.

  

Haifa's industrial area (Photo: George Ginsberg)
Haifa's industrial area (Photo: George Ginsberg)

 

The comptroller wrote that he had doubts regarding the efficiency and effectiveness of the ministry's enforcement measures. A clean air bill was passed in 2008 and went into effect three years later. However, the comptroller said, the two ministers who served since then – Gilad Erdan and Amir Peretz – did not give new instructions on how to prevent and decrease air pollution as required by law.

 

Failures were also found in the system of random samples, which are supposed to be taken every two years in the case of factories that have a high potential for air pollution.

 

The Ministry of Environmental Protection said that its failures were a result of budget cuts. It created a program with a budget of NIS 680 million, it said, received only NIS 100 million. It added that air pollution in Haifa Bay has dropped 70 percent in six years and that the trend is expected to continue.

 

Violence against minors

According to the report, there is no regular, systemic, and free program to treat minors who have been subject to sexual or physical abuse, despite the fact that thousands of children and teenagers suffer from abuse every year. The lack of adequate services can worsen existing trauma, the comptroller wrote.

 

An example given was that of six siblings who were sent to a social worker after repeated reports that their parents had been violent throughout 2012. The social worker requested that treatment be expedited in November of 2013, but the official go-ahead didn't come until April of 2014 – and the treatment had still not begun by the time the report was written.

 

Construction

Meanwhile, the report criticized the Construction Ministry, saying more than one thousand people eligible for public housing wait an average of around three years – some even a decade. The state comptroller said the current system instills hope in those seeking housing, and that their inevitable disappointment could lead to "feelings of exasperation and bitterness".

 

Public housing in southern Israel (Photo: Herzl Yosef)
Public housing in southern Israel (Photo: Herzl Yosef)

 

Furthermore, the Ministry of Construction manages the public housing stock inefficiently. The data showed that in a large number of cases, people are given apartments that are bigger than they need, while others live in overcrowded spaces. What's more, hundreds of public housing apartments are vacant, and some have been for years. Many are in towns in central Israel, for which there is high demand.

 

Eleven years have passed since the publication of the Zeiler Commission's findings on the Versailles wedding hall disaster, but according to the state comptroller, Israel is still far from implementing its recommendations for dealing with the serious defects found in building safety.

 

According to the report, despite the fact that more than a decade has passed since the commission's findings, no building code was prepared, no monitoring centers have been formed, and the issue of qualification requirements for workers has not been addressed.

 

Employee benefits

The report noted that around a quarter of public institutes or companies in Israel - such as the Israel Electric Corporation, universities, Israel Railways ect. - give benefits to employees for free or at a discount.

 

"These benefits could be given to hundreds of thousands of future employees, and some even to their relatives," Shapira wrote.

 

"Some attempts to regulate the benefits indicate serious difficulties, among other things because the ongoing relationship between management, employees, the government and others creates dependent relationships between the parties, which lead to an expectation by employees and unions that this relationship will continue."

 


פרסום ראשון: 05.06.15, 00:33
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