The Netanyahus

PM Office spending report spurs calls for transparency

Lack of transperancy and division between the private and official expenses draw complaints by public watchdog groups despite overall decrease in spending at PM's office.

A report curtailing the expenditures of the Prime Minister's residences during the 2014 fiscal year was released on Monday, causing many public interest groups to take issue with the vague and often lacking divisions between private and official spending.



The report was released as a result of a court appeal filed by the Movement for Freedom of Information in Israel. The movement harshly criticized the report and stated that it is incomplete and not transparent in its nature. According to the report, 2014 expenditures for the prime minister's official residence reached NIS 1.6 million, while the private residence expenditures topped NIS 284,000, a 55 percent increase when compared to 2013.


The PMO in response said that, "The Prime Minister's Office published the expense report on its own accord in May. The figures show that annual spending in 2014 is the lowest it has been in the last five years, and represents a 19 percent drop in comparison to the previous year."


Some of the more detailed spending listed in the report included a 28th of January flower purchase totaling NIS 3,091; a NIS 50,000 grocery purchase on the 25th of March; And a NIS 26,000 expenditure on refreshments for three Tanakh lessons.


The Ceaserea home (Photo: Shaul Golan)   (צילום: שאול גולן "ידיעות אחרונות")
The Ceaserea home (Photo: Shaul Golan)


In terms of private residence expenses, the report listed that on the 5th of February, NIS 11,875 was billed as maintenance work, on the 24th of February NIS 19,656 was paid for additional maintenance work, and later that month NIS 4,514 was paid to a contractor for a consult on a leaky basement. An additional examination of the home's water systems cost the Israeli tax payers tens of thousands of shekels.


Further private residence spending totaling tens of thousands of shekels was billed as maintenance fees, while the Netanyahu's sported a December water bill amounting to NIS 12,877.


In the clarifications provided for the report, the Prime Minister's Office explained that the official residence of the prime minister serves multiple purposes, including its role as an additional workspace, which facilitates meetings, and the hosting of officials from Israel and abroad.


The clarification continued to state that it was nearly impossible to completely distinguish between expenditures at the residence under its official capacity, and those incurred as the prime minister's private home within the accounting system. The expenses for the private residence in Caesarea include the costs of security requirements, which are indivisible from the home's maintenance.


Benjamin Sara Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)
Benjamin Sara Netanyahu (Photo: Reuters)


The report does not however, include the names of suppliers or contractors, and does provide a detailed explanation of the charges, but rather remains largely general. For example, one item is titled "cleaning services," while another includes "light refreshments." The vague nature of the report is attributed to a recommendation by the relevant Shin Bet officials, who stated that, "A detailed list which includes the names of the supplies and service contractors, should not be provided to unauthorized persons, due to a fear that this will threaten the security of the Prime Minister."


The original appeal was filed by the legal advisor to the Movement for Freedom of Information Racheli Edri. The group's chairwoman Einat Horowitz reacted to the report stating, "It is saddening that the Prime Minister's Office chose not to provide the public with a transparent record of spending for the residencies. The report that was provided to the movement is incomplete and does not distinguish between the private spending and the expenses of the official residence."


The new report comes in addition to a report released by the PMO in May, which presented spending figures for the two properties.


פרסום ראשון: 08.18.15, 11:22
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