(photo credit: AP [file])
Of the approximately 515 identified structures that were built according to the Pal-Kal method, only 65 have been repaired or demolished in the past four years, State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss wrote in a special report on local authorities published Tuesday. The rest have not been deal with.
"We must make every effort possible so that another tragedy like the Versailles wedding hall collapse will not recur," he wrote, while criticizing the local authorities and several government ministries for failing to take action since the Zeiler Commission of Investigation into Building Safety issued an interim report in 2002 pointing out the dangers involved in the Pal-Kal method.
The ceilings of the Jerusalem building housing the Versailles hall had been built using that technique.
Lindenstrauss's report investigated other issues common to the local authorities, including their relations with the Interior Ministry, the services they provide for young women at risk, the way they supervise markets and fairs in their jurisdiction and the way they operate summer camps.
In addition to these lateral topics, the state comptroller also studied specific issues in the cities of Or Akiva, Kfar Saba, Rehovot, Shfaram and Tel Aviv.
Regarding the project to repair the Pal-Kal buildings, Lindenstrauss wrote, "at the end of the period of our investigation in November 2006, five years after the Versailles Hall tragedy [which killed 23], the recommendations of the interim report have not been implemented and the operations involved in the implementation of the final report have not been carried out.
"Furthermore, the decisions of the government that were taken in light of these reports have not been implemented. We also found that most of the local authorities that were investigated did not fulfill their lawful duties to make the Pal-Kal buildings safe."
The state comptroller found that the Interior Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Finance Ministry and a ministerial committee appointed to oversee the work were to blame for the government's failures in the matter.
Soon after the Zeiler Commission issued its interim report, the government resolved to establish a technical staff to locate all the Pal-Kal buildings, classify and examine them, determine what needed to be done to repair them and to oversee the repairs. The work was to be completed within a year-and-a-half.
The technical committee worked with interruptions for a total of one year. It collapsed after the government failed to pay its members for their services or the private contractors who were supposed to do the repair work.
The Interior Ministry and the Justice Ministry also failed to draft a law to give the recommendations of the committee statutory status.
The local authorities were also responsible for dealing with the buildings in their jurisdiction. The state comptroller investigated 26 of them and found that there were 126 Pal-Kal buildings and another 62 suspected Pal-Kal buildings in their jurisdiction. Of these, the local authorities had only investigated 41 structures and repaired only 11. Another seven were found to be safe.
On another subject, the state comptroller found that the Welfare Ministry had not approved a national plan for dealing with young women at risk, even though the decision to draft a plan had been made seven years earlier. The committee members failed to reach agreement with the representative of the treasury and the Welfare Ministry did not inform the cabinet of the deadlock. Lindenstrauss also investigated several cities and found that social workers dealing with the issue did not go out into the field to look for young women at risk, but relied on reports from school counselors to identify them.
With regard to markets and fairs, the state comptroller found that in many cases they operated without licenses and that in some cases, there were serious sanitation problems.