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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The state comptroller submitted the second half of his annual report on the functioning of the government and other publicly funded institutions on Wednesday and once again found a host of problems and irregularities, topped by the army's alleged failure to properly handle the threat of Kassam rockets from and weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss presented a copy of the report to Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and the head of the State Control Committee, Zevulun Orlev, in a routine ceremony one hour before it was released to the public.
A glimpse of the State Comptroller's Report:
Broadcasting: IBA negligent in handling public purse
Public Safety: Crime victims' rights not maintained
Social: Disabled employment service slammed
Bank of Israel: Central bank benefits 'excessive'
Finance: National budget mismanaged
Knesset: Extravagant, unnecessary sums paid out
Trade: Outdated weights, measures hurting growth
Finance: Tax Authority falsifying numbers of fines
Tourism: Directive to insure vacations ignored
'The IDF dragged feet in confronting terror tunnels'
Disengagement cost 'miscalculated'
Nepotism in religious services apparatus
Where your health taxes go
Report: Crime Victims' Rights not maintained
The state comptroller did not find cause in the more than 50 subjects investigated to refer findings to the attorney-general on suspicion of criminal activities.
Indeed, reporters who attended the ceremony seemed far more interested in other matters currently under investigation.
Lindenstrauss told one reporter he would release his special report on the home front no later than mid-July and added that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had responded to the interim findings that Lindenstrauss had sent him for his comments and explanations.
Other questions referred to the Winograd Report on the preparations and conduct of the Second Lebanon War and whether or not Lindenstrauss was satisfied with the pace of Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz's examination of matters referred to him by the state comptroller. Lindenstrauss refused to respond to these questions.
Nevertheless, although this year's report was not as sensational as some, the State Comptroller's Office found more than enough to criticize.
Foremost was his report on how the government has failed to handle the threat to Israeli towns and villages in the Gaza periphery from Palestinian Kassam and mortar fire and the use of tunnels to smuggle weapons from Sinai into Gaza.
According to Lindenstrauss, the IDF dragged its feet in developing and procuring technology to locate underground terror tunnels in the Gaza Strip and in trying to tackle the Kassam rocket threat. The army only began formulating a systematic plan for coping with the tunnels in 2004.
However, the staff work was incomplete. In 2005, the army prepared an operational doctrine for dealing with the tunnels, but not enough attention was given to the problem at the time, Lindenstrauss found.
Regarding the Kassam rockets, the state comptroller wrote that the IDF had failed to create a comprehensive plan for dealing with the threat since it was first identified in 2001.
The state comptroller also found that the government had miscalculated the cost of the disengagement plan for the Jewish settlements in Gaza and the northern part of the West Bank by half. The original cost estimate in the winter of 2004 was NIS 4.5 billion. By May 2006, the actual cost was NIS 9 billion.
On other issues, the state comptroller found that the Knesset could have saved hundreds of thousands of shekels in fees paid to consulting firms to help it create a self-auditing system. The Knesset originally allocated NIS 100,000 for the project, but ended up paying NIS 650,000.
Lindenstrauss also found that the dismantling of the Religious Affairs Ministry and its replacement by the National Religious Services Authority (NRSA) failed to cure it of nepotism, mismanagement and chronic deficits in the religious services apparatus. He accused NRSA head Meir Spiegler of failing to prevent malfeasance such as unauthorized or exaggerated salaries to religious council workers.
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