City Comptroller lists faults at municipality

The city comptroller has issued a highly critical report of the Haifa municipality, detailing a long list of managerial faults in numerous departments.

By MIRIAM BULWAR DAVID-HAY
October 25, 2007 10:18
3 minute read.

The city comptroller has issued a highly critical report of the Haifa municipality, detailing a long list of managerial faults in numerous departments, according to the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. The report criticizes the management of the city's parks and gardens and the lack of enforcement of safety standards at playgrounds; the way business licenses are issued and the lack of enforcement against unlicensed businesses; employment practices at the municipality; the management of school kiosks; the kindergarten enrollment system and the school transport system, among other matters. The report was presented to the Haifa city council, but apparently "did not cause any embarrassment" to councilors, with several either dismissing the criticisms or saying that the faults would be checked and quickly fixed. According to the newspaper, the report by city comptroller Ofer Tal for the year 2006 brings to light numerous managerial defects in many municipal departments. Among his findings were that: Many of the city's public playgrounds are dangerous and none have valid safety checks because the city's Parks and Gardens Department does not have enough staff to conduct regular inspections and does not even have an up-to-date list of playgrounds and playground equipment, with its latest list being for 2004. The comptroller also found that repairs to playgrounds are not carried out in any orderly fashion, but are done in response to the amount of residents' complaints. The city's Road Repairs and Maintenance Department does not have any budgetary framework for employing contractors and has no budgetary limits for work done. Contractors were hired without public advertisement and there were often "significant differences" between the amounts billed by contractors and the amounts written on the department's books. Some 70 percent of school kiosks are operating without a business license and without any supervision, for which the comptroller faults the city's Education Department. Many of the kiosks have electricity and water connections to the school in which they are located, with the school footing the bills. The city's Education Department was also found wanting for accepting verbal quotes from suppliers who, after completing the work, then billed the city for significantly higher amounts. Without any authorization, the department also hired an adviser who was paid NIS 150,000 for supposed overtime. The city's use of contractors to transport children to regular and special education schools does not meet national Education Ministry Department standards and is done without proper supervision, leading to faulty safety measures and high costs. Many businesses throughout the city are operating without licenses and have been doing so for years. The comptroller said the city does not take action against unlicensed businesses. The hiring of workers by the city was "defective in the extreme," with preference often being given to relatives of existing municipal employees. Similarly, the city had a habit of hiring outside consultants that "cost the taxpayer a great deal of money." Allocation of children to kindergartens by the city is decided "on unclear criteria," and the city's Appeals Committee on the issue does not operate according to any accepted standard or protocol. The management of the Municipal Union for Environmental Quality was also considered seriously problematic, with officials traveling overseas at taxpayers' expense five times in two years without any external authorization. In addition, the manager approved his own request for expenses, the manager and his deputy claimed normal working days while they were abroad, and employees often took equipment home without signing for it. Even the city's Symphonette Orchestra came in for criticism. The orchestra was created without council approval and members were hired without public advertisement and without checking their qualifications. The musicians used municipal equipment for personal purposes, gave private lessons and handed out numerous free tickets to concerts.


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