New report shows improved overall fiscal responsibility; MKs finance computers, language lessons from "constituent relations" budget.
By REBECCA ANNA STOIL
If you had NIS 80,000 to promote yourself, how would you spend it? For a number of MKs, the answer seems to involve computers, copy machines, cell phones and the occasional English speech.On Thursday, the Knesset published its annual report on how MKs spent the sum allotted to them for “constituent relations” – and as always, the list contained more than a few surprises.RELATED:House Committee recommends stripping Bishara’s pensionAll of the top five spenders exceeded their NIS 80,000 budget – with MK Ibrahim Sarsour (UAL) topping the list with NIS 86,000 in constituent-relations expenditures.He was closely followed by Balad Chairman Jamal Zahalka, who spent NIS 83,139.On the other side of the political spectrum, MK Uri Ariel (National Union), spent NIS 83,045.Sarsour’s spending was marked by copy and printing expenses, totaling NIS 36,000; while Zahalka seemed to prefer to invest in technology, with NIS 10,000 going to a desktop and laptop computer.Ariel spent almost one-third of his expenses, NIS 24,000, on “professional consulting.”“We try to act with great modesty,” said Ariel. “And thank God we also succeed. I do not have flat-screen televisions, coffee machines, or other useless things on my budget. We know perfectly well where every shekel went, and we are certain that the community received tenfold in return.”The bottom of the list was dominated by ministers, who already are given an additional budget for office expenditures.Minister-without-Portfolio Bennie Begin, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman all took pity on taxpayers, or decided that constituent relations were simply unnecessary. None of the three spent a single shekel of their budget.Unlike previous years, this year’s list showed a relative degree of fiscal responsibility on the part of the parliamentarians.Office supplies, cellular bills and additional office staffers were common items on many of the lists. Also prominent among the expenditures were “professional services.”Aryeh Bibi (Kadima) spent NIS 5,000 on language lessons, Miri Regev (Likud) spent NIS 1,500 on a speech in English and Faina Kirschenbaum spent over NIS 11,000 on a single poll.Despite largely conservative expenditures on snacks, conventions, Internet and modems, some MKs still managed to rack up eye-popping sums on less-than- remarkable items.MK Ahmad Tibi (UAL) spent NIS 51,000 on cellular bills – and was followed closely by MK Yulia Shamalov-Berkovich (Kadima), who spent NIS 29,000 on cellular services, and an additional NIS 4,800 on an extra cell phone.Kibbutz resident MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) seemed to favor communal dining, forking out NIS 7,000 for “light refreshments.”The in-party rivalry in Kadima between Chairwoman Tzipi Livni and second-seater Shaul Mofaz seems to have taken its fiscal toll, as well. Both racked up larger-than-average expenses for professional consulting, with Livni spending NIS 36,000 and Mofaz spending 41,700.
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