Comptroller slams Knesset, President's Office on overspending

Report finds spending, at one point, exceeded budget by 20%, overspending on HR, purchases, organizational planning, and budget management.

State Comptroller Joseph Shapira‏ (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira‏
State Comptroller Joseph Shapira on Tuesday issued a report critiquing the legislature and the President’s Office for overspending in a range of areas.
“Especially now, during the elections period, public servants” must be careful about even mundane issues such as overspending public funds, he said.
Regarding the Knesset, the report criticizes spending and lack of supervision in the two main areas – overpaying security guards and overextending their terms in working at the parliament.
Shapira said that the Knesset director-general instituted, based on incorrect information, organizational changes, including adding positions and salary bonuses during the years 2010 to 2013.
Security guards are supposed to serve at the Knesset for five years and then be rotated elsewhere, unless they are appointed to a special position that goes beyond the standard five years.
Too many guards had their terms extended and “without proper written procedures,” Shapira said.
Next, he criticized the Knesset for overpaying the guards, giving “special” raises meant for a select few to 80% of them.
The comptroller was scathing on this point, saying the Knesset’s director-general deliberately ignored a legal opinion given to it on the issue.
On the president’s expenses, the comptroller found ongoing overspending (at least to the end of president Shimon Peres’s term last July) on human resources, purchases, organizational planning and budget management, including repeat deficiencies.
Shapira was particularly critical of such “deficiencies which were raised in an earlier report, but were not fixed.”
Next, the report stated that from 2011 to 2014, the President’s Office exceeded its budgets of between NIS 44 million and NIS 40m. by 20 percent.
The comptroller suggested that the President’s Office and the Finance Ministry coordinate better on the issue.
Fourteen employees in the President’s Office are special advisers, outside the state employee system, the report said, implying this was too many and had not been properly reviewed.
Shapira appeared irritated that he had called for the dismissal of a particular employee, who was then allowed to remain on payroll for an extended period.
Finally, the comptroller criticized the President’s Office during Peres’s term for financing his annual Facing Tomorrow conferences with private donations, against his recommendations.
The President’s Office responded saying that it “has acted and acts to efficiently manage its work and always to improve,” including “managing human resources, oversight of finances, supervising purchases, organizational planning and the budget” – and all “according to the existing norms in every government institution.”
The statement also said that the office has appointed a staff to further study the report’s conclusions.
The Knesset Spokesman's Office responded that the Comptroller's report is about the Knesset's administration and security and does not deal with its parliamentary work.
According to the Knesset Spokesman's Office, most of the problems mentioned are from the previous term and that current Director-General Ronen Plott either took care of or is currently dealing with them. Once he is finished addressing all of the issues, Plott will send a report to the Comptroller.