High Court tells Shaffir to withdraw petition on budget transparency

Finance Committee funnels NIS 2.5 billion to Defense.

The Knesset  (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Knesset
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The High Court of Justice on Monday asked MK Stav Shaffir (Zionist Union) to withdraw her petition demanding greater transparency in the budgetary process at the same time as the Knesset Finance Committee enacted the procedure she had petitioned against – the transfer of NIS 2.5 billion to the Defense Ministry.
Supreme Court President Miriam Naor complimented Shaffir for pressing the issue and having already caused the Finance Ministry and Knesset Finance Committee to employ a more open process, stating that the petition “shined a light” on an important issue.
Shaffir accused the Finance Ministry of still “submitting a fictitious budget to the Knesset with full knowledge that it is fictitious” and is considering whether to continue to press on with the petition despite the judges’ request that it be withdrawn.
The December 2013 petition had complained about unsupervised changes in the budget made at the ministry’s request and effectuated solely by the Finance Committee chairman as if he was a “rubber stamp” and without debate by committee members.
Meanwhile, the Finance Committee authorized a transfer of NIS 2.5b. in budgetary surpluses of various ministries from 2014 to the Defense Ministry to cover its 2015 budget.
The Defense and Finance Ministries had agreed on the transfer before the budget passed last month, which set the defense budget at NIS 57b. The transfers increased the defense budget to NIS 59.5b.
Opposition MKs in the committee complained that the constant budgetary transfers disrespect the plenum and the budget it authorized, rendering it meaningless.
However, Defense and Finance Ministry representatives pointed out that the budget would not have passed if they hadn’t come to agreements on future transfers.
“To begin with, we were told that the defense budget that was authorized wasn’t final,” Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (UTJ) pointed out. “We had to vote against [the original defense budget in the committee], because it would not fulfill Israel’s security needs. We only authorized the budget after the agreements were made, and in an unprecedented way, everyone knew that the budget was unrealistic.”
“Now, we have to authorize what we all knew we would have to and we all understand that we must authorize to allow the defense establishment to meet its goals,” Gafni added.