Comptroller: J'lem Municipality wasted millions

The Jerusalem Municipality is guilty of a series of serious irregularities, millions of shekels in public waste and general fiscal mismanagement, the annual city comptroller's report has found. The 2004-2005 report, which spans over 1,000 pages and which was released in November, details a series of violations and irregularities during the second year of Mayor Uri Lupolianski's five-year term in office, and even hints of behind the scenes pressure put on the comptroller, Shulamit Rubin, to soften her report. "The attempt to frighten the comptroller by taking disciplinary steps and forcing one to remain silent did not succeed in the past, and will not prevent the comptroller from doing her job in the future," Rubin notes. In her report, the comptroller lambastes the city's building supervision department, singling out two supervisors in the department whose findings in 21 random cases wildly differed from reality. In reaction, Lupolianski noted that one of the workers in the department has since been arrested by police for alleged criminal activities and recently fired by the municipality. The comptroller's suggestions regarding the second worker had been forwarded to the city attorney who would rule on the matter, Lupolianski said in his written response. The report also castigated the city's religious cultural department that deals with the haredi sector. The comptroller found that the department rented out three buildings for haredi cultural activities at the price of NIS 1.9 million, but the buildings were never used, and the money was wasted. Lupolianski said in response that the department did all that was required to use the properties, adding that the head of the department is "worthy of praise" for getting a one-year delay in the rent payment at the sites. Another chapter in the report blasts the city for allowing public bodies to use various city properties without acquiring proper payment in return. She cites one case in which the city was owed NIS 750,000 in rent, after the tenant left the site, with the city failing to follow-up on the case. The mayor promised to get the overdue rent. The report also censures the city for not doing anything to stop the many peddlers illegally working on - and dirtying - city streets. The mayor said in response that the city's director-general has accepted the comptroller's recommendations on this issue.