Environment Min. has no money... and isn't using it

Reports released Wednesday show that the Environmental Protection Ministry used just 42 percent budget last year.

The Accountant-General's Report for 2007, released Wednesday, shows that the Environmental Protection Ministry used just 42 percent of its NIS 649-million budget last year. However, both the report itself and the Environmental Protection Ministry pointed to extenuating circumstances to explain away the oddity. The ministry's basic budget is relatively low at just NIS 145m., and consequently the ministry receives a budget bonus each year of four-and-a-half times its basic budget (NIS 504m.), according to the report's explanations accompanying the graph. However, that bonus is only given halfway through the year, making proper planning and efficient use of the money difficult, the report noted. The ministry called on the Treasury to allocate sufficient funds up front in its annual budget, rather than relying on a bonus to make up the shortfall. According to the breakdown in the report, the ministry used 80 percent of the funds allocated for infrastructure, but it used just 29% of the funds for fighting environmental threats and just 13% of the money tagged for dealing with solid waste. The report and the ministry explained that a large part of the ministry's budget goes toward funding projects run by the local authorities (some NIS 100m., according to the ministry), and many of their projects do not come to fruition. The ministry said the local authorities needed at least a 10% funding contribution for their projects, but unfortunately could not execute the projects because of their own budget difficulties. Funds used for long-term projects were also not reflected, the accountant-general's report said. Meanwhile, a new Macro Center for Political Economics policy paper by Prof. Izhak Schnell of the Research Center for the Urban Environment at Tel Aviv University claims that urban pollution should be measured by sensors attached to individuals rather than static sensors such as those set up by the Environmental Protection Ministry. The ministry did not respond to The Jerusalem Post's inquiry on the report by press time. "The current study suggests a shift in focus in studies of human exposure to environmental stressors... it shifts the focus from the analysis of the production of environmental stressors in particular places to peoples' actual exposure to environmental stressors while they perform their routines in everyday-life urban spaces," according to the report's conclusion. The report, released Wednesday and sent to Knesset members, found that sensors on an individual recorded some levels of pollution as vastly different from those recorded by the ministry's static collectors.