Knesset: In attempt to self-audit, Knesset pays out extravagant and unnecessary sums

From the summer of 2003 to September 2006, the Knesset spent upward of NIS 650,000 on consulting firms that were supposed to help the Knesset form a self-auditing system. The original amount budgeted for the project was just over NIS 100,000. In addition, the Knesset froze all of the plans that it had paid the consulting firms to create, when it was discovered that the parliamentary budget could not be stretched to accommodate the auditing system. If the Knesset had used better planning methods, had checked the companies it hired and compared prices, and abided by a better time schedule, it would have saved hundreds of thousands of shekels, the State Comptroller's annual report, which was released for publication on Wednesday, found. Most of the problems stemmed from the Knesset's dealings with the Masterplan Company, which the Knesset hired to advise them on how to build a self-auditing system. MK Reuven Rivlin (Likud), who was speaker of the 16th Knesset, originally devised the plan to help the Knesset better understand and audit itself. In the agreement, Masterplan was supposed to be paid for work completed and hours spent on the task. In the end, however, the State Comptroller's Report found that the Knesset failed to take advantage of a discount that they were supposed to receive. The Knesset also paid the company for work that was never completed. Less than a year later, the Masterplan Company was hired to help plan a new broadcasting system for the Knesset. As with the auditing system, there were discrepancies between the original agreement and the amount finally paid. All of the Knesset's dealings with the auditing system and a new broadcasting center were arranged through the head of administration, Dan Landau. Unfortunately, when Landau left his post, the guidelines for his dealings with Masterplan were not passed on to the Knesset's administrative center, and the lack of communication led to confusion over what types of arrangements had been made. The plans for both the auditing system and the broadcasting system were frozen in June and July of 2006, due to a lack of funds in the immediate budget. Rivlin has repeatedly defended his decision to build the auditing system, claiming that it was necessary so that the Knesset could do more to police itself. According to Rivlin, if the funds had been spent as he had originally requested, the overspending would not have occurred. In another instance which occurred in June 2004, the Knesset director-general decided to hire the services of an outside company, in order to resolve problems with some committee workers. The Central Committee chose the A.A. Company without researching the company's history, or investigating other possible options. Although the Knesset specified that it only wanted the company to research the committee workers, and spend 1,000-working hours on the project, the company investigated more employee complaints, including the janitorial staff, and eventually charged the Knesset for 3,685 hours of work.