Answers demanded over budget blowout

Ra'anana city council's audit committee is questioning why the city spent NIS 3.5 million renovating its main street, Rehov Ahuza, when the approved budget for the work was just NIS 2 million, reports And committee head Ilan Cohen says Mayor Nahum Hofree has not yet answered questions about the massive budget blowout, which could even be illegal. According to the report, in 2007 the city issued a NIS 2 million tender for the renovations, which included the widening, repaving and decorating of the sidewalks along the main street. But the work ended up costing NIS 3.5 million. The report said that by law, a city council could approve an excess in a tender of up to half the original sum, but in this case the excess had been far more. Cohen said the committee had asked for an explanation for the excess, but was told only that there had been a "mishap." "It would be interesting to see if a municipal employee made a mistake of NIS 2,000, or if an ordinary citizen exceeded his building permit by a few meters, if they would classify this as a 'mishap' or a 'mistake,'" Cohen said. He added that it was inconceivable that the city could exceed its budget in this way when it was cutting down other activities and when NIS 500,000 could "feed all the residents of Ra'anana who have no food during holidays." "As head of the committee, I view this breach gravely... this is the public purse and we have a public responsibility to it," Cohen said. A municipal spokesman responded only that the matter was being investigated.