Religious council criticized over car sale

The luxury vehicle was sold for just NIS 33,000, just four months after being given an overhaul for more than NIS 20,000.

Tel Aviv's religious council is once again being criticized over its use of public funds, this time over the renovation and sale of its 2002 Volkswagen Passat, reports Yediot Tel Aviv. The luxurious vehicle was sold for just NIS 33,000 - half its current value - in mid-2007, just four months after being given an overhaul for more than NIS 20,000. According to the report, the council's use of taxpayers' money for the car has long been at the center of a storm. The vehicle was originally used by the council's then head, Mordechai Hatshuel, but in the government's reform of religious councils several years ago, it was decided that council chiefs did not have any entitlement to their own publicly funded vehicles. Nevertheless new council head Eldad Mizrahi continued to use the car, including for private travel, until newspapers exposed his activities, and he promised not to do so again. The vehicle was then used by different religious council members until March last year, when the council decided on major "renewal" work, including installing a new turbo mechanism to improve performance (at a cost of NIS 12,500), installing a carbon emissions filter to reduce pollution (NIS 3,340), replacing hoses and seals and conducting other repairs, for a total of NIS 20,659. The city's Finances Department said that for this price it was "better to buy a new car," but the work was done nevertheless. Then, just four months later, the car was advertised for sale by public tender, with a Tel Aviv resident obtaining the vehicle for just NIS 33,500. A religious council spokesman said the vehicle had needed the repairs in March 2007, but shortly afterwards it had been struck by other mechanical problems, so the council had decided to sell it. The spokesman said the council had acted properly and had obtained a price "significantly higher" than it had expected. But the newspaper pointed out that the sale price had been lower than estimated, and was just half the current market value of the vehicle.