Comptroller Sharply Criticizes Israeli Police, Religious Affairs

The Religious Affairs Ministry and Israel’s police have come under sharp criticism in this year’s report by the state comptroller.

State Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat presented her office’s 45th annual report to the Knesset on Wednesday. The 1,000-page document reported on government activities in 115 spheres of public life.

Ben-Porat said the report uncovered two or three area of misconduct that could warrant criminal investigations.

She said she would inform Attorney General Michael Ben-Yair about those matters, and that he would make his own recommendations.

The report’s most biting criticisms were directed at the Religious Affairs Ministry.

The report said the ministry had failed to fairly allocate public funds earmarked for religious learning institutions.

Some $32 million was budgeted to provide these institutions with financial support in 1994. But the report hundreds of institutions had received money from these public funds, even though ministry officials knew the schools did not meet the requisite criteria, making them ineligible for the funding.

Religious Affairs Minister Shimon Shetreet said he had already given instructions that measures be taken to deal with the matter.

“I have stopped the appropriations and established a committee to revise the appropriations, the criteria and the control system,” he said.

“The committee will decide which organizations will be used for refunds of appropriations that were obtained under false pretenses.”

The Israeli police were also harshly criticized for what the report said were irregularities in 40 percent of the arrests they carried out in Israel.

In some cases, there was no legal justification for the arrests, the report said, adding that one-quarter of those detained were never questioned.

Ben-Porat also came down on the use of agricultural lands earmarked for industrial purposes or residential building, a procedure she said was sometimes accomplished without the proper permits.

In other instances, the report found, building construction was being carried out without appropriate planning for the country’s future needs.

On social and welfare, issues, Ben-Porat was dissatisfied with the country’s hospitals. She said overcrowding in some units had increased the risk of infection.

Overall, the report was less harsh than in previous years, leading optimists to say that the state of public services in Israel had improved.

The report “includes fewer grave and serious matters than in the past,” Shetreet said.

“We as public administration and government (officials) have learned and implemented the policies and recommendations of the state comptroller,” he said.

Other observers said Ben-Porat had simply toned down the report’s criticisms. She has been sharply attacked for taking harsher stands in the past.

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