The Finance Ministry came under stern scrutiny on Wednesday as members of the Knesset State Control Committee brought up a recent State Comptroller’s report which reveals that huge sums are allocated to the Egged bus company with scarcely any oversight, Arutz Sheva reported.
Citing the report, Committee head MK Amnon Cohen (Shas) charged that the state paid Egged billions of shekels without even checking what the money was used for.
“There is a tremendous gap between the desire to subsidize unprofitable bus lines for the public good, and the agreement that was reached,” Cohen said. “Government officials are simply treating public money as if it was free for the taking.”
In an apparent reference to the harsh treatment of yeshivos, Cohen mentioned that while the Finance Ministry “quibbles with some institutions over every shekel… Egged gets double subsidies without the question of whether it is worthwhile even being examined.”
A representative from the State Comptroller’s Office alleged that the Finance Ministry and Transportation Ministry of agreed to the subsidies without bothering to calculate the cost-benefit ratio, even though the deal is to be in effect for a decade and will ultimately cost the government billions of shekels.
The multi-year agreement left Egged with subsidies for bus lines it no longer operates, he said. The subsidies were continued even though 25 bus lines were taken from the company and opened to competition.
Moran Mazor, who heads the Transportation division of the Finance Ministry, defended the ministry’s decision. The Finance Ministry is constantly investigating whether initiatives are worthwhile, he argued. However, he said, “Public transportation cannot be entirely measured.”
Cohen concluded the meeting by demanding a precise report of the cost of the agreement from both Egged and the Finance Ministry. The two bodies had previously provided wildly different estimates, with the Finance Ministry predicting that the subsidies would cost 683 million shekels, while Egged estimated the value of the deal at 1.3 billion shekels.