Lapid Accused of Hiding Billions

Shas MK Amnon Cohen (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas MK Amnon Cohen (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

MK Amnon Cohen (Shas), head of the Knesset State Auditing Committee, has accused Finance Minister Yair Lapid of “hiding billions” of shekels under a reserve budget clause.

The reserve budged topped an unprecedented NIS 30 billion in 2013-2014, according to the Committee’s figures, a rise of 25% over the previous reserve budget.

It emerged that six ministries showed a significant rise in the amounts tagged as reserve: the Prime Minister’s Office and the ministries of Finance, Health, Welfare, Education, and Science and Technology. All the abovementioned ministries are headed by members of Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

The reserve budget is an undefined budget that government ministries are not allowed to utilize without explicit permission from the Ministry of Finance’s Treasury Division.

Otherwise known as “petty cash,” Cohen calls it, “funds without a face, without a name and without transparency.”

Cohen’s investigation found that under the sub-clause of “miscellaneous expenses” in the Ministry of Finance, there was an unexplained NIS 6.4 billion lying around, compared with just NIS 1 billion in 2009 — a rise of 2,300% in just five years.

In addition, the clause “miscellaneous expenses” has its own reserve clause — “reserve for special activities” — with a budget of NIS 2.4 billion for two years. In total, the reserve clause and miscellaneous expenses comprise a staggering NIS 37.2 billion for 2013 and 2014, more than 10% of the total budget.

Prof. Momi Dahan, director of the Hebrew University’s School of Public Policy, described this situation as a “serious breakdown in democracy.”

Cohen has scheduled a committee debate on the matter for Tuesday.