The Knesset Finance Committee has allocated NIS 25 million to ensure “nutritional security” among Israeli poor in the holiday season – except that the holiday the money was meant to help out with was last Pesach. As to why it took two months for the Committee to allocate the money, MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni, its chairman, had a very simple explanation: No one in the Treasury had actually asked for the money to be transferred.
The story came to light after an investigation by Yediot Aharonot last month revealed that dozens of non-profit groups (NGOs) to help the poor did not receive funds that had been promised them leading up to Pesach. Many of the groups had borrowed money to purchase food products on the basis of the expected funds, which the government with great fanfare announced that it would allocate before the holiday to help the poor.
Except that, until Tuesday, the Finance Ministry had not made a formal request for transfer of the money – and may never have, had questions not been raised, Yediot said. The funds were finally requested – and approved – as part of an NIS 260 million transfer to the Welfare and Tourism ministries.
MK Rabbi Gafni, who was unaware of the delay himself, said that this was not the first time the Treasury had tried to shift blame in matters like this to his committee. “Very often it will tell mayors, heads of organizations, and ministers that the money is ‘tied up in committee,’ when they have actually not even made formal requests for fund transfers,” he said. Commenting on the situation, committee member MK Stav Shafir (Zionist Camp) said that “one out of every six line items in the budget is fictional,” meaning that the government had never intended to ask for the money to fund them in the first place, and agreed to put them in the state budget just to placate MKs and ministers.