Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources, Yuval Steinitz, accused Channel 10 of an inaccurate and irresponsible reporting about alleged government inaction on costly water companies, Globes reported on Thursday.
The news channel revealed a Water Authority internal document written in 2013, which details the exorbitant costs of running the water companies, then passed on to the consumer. It said that reducing the number of water corporations in Israel from 55 to 13 would save Israeli taxpayers 496 million shekels.
The high costs were blamed on bloated salaries and benefits and inflated operating expenses. A water corporation CEO’s salary is 618,000 shekels a year, including 33,000 in monthly salary, a company car, 3,000 in gasoline expenses, 3,000 in leasing expenses, maintenance, etc. The 55 corporation CEOs cost a combined total of 34 million shekels annually.
In response, Steinitz said, “The editors of the tv program at no time asked for our response, except for waiting next to the minister’s house. That did not keep the program from determining the minister’s policy, the measures that he will take, and his response, accompanied by constant slander.
“After a number of joint discussions by MKs Itzik Shmuli, Cohen, Yoav Kisch and Yuval Steinitz, a new good bill was agreed for substantially reducing the number of water corporations and streamlining the Israeli water sector. Any allegation to the contrary is wrong and misleading.”
A statement released by the Water Authority rejected claims of poor management:
“Water and sewage prices in Israel are among the world’s lowest. In infrastructure development, the neglect of this aspect in the past under the local authority should not be compared with the welcome turnaround that has occurred in this aspect over the past decade.
“Let it be said that the Water Authority has always favored a limited number of water corporations (10-13) … The salaries of the workers and officeholders are set in accordance with the instructions by the Ministry of Finance Wage and Labor Agreements Department director. The local authority owns the shares in the water and sewage corporation, and is entitled to appoint directors on its behalf, in accordance with the law and with the approval of the government appointments committee.”