Press release: Organizations warn the Auditor: NIS 80 million in public housing funds may be redirected to other purposes. As a result of the agreement to dismantle the Prazot firm, the organizations claim, a large part of the funds accrued in the company’s accounts, earmarked for public housing, may be redirected to other purposes. The organizations have alerted the State Auditor in a number of letters.
In Wednesday, 28 November, a number of social organizations [Community Advocacy, Hamaabarah, Rabbis for Human Rights, Trabot, Halev V’hamishpat, Shatil, The Forum for Public Housing in Israel, et al.] sent letters to State Auditor Yosef Shapira regarding the breakup of the public housing company Prazot. The wave of letters warns against a significant leak of public housing funds that may result from the dismantling agreement regarding the Jerusalem firm, signed on 27 November.
The Prazot accounts accrued about NIS 130 million, partly as a result of public housing sales. Those funds were supposed to be directed toward improvement of public housing and/or increasing the supply of public housing units in Jerusalem. The agreement to dismantle the firm reveals that only NIS 55 million of those funds will be earmarked for public housing, while the lion’s share, about NIS 75 million, will be taken for other purposes. As worthy as those other purposes may be, says Rabbis for Human Rights, those purposes are unrelated to the public housing budget. Fighting for worthy social causes and increasing budgets for that purposes is only proper, but not through the reallocation of funds already dedicated to an especially disempowered population – public housing residents .
The organizations wrote to the Auditor – from the letter sent by Hamaabarah to the State Auditor:
“As you do, we also believe that the other purposes suggested for these sums are important and worthy; but it is neither standard nor acceptable to redirect the funds from their original purpose – public housing. We ask you not to accept the Jerusalem Municipality’s response, which claims that you lack to authority to intervene – we hope you continue to stand in the breach s so that the monies are restored to their original purpose. Hamaabarah recognize from personal experience the results of neglect and the destruction of public housing in Israel, especially the lack of personal security and the trauma suffered by children forced to move about with their parents from place to place during the winter and to sleep in cars, tents or the streets. Confronted with all this, we intend to act to the extent of our abilities in the public arena to raise the alarm, publicize and shine a spotlight on the improper behavior and intent of the municipality and Treasury regarding the use of this money.”
From Community Advocacy’s letter:
“We ask his honor at this time, before the agreement takes effect regarding the disbursement of the dismantled firm’s funds, that the distribution be delayed until such time as it can be guaranteed that adequate redress has been arranged for the public housing crisis in Jerusalem – and that the funds be used for no other purpose. The Auditor has published numerous reports regarding public housing, but it appears that this report would alter public thinking on the matter – all because of public housing funds that were taken away from the residents and public housing companies for a purpose other than that for which it was originally allocated. The report carries special importance for the public housing residents of Jerusalem.”
From Shatil’s letter:
“Last winter we saw a major shortage of public housing units in Jerusalem, such that dozens of families were nearly forced to spend the cold winter in tents. Clearly, NIS 130 million could provide a long-term solution for hundreds of families living in abject poverty.”