JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, campaigning for re-election next month, was officially rebuked Tuesday over what the national watchdog said was excessive spending on his private and public residences.
In a report, State Comptroller Joseph Shapira stopped short of recommending a criminal investigation but said he had turned evidence over to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein for possible action on some cases.
Shapira’s report details how spending on cleaning, food and repairs at the official residence in Jerusalem and the premier’s private home in Caesarea rose dramatically when the premier took office in 2009, but then decreased in 2013.
It also mentions alleged mishandling of funds from recycled bottles by Netanyahu’s wife Sarah, as well as the purchase of garden furniture for the weekend residence in Caesarea.
Shapira said material relating to the bottles and garden furniture, “as well as other materials”, was handed to Weinstein earlier this month, because of possible criminal misconduct.
Shapira said spending was contrary to the principles of “proportionality and reasonability, savings and efficiency”.
The report showed that annual spending on food at the Jerusalem home grew from 211,000 shekels ($54,521) in 2009 to 458,000 shekels in 2012.
And while the house had a cook, more than 92,000 shekels was spent on food delivered from restaurants in 2011, which Shapira termed as “misconduct”.
Shapira said the prime minister’s office spent 8,200 shekels a month on cleaning in Caesarea even though the Netanyahus spent most of their time in Jerusalem, and called the costs “extremely excessive”.
Netanyahu’s Likud party said he “respects the findings” and had already been implementing many of the recommendations, but tied the report’s release to an “ongoing media campaign” to remove him from office.