In the latest State Comptroller’s report released this week, a number of areas are addressed as is the norm. One person mentioned is Minister of Agriculture (Bayit Yehudi) Uri Ariel gives tens of millions of dollars to groups and organizations for example, a ‘Torani garin’, a small group of dati leumi persons or families moving to an area in the hope of establishing a larger community.

The comptroller is critical of the fact that Ariel allocates large sums of money for these Torani projects inside populated areas instead of in peripheral areas that need Jewish settlement.

Regarding the Ministry of Housing, the state comptroller adds: “The Ministry of Construction and the Settlement Division set criteria for providing assistance, so that there was no difference between organizations operating in disadvantaged communities and those operating in communities with strong socio-economic status, and the expenditure of tens of millions of shekels from the state budget for the support of non-profit organizations Their actions are inconsistent with the purpose of the government’s decision.”

The report adds that persons close to Minister Ariel advised him and he acted by allocating tens of millions of shekels without consulting with professionals to first justify the expenditures. The report states Ariel simply supports causes close to his heart rather than professionally probing and funding in line with state needs.

Ariel often bypasses the ministry’s director-general, allocating funds as he wishes, bypassing the proper channels.

The report adds Ariel makes decisions which involve advancing his personal party interests as well as business interests, adding “In doing so, Minister Ariel is responsible for a serious failure in governance and for harming proper administration”.

The report, which relates to his tenure as Housing Minister, states he uses any and all resources to advance the settlement movement above all else.

“Ariel’s decisions to involve his political associates in areas related to the provision of assistance to settlement nuclei, and even to assign them roles in the garin administration he established in the Ministry of Construction during his term of office, raises the concern that he has worked to ensure that budgetary support for non-profit organizations will be entrusted to the party’s political and ideological activities A substantive and direct connection to some of these associations. The involvement of those close to him allowed the group to include settlement groups that were not eligible for assistance earlier.”

In response, Ariel explained he respects the State Comptroller’s Office and has already instructed his staff to implement recommended changes contained in the report. He adds he is proud to be the force behind the Torani garin projects, projects that enjoy cabinet approval as well as the attorney general and this applies to religious and secular garins alike.

MK (Bayit Yehudi) Betzalel Smotrich attacked the report stating “The portion of the State Comptroller’s report dealing with the garin project is one of the most biased and political ones written since the establishment of the state, and more and more times the critic has been falling into the trap of being used by a political side with a vested interest against another political party. The ability of the elected echelon to determine its policy and implement it”.

Smotrich accused the comptroller of advancing a personnel agenda, that of the “Extremist left-wing”.