Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo by Gali Tibbon/UPI | License Photo
TEL AVIV, Israel, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- A month away from Israel elections, a government audit criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for lavish spending, including "hundreds of thousands of shekels" on take-out meals despite having a private cook -- and $2,500 a month on ice cream.
In an audit report issued Tuesday by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira, both Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, are also criticized for spending thousands in public funds on their weekend home in Caesarea.
Some $20,000 went for water consumption for the Caesarea residence and electrical restorations. The audit also cited Netanyahu for improperly hiring a Likud Central Committee employee to be his private electrician during the weekends for three months.
The report, which covers 2011-13, also cited Netanyahu's wife's spending on make-up and hair-styling products, but did not give an amount. And it found that employees were not reimbursed for paying out of pocket for items such as eye drops for the prime minister.
In a statement, Netanyahu blamed a former employee, Menny Naftali, for poorly managing the household expenses. Naftali is suing the Netanyahus for abuse.
"It is important to note the expenses of the prime minister's residence have been reduced significantly over the past two years. The expenses significantly increased during a specific period of time when the house's maintenance and operation were directed by Mr. Menny Naftali –- an embittered former public employee," Netanyau's statement said.
Shapira was critical of Netanyahu's budgeting and human resources practices at both of his homes, stating that no budget system was ever set in place to keep track of expenses in a transparent and efficient way.
The 40-page report compiled by Shapira noted Netanyahu's expenses on take-out meals alone reached $122,500 in 2011. His catering bill totaled $23,000, and his monthly ice cream bill came out to about $2,500.
"The audit found that the budget for the residences for 2009-12 were made without a process that analyzed needs or determined estimated expenses. This did not meet a single criteria for the rules of proper management, and hurt the ability to carry out proper auditing and oversight," Shapira wrote in the report.
Records indicate that for last year's expenses, Netanyahu's staff did write and publish an official annual budget.
Netanyahu's opponents in the March 17 elections are using the audit report in their campaigns, saying his priorities are not in order.
He is "thoroughly disconnected from the people," former health minister Yael German told The Times of Israel.
Supporters, on the other hand, said Netanyahu has been the target of an ill-construed witch hunt.