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Israeli PM accused of improper use of public funds

Israeli PM accused of improper use of public funds

Jerusalem: Significant financial improprieties and excessive spending of public funds occurred in the two residences used by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu between 2009 and 2013, State Comptroller Yoseph Shapira said in a report published Tuesday.

The report came out exactly a month before national elections (due March 17). It was handed over to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to check if there was a need of a criminal investigation for improper use of public funds, Xinhua reported.

According to the report, there has been excessive spending on food, cleaning supplies and makeup, among other items, in both residences registered to the prime minister -- the official residence located at Jerusalem, and his private home in the northern town of Caesarea.

The report found that an average sum of 8,166 shekels ($2,100) was spent monthly on cleaning from taxpayers' money. "In light of the volume of cleaning expenses, the prime minister's office should act to avoid unnecessary expenses," Shapira wrote.

The report revealed excessive spending on catering and take-away orders, though the residence employs cooks.

The comptroller also discovered that Netanyahu and his family irresponsibly splurged from public funds on water consumption, hair styling, make up and repairs at their private residence, employing Likud party members for high wages. "The audit found that 2009 and 2012 residence budgets were not planned based on predetermined estimated expenses," Shapira wrote in the report.

"It did not meet a single criteria for rules of proper management, and negatively affects the ability to conduct proper auditing and oversight," Shapira added.

The report had long been anticipated, as testimonies and allegations of improprieties surfaced amid lawsuits filed against Netanyahu and his wife by former employees.

One recent employee claimed that Sarah Netanyahu pocketed thousands of shekels from deposits on bottles, purchased by state funds.

The money has since been transferred to state treasury, but public criticism over excessive expenditure built up in the last several weeks.

The prime minister's office replied that only the Knesset (parliament) can limit the spending of the PM residences.

The Likud party, headed by Netanyahu, accused the report of being part of a media campaign aiming to overthrow him.

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