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Education institutes were forced to return no less than NIS 350 million to the Education Ministry in the last three years, after accounting sleuths discovered they had committed fraud, or been guilty of egregious waste.

The treasury's accountant-general initiated an audit of all ministries and found grave irregularities over at Education.

In one instance, a college reported inflated student numbers to the ministry and received NIS 8.5 million fraudulently, enough to pay for the operation of an entire school that was not funded by the state. The case has been handed over to the police.

The police are also investigating a school principal who fraudulently obtained NIS 1 million from the ministry by inflating enrollment figures and reporting nonexistent teachers. In one case, he reported that an imaginary teacher had suffered a stroke and stopped working.

Yet another case that was turned over to the police involves a teacher training college in which significant sums of money were found to have been embezzled, in addition to other incidents of corruption.

A company that supplied services in connection to the Bagrut state matriculation examinations inflated its bills by NIS 12 million. It returned the money to the ministry.

One local authority in the north of the country had to repay NIS 3 million from its education budget after it was discovered that it misallocated money and used it for other purposes.

In another instance, a company used money from the education budget to carry out construction on private land.

The Education Ministry's annual budget is NIS 23 billion. Of this, NIS 8.5 billion goes to pay the salaries of elementary school teachers, while most of the rest is used to pay contractors and organizations that run the schools, without the direct intervention or supervision of the ministry.

The accounting procedures carried out recently represent the first time the ministry has investigated the disbursement of its budgets on the local level.