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A total of NIS 350 million was returned to the Education Ministry's budget over the past three years after accounting sleuths exposed several cases of fraud and waste.

The discoveries were made by the ministry's accounting department as part of an auditing program implemented by the treasury's accountant general in all government ministries in the past several years.

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 the principal of a school who fraudulently obtained NIS 1 million from the ministry by inflating enrollment figures and reporting nonexistent teachers. In one case, he reported that a teacher had stopped working due to a stroke.

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 examinations inflated its bills to the tune of NIS 12 million, which it was forced to return 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 used some of its education allowance 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.