Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov flouted regulations by funding a student festival in Eilat with NIS 1 million, Channel 10's investigative program "Hamakor" alleged yesterday.
The program said a close friend of the minister worked for the company that produced the festival.
The festival was produced by Julia Rot, a close friend of Misezhnikov, who worked for Peles, a company owned jointly by the College of Management and their student union.
"Hamakor" broadcaster Raviv Drucker said Rot was hired by Peles to produce the Eilat festival for NIS 60,000 plus VAT for six months. She also took part in discussions about the festival at the Tourism Ministry.
The budget allocated for the festival was transferred in breach of the ministry's regulations, the program said. The regulations stipulate this sort of fund request must be submitted at least six months prior to the event, while the request for this festival was submitted six weeks ahead of time.
Regulations stipulate that at least 20,000 people must take part in a ministry-funded event while the festival organizers said participants would total 6,000.
A letter from the student union said 5,000 Israeli students and 550 foreign students took part in the festival.
The Tourism Ministry was supposed to take part only in the festival's marketing expenses, not its production, regulations say. But the program said the ministry had financed bringing the Mashina and Tislam rock bands to the festival.
The tenders committee approved the deal with the student union and did not publish it as required by law, because the union is recognized as a single supplier, the program said. However, the festival was not produced directly by the students union but by Peles, "Hamakor" said.
A representative of Peles promised, before the issue was passed on to the tenders' committee, that numerous foreign students would come for the festival. She said organizations such as Taglit, the World Union of Jewish Students and the European Students Union would bring students from abroad to Eilat.
However, the three organizations denied having anything to do with the festival, saying they did not send students to Eilat, the program said.
Peles set the event's estimated cost at NIS 5 million. The Tourism Ministry's legal adviser said the ministry would foot 20 percent - NIS 936,000 - of the cost, as the tenders law stipulates the ministry may not finance the entire festival and at least half must be put up by the entrepreneurs.
"Hamakor" said the festival cost some NIS 700,000. Since neither the Eilat municipality nor the student union took part in the financing, the festival was fully financed by the Tourism ministry, "Hamakor" said.
Misezhnikov said the festival was roundly supported by the ministry's staff. "The ministry's legal adviser, director general and deputy directors general all took part in the professional debates, which were conducted openly in keeping with the law and all the rules," he said. "The minister was not involved in authorizing or organizing the project. The ministry is satisfied with the results of the festival and will continue supporting it and others nationwide as long as they fulfill the professional tourism criteria."
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