The Finance Ministry did a poor job of overseeing changes to the defense budget in the years 2010 and 2011, says the state comptroller, in an annual report published Wednesday relating to defense issues.
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The report cited the ministry's failure to adhere to regulations designated by the government; it also criticized the Defense Ministry's budgets division for providing insufficient reports to the treasury.
According to the comptroller's report, the lacking Defense Ministry reports made it difficult to understand the nature of the budget changes, not to mention the reasons for their implementation and their implications.
The comptroller said that Israel's defense budget, which is determined by the government and approved jointly by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the Knesset Finance Committee, incorporates the defense establishment's annual agenda and priorities.
Compared with the defense budget, which mostly lacks transparency and oversight, the state budget comes under constant scrutiny from the Finance Ministry and is generally made public, the report said.
As such, the report said, oversight of the defense budget must be carried out strictly – especially considering that it accounts for a large proportion of the overall state budget (15 percent in 2010 and 2011).
However, the state comptroller’s report does note that, in 2012, steps were undertaken to improve transparency and oversight related to the defense budget. One such step placed a Defense Ministry budget division representative at the Finance Ministry, in an effort to help the treasury keep track of developments regarding the defense budget.
The Defense Ministry said in response: "Civilian supervision of the defense budget is extensive, despite the security clearance required for managing the Defense Ministry's budget. The Defense Ministry feels that oversight procedures and transparency have improved significantly in recent years.
"Defense Ministry and Treasury officials are maintaining an ongoing dialogue, both verbal and in writing, on any change in the budget. The failures described in the reports are insignificant and negligible compared to the total [budget] changes.
"Following the state comptroller's remarks, the security establishment is working to create additional computerized controls and it also implemented changes in the program in order to separate routine operations from [military] buildup."