Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu − whose tastes run to expensive cigars and premium pistachio ice cream − has his daily, taxpayer-funded food shopping done at discount grocery chain Rami Levy.
TheMarker has found that the Prime Minister’s Residence has been buying food and other household products at the cut-rate chain since last December, in a temporary arrangement that has now been extended to the end of the year.
All told, the PM’s residence in Jerusalem will probably run up a bill of NIS 100,000 with the supermarket over the 13-month run of the agreement.
Rami Levy, the chairman of the chain that bears his name, is a public backer of Likud. Last December, his company was chosen to supply the Prime Minister’s Residence with groceries. In the ensuing five months, the residence ran up a tab of NIS 50,000 at the supermarket, according to government documents.
An official tender for the supply contract was published in January, but the winner has not yet been announced. In the meantime, the Prime Minister’s Office recently applied to the government tenders committee for an exemption that lets it extend the contract with Rami Levy from May until the end of the year for groceries costing up to NIS 40,000.
In the application, the office offered the same reasons given by ordinary shoppers who patronize the chain − it has the lowest prices. “After examining prices at other chains, we found that for reasons of [price] savings, the contract with supplier Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma could be extended,” the official request said.
Considered a Likud stalwart, Levy was to be named on a special “100 days team” to formulate the new government’s policies, Netanyahu declared during the last election. The team, however, was never assembled.
An analysis of the request shows that the monthly purchases between December 2012 and April 2013 averaged NIS 12,000. The request for the extension estimates the month average at NIS 5,000.
About two months ago an exemption was given for a tender to purchase ice cream for the Prime Minister’s Residence at an annual cost of NIS 10,000 from the Glida Metudela ice cream parlor, one of whose proprietors had been the hairdresser of the prime minister’s wife, Sara. The story sparked widespread public criticism, prompting the premier to end the arrangement.
The government foots the bill for household costs at the prime minister’s official home on Balfour Street in Jerusalem, and covers some expenses of his private home in Caesarea. Last year, the budget for the Prime Minister’s Residence was increased to NIS 3.3 million, from about NIS 2.2 million in 2011.