NII Paying NIS 140,000 a Month to Lease Empty Building

A dispute between administrative officials at the National Insurance Institute in Be'er Sheva has cost taxpayers NIS 1.7 million a year - money spent to lease a structure that is not being used.

The NII has been looking for places to house its employees since the Versailles hall disaster eight years ago. The wedding hall's floor collapsed due to faulty building materials, which were also in use in the NII building in Be'er Sheva.

In response, the NII decided to limit the number of employees and citizens in its building.

It initially moved its legal department to one building, and put some of its public service representatives in a building nearby, where they have been since then.

Two years ago, the National Insurance Institute decided to lease a building next to the Registry Office in Be'er Sheva, at the cost of NIS 141,666 per month, for five years.

However, the NII employees, already upset that different departments were in different buildings, refused to move to the new building, and it has been vacant for the past two years.

"The lease money could have paid all the unemployment stipends for Be'er Sheva this month," one of the employees said. "It is the stupidest thing that could have happened, an empty building that costs millions of shekels only because the administration and employees put no thought into the decision."

Beyond the rent, NII management furnished the 1,500-square-meter structure, down to the modern plasma screens.

In addition, four years ago, the NII decided to renovate its original building. But early last year, the management decided to raze it and rebuild it instead, and to open the new building in 2011. Then, in came a new NII director, and he decided to reexamine the plan.

Meanwhile, the NII continues to pay rent for the building it is not using.

The workers say they are concerned that if the departments are split up, the move will be permanent, and cite as proof the fact that departments split eight years ago have not been reunited.

They also say that the division affects service to the citizens, and that the old building is in an ideal location, because it is next to the court house and other government offices.

"It is absurd for us to issue documents and then send the citizen to a different building. We demand that all the buildings be within walking distance," says Ora Ariela Alon, chairman of the worker's union at the local NII.

Meanwhile, the NII administration is preparing a tender to sublease the structure that is not being used, since it has been unable to break the contract.