Mr. Osama al-Najjar - chairman of the Palestinian Medical Services Procurement Department - unveiled to Wattan News Agency, the Israeli authorities’ blatant theft of millions of shekels in medical referral funds. The Israelis deducts these funds from money owed to the Palestinian Clearing. In turn, AMAN (the national chapter of Transparency International) insists that the Palestinians should rationalize public expenditure pertinent to medical referrals, as a precautionary measure to protect public finance.
AMAN has already received a number of complaints against the Israelis with reference to this matter. Sources, whom AMAN deems as very credible, revealed that some Israeli public health departments encouraged them to obtain medical referrals for treatment at Israeli hospitals, to be paid for by the PNA. At doing so, they discovered that the Israeli’s decided to charge them rates in great excess of what they would have paid if they were to receive treatment without the referrals. This means that the Israeli side unethically exploits its ability to control deductions from the funds it collects on behalf of the PNA.
According to AMAN (a branch of Transparency International), this is a case of unquestionable corruption. It lies in the decision maker’s ability to forcefully impose a fait accompli to the Israeli side’s advantage and at the expense of the Palestinian public interest. The Israelis are exploiting the Palestinians’ lack of sufficient and necessary knowledge in this regard - an additional manifestation of corruption - as they are denying them access to this vital information. They refuse to provide any detailed accounts of the funds which are collected or those deducted. However, they insist that the Palestinians supply the necessary pertinent information and documentation from their end. This is not viable option for the Palestinians and it leads to the loss of Palestinian public funds.
In any event and when taking into account all criteria for the definition of corruption, the previous case can only be categorize as pure Israeli political corruption. In an earlier private letter sent to Transparency International (TI), AMAN points to the correlation phenomenon between the presence of the occupation and the manifestation of corruption. The occupation has been and is still centered at the Martial Law Headquarters and its Civil Administration in the West Bank. Nevertheless, this new phenomenon, concerning the theft of the PNA’s money, is a brand new form of political corruption.
AMAN shall continue to follow up on this case with Transparency International in order to oblige Israel to bring these thefts to an end. In addition it must provide transparent and disclosed statements regarding funds collected from Palestinian citizens, such as: taxes, customs, fees, fines and service charges.
In Mr. Al Najjar’s statement to Wattan News, he said: “We learned that the Israelis are stealing our money, charging us large sums of money, in excess of our real debt value owed to Israeli hospitals. Thus far, the sum of NIS 2,350 billion has been deducted since the initiation of the medical referral process by the PNA; of which, NIS 222 million were deducted during the period of Jan 1st 2013 and through August 31st 2013.
Among the uncovered discrepancies, Mr. Al Najjar included an audit of Israeli claims for the month of March /2012, which amounted to NIS13.8 million. The audit revealed an excess of NIS 4 million over the real value of the claims.”
Mr. Al Najjar accentuates that, “The Israeli hospital, Hadassah had claimed an amount of two million shekels from the Ministry of Health. However, the Israeli authorities claimed four million shekels on behalf of the same hospital, which is double the value of original the claim." He further explains how, in the past, the Palestinian Ministry of Health did not audit Israeli claims that were related to medical referrals. This led one former health minister to dissolve the Audit Department and transfer its employees from the city of Ramallah to Nablus.
According to Mr. Al Najjar, former Health Minister Dr. Hani Abdeen and current Minister Dr. Jawad Awad have mutually decided to demand the recovery of large sums of money from the Israeli authorities. He stressed that in order to achieve this, "the Ministry contracted accountants who are proficient in Hebrew. Moreover, it implemented a financial audit system to evaluate all amounts that Israel had deducted from the Palestinian Clearing. The evaluation process will be conducted retroactively, and as of the establishment of the Medical Services Procurement Department."