Israeli diplomats in slum-like conditions, Comptroller finds

Israel's Embassy in Nigeria Photo: State Comptroller

Israel's Ambassador to Nigeria has complained about the rats and lice while the Ambassador to Brazil had to sleep on a mattress, the State Comptroller report says.

Some Israeli ambassadors and their staff are living in uninhabitable conditions according to the latest report by Israel's State Comptroller Yosef Shapira. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the body responsible for maintaining most of the properties overseas for Israeli diplomats. The ministry is responsible for 103 overseas representations and 147 other properties including 100 homes for heads of embassies and consulates, 21 diplomatic and staff residences and 26 other homes owned or rented by Israel.

All these embassies, consulates, representative offices and residences are an important part of a diplomat's work, which includes hosting parties and events. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Properties Department is responsible for renovating, maintaining and managing these properties. In his investigations in 2018, the State Comptroller found that many of these properties were in a dilapidated state. Despite complaints by employees, work is not often undertaken immediately to rectify problems, some of which create safety hazards.

The Comptroller says, "The maintenance situation in diplomatic representative offices is severe, and there is a question about whether homes without maintenance are habitable. In some cases the maintenance defects harms the ability of the diplomatic corps to fulfill their duties properly."

The report says that between 2008 and 2013, 31 properties reached "maintenance breaking point" that required immediate attention to problems. In 10 instances, a comprehensive renovation was completed, and in 10 others a partial renovation, and in the other 11 no renovation was undertaken at all. It was also found that in some of the diplomatic properties, employees had complained to Ministry of Foreign Affairs head office and warned about the situation.

Among the complaints was that Israel's embassy in the Nigerian capital Abuja has damp in the ambassador's residence, problems with sealing the roof, neglect of the homes of the guards. A representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who visited wrote, "The current situation is intolerable, unreasonable, undignified, and even embarrassing, not appropriate for diplomats and, worse than that, unsafe."

Israel's Ambassador to Nigeria himself wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Not giving enough importance to the embassy's infrastructures and the ambassador's residence substantially affects the functioning of the ambassador and his personal life. My life partner came for a visit and left shocked. She won't come back here again, not to mention the rats running around above our heads and the week it took me to get rid of the lice. "

The Comptroller stressed that despite the situation and even after the visit to the embassy, no renovation of the ambassador's home in Nigeria was carried out.

In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has admitted that the situation in the embassy in Abuja is 'indeed very bad' but that it is an old house and the solution is to build a new house, and the matter is in the Ministry's work-plan.

In the Ivory Coast too, Israel owns an embassy that is in a dilapidated state. In June 2016, it was decided to vacate the building so that the ambassador could live in alternative rental accommodation. All attempts to then rent the vacated building failed, among other things because of the crumbling ceiling.

The Ambassador in Brasilia, Brazil asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2015 to renovate the ambassador's residence where he lived with his family. The Ambassador wrote that the house was neglected, had problems with its electricity infrastructure, and lacked furniture and for six months he had been sleeping on a "mattress" and his clothes were hanging on a rail. He added that if renovations were not soon carried out the house would be uninhabitable. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the ambassador's request and responded, "At this stage we cannot approve anything. There is no money and we are only engaged in maintenance of what is broken."

In the ambassador's residence in Budapest cracks were found back in 2005 that were causing the building to subside. The matter was only dealt with in 2018, 13 years after the initial complaint.

The State Comptroller recommends that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should calculate ongoing maintenance costs and together with the Ministry of Finance adopt a work plan for its properties abroad so that they provide appropriate conditions for the country's diplomats.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 6, 2019

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2019

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Israel's Embassy in Nigeria Photo: State Comptroller
Israel's Embassy in Nigeria Photo: State Comptroller
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