The Daily Life of Kawther Salam
..: Millions of Dollars Buried in the Ground :..
July 28, 2003
Corruption behind the Scenes ? How the Hebron Municipality misused donations from the German government.
Who is responsible: the German government, the Israeli company "Tahal", the Municipality of Hebron, or the Palestinian Authority (PA) ?
The Hebron Municipality is considered as the first national organization in the City of Hebron. The Mayor is considered the first and most important person in the city.
As a one-time journalist in Hebron, I built a strong relationship with the city's organizations. I wrote reports about the academic, educational, health, social, economical and civil organizations working in the City of Hebron.
Our journalistic organizations are not dividing the roles between journalists. That means that the journalist should be a reporter for everything: politics, health, social and other important issues.
The city's Mayor, Eng. Mustafa Abd Al-Nabi Al Natsheh used to invite me to share lunch and other meals in his house. The mayor always invited guests to eat lunch in his house, while the municipality would pay for the food.
I always wondered why the Mayor invited city guests to his house when the Municipality has a special hall for such events? Why was he spending the city's money to buy food and take it home? I never found an answer.
On the 18th of May 1995, the Municipality of Hebron granted me a certificate signed by Mayor Mustafa Abd Al-Nabi Al Natsheh. The Mayor certified that "Kawther Salam is a professionally active and serious journalist. She conducts objective journalistic work without deviation or expression of partiality to political parties, movements or private inclination. We wish her luck with her future journalistic endeavours." (See Document).
Subsequently, three days later, on the 21st of May 1995, mayor Eng. Mustafa Abd Al Nabi Al Natsheh sent a letter to the Israeli Minister of the Environment. In this letter, he certified that I was an activist in the area who promoted the peace process and protested the many problems I faced at the hands of Israeli soldiers. He demanded that the Minister consider my case and requested the GPO look into the matter of my journalist's card, which was authorized by the Israelis. (See Document).
On the 28th of June 1995, mayor Al-Natsheh sent a letter to the governor of the Israeli Civil Administration, Colonel Goldstein, protesting against the Jewish settlers who had attacked me. He also wrote to the Palestinian American Congress delegation would provide me with a tour of the city. Eng. Al-Natshe demanded that the Colonel open an investigation into the matter and put an end to the settlers' daily attacks. (See Document).
On the 23rd of Sep. 1996, city mayor Mr. Al-Natsheh granted me another certificate. He wrote, "In view of your special efforts as a journalist, which you use to cover the daily political and social news of the City of Hebron; we appreciate your ability to describe the facts of how this city
suffers. We would like to thank you. We wish you the ability to continue your work as a journalist through freedom of expression and your noble mission". (See Document).
Demonstration because of water scarcity in Hebron. Asking Arafat to "Please send
Inspectors" to find a solution for the water problems.
Corruption Story No. 1:
European Millions Buried in the Ground of Hebron Without Investigation
On the 19th of May 1997, I investigated the issue of drilling artesian wells, a project financed by the German Government. The cost incurred by the PA was $1,700,000.00 for the first phase, and $8,600,000 German Marks for the second.
The City of Hebron is home to 200,000 Palestinians and requires 25,000 cubic meters of water daily. In 1997, a time of relative peace, the city received only 7000 meter cubes daily. However, the Jewish settlements would constantly steal the Hebronite citizen's water, and so Palestinian citizens would never receive enough water. The city water engineer, Mr. Imad Al-Zeer, implemented the policy of dividing the 7000 cubic meters of water between the people by pumping water once to each housing quarter every two weeks. Unfortunately, some housing quarters in the city never received their water during summer, as the city suffered a serious water shortage."
During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, the city's water allocation was reduced even further and Palestinians in Hebron received only 2000 cubic meters of water. The reduction in the water allocation was a deliberate military strategy authorized by General Dov Tzadaka a.k.a "Fofi", the Head of the Israeli Civil Administration in Beit Il.
In order to alleviate the situation, the Hebron Municipality was granted a permit by the Israeli civil administration to drill two artesian wells. The drilling operation of the artesian wells was finished in 1996. In 1997, one well pumped water but the other faild. My investigation directly exposed that the reason for this failure was the result of work delinquency created by the city council. (See article in Arabic: P1 P2 P3 P4).
The "vice-Chairman of the Municipality", the Municipal Mayor, Dr. Awni Al Zegaier, accused Eng. Tawfiq Arafeh of having the responsibility for the work delinquency on the two wells. He said: "the municipal council made irresponsible decisions by involving Civil Engineer, Tawfiq Arafeh in the supervision of the artesian well project.
They also isolated the qualified water engineer from overlooking this project of vital importance for the city.
He added; there was a clear delinquency of responsibility in the artesian wells project. This problem was apparently created by Eng. Arafeh, but for unknown reasons. Although the municipal counsel was responsible for this project, apparently they never asked Eng. Arafeh about what he was doing on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. They never required proper reports from him to find out which problems the project faced or to find reasonable solutions for the arising problems.
Dr. Awni said that the city council did not know anything about the work contracts and agreements between Eng. Arafeh and the other companies which operated on this project. All we know is that there were different companies who applied for the work, but Eng. Arefeh prefered to work with the Israeli company Tahal. Eng. Arafeh defended his position by explaining that he and the German government chose the Israeli advisory company Tahal to work with this project through the German Bank W.K.F. - the WagnisKapitalFonds , a German Venture Capital investment company.
According to our information, Dr. Awni said that Eng. Arafeh had signed an agreement with Tahal to examine the artesian wells and conduct pumping tests for a limited time of six months. Dr. Awni said that the normal period for pumping tests is no longer than two months, and even the company Tahal did not conduct any tests during the six months of work. It was irresponsible both from our side to keep silent about the problem and the Israeli company for its failure to conduct proper tests.
What did Eng. Tawfiq Arafeh say about this problem?
Mr. Tawfiq Arafeh the road engineer who was hired by the mayor to supervise the artesian wells project said that he never wrote any reports about his work for the city council. He stated that this was not his responsibility, but rather he gave them oral reports. He explained that he regulated the work between the municipality, the German Government and the Israeli company, Tahal.
Eng. Arafeh refused to answer our questions regarding why he preferred to deal with the Israeli Tahal company, and why he refused to work with the Jordanian Consulting Engineering company which matched the bidding conditions of the municipality better than the Israeli company.
What did the city mayor say?
Eng. Mustafa Al-Natsheh confirmed that the German Government had financed the city's artesian wells. He said they had paid $1,800,000.00 for drilling and $8,700,000.00 to purchase the machines, pipes, pumping machines and other equipment necessary for the project. After that, they accepted the German Government's offer to finance the final steps of this project. Both the German Government and the Municipality chose the Israeli company Tahal and paid them to complete the project.
Why the Israeli company and not the Jordanian Company?
According to the Mayor: Tahal Ltd. is the only large water development company which provides planning, management and supervision services for a variety of projects in Israel and abroad. It's part of Macarot Water Ltd.
Eng. Arafeh, who had refused to answer the question before, said "We were worried that the Israeli Government's Civil Administration would cause us problems and hinder the construction teams of the Jordanian company to reach the West Bank to work.
How much did it cost to pay the Tahal for pumping tests?
According to the Mayor, Tahal was paid $ 570,000 and the company promised that they would finish the works in six months.
According to other sources, the pumping tests would not need more than two months, but even so the Tahal company did not complete the pumping tests within the six months stipulated.
We also heard that you signed the pumping test agreement with the Tahal company without any discussion or asking the city counsel about his advice. What do you say about that?
The Mayor: That's not true.
What is the truth?
The Mayor: Everything was clear. We can't make any decision without the German Government who financed this project. We both chose to work with Tahal. Everybody should understand that nothing could be done without the German Government.
That means that the German Government decided to work with Israel in this project and refused other bids?
Finally, when the work was over, one of the Artesian Wells worked and pumped water but the other did not. The municipality claimed many reasons, which were related to a lower level of water in the soil, and other small things.
According to our sources there were some reasons:
1 - The Municipality bought defective pumping machinery through a qualified company.
2 - The water tests did not go in the right direction, and if there was a real shortage of water in the lower soil, that should have been discovered during the pumping tests in the area even before buying the pumping machinery which costed thousands of dollars.
3 - There were other technical problems related to the engineering. There was no qualified water engineer hired by the municipality to supervise the daily work steps of this project and discover eventual problems.
4 - The work with Tahal was recommended to the Municipality by the Israelis, whose so-called "Civil Administration" has a good relationship with the city engineering since before 1989. (See Document).
DOCUMENT FROM POINT 4 WAS REMOVED DUE TO DEATH THREATS AGAINST ME AND MY FAMILY RECEIVED ON 21.12.2003.
5 - There was never any real intent from either the PA or the German government to open an investigation into this issue.
6 - The official PA water team held a session to solve the problem after the artesian well did not pump water. They decided to raise up the well pumping machine by another 12 inches. They did that but the well did still not pump water.
7 - Tahal Ltd. postponed it's work for political reasons, namely the "Intifada", and it's pumping tests did not go in the right direction.
The official PA water team held a session to discuss the problem. They decided to raise the pumping machinery for other 12 inches. They asked Tahal Ltd. to do that, but the efforts did not succeeded and the well would still not pump water.
The city still lives with an extreme shortage of water, and the Israeli-Palestinian water agreement is since during the Intifada.
The German Government is not interested in an investigation which would force those responsible to compensate the Municipality of Hebron. This is because they chose the Israeli company involved in this matter.
The municipality hired road engineer Tawfiq Arafeh for this vital city project and isolated the qualified water engineer Imad Al-Zeer. The municipal council did not receive any reports from Eng. Arafeh concerning drilling of the artesian wells.
Eng. Arafeh spread false rumors about this project. He used to tell the members of the municipal council through the local media that the work was going in the right direction and the wells would start pumping water by the summer of 1997.
The PA was not interested in an investigation of the city council. The right arm of President Arafat in Hebron, Eng. Al-Natsheh, is involved in this issue, and nobody can contest that. The end result was that the Israelis were happy as they received the money for their efforts. Unfortunately,the Hebronite citizens continue to be the victims of this situation, not the PA or the Israelis.
My question is: Why has everyone, the German Government and the PA, stopped talking about this situation? Is this part of PA policy, or is this what the German Government wants?