Aoun Urges Cooperation on Forensic Audit in Letter to Parliament
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday addressed a letter to parliament through Speaker Nabih Berri.
In the letter, Aoun urges lawmakers to “cooperate with the executive authority to enable the state to conduct a forensic audit of Banque du Liban’s accounts.”
“This audit, with all its international standards, should apply to all of the state’s administrations to achieve the needed reform and implement the aid programs which Lebanon needs in its current and suffocating situation,” the president added.
He warned that failure to carry out the forensic audit might turn Lebanon into a “rogue or failed state” in the eyes of the international community.
Aoun also cautioned of the “dangerous repercussions” that might result from “the Lebanese state’s failure to enforce accountability,” noting that financial waste and corruption have “destroyed private and public funds alike.”
Caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni had announced Friday that a New-York-based company contracted by the Lebanese government to conduct the forensic audit had decided to pull out of the deal because it was not able to acquire requested information and documents.
The announcement by Alvarez & Marsal deals a major blow to those hoping for accountability in a country mired in corruption and a crippling economic and financial crisis. A forensic audit has been a key demand by the International Monetary Fund and international donors who have said that they will not give money to Lebanon before major reforms are implemented to fight corruption and widespread waste in state institutions.
Wazni added that the Lebanese government had recently asked the company to stay for another three months in order for the state to provide it with all the information and documents needed.
"I was surprised when I received their statement," Wazni said, adding that Alvarez & Marsal agreed last week to give the Lebanese state three more months. "I find it odd. They should not have accepted the extension last week," he said.
Wazni added that work has been underway to amend the banking secrecy law in order to facilitate the work of the New York-based company. He said legislators have started preparing draft laws and that the government was also working to amend the banking secrecy laws for Alvarez & Marsal.
The banking secrecy laws, once a mainstay of Lebanon's banking system, had attracted clients from around the Arab world who prized the anonymity its banks offered.