Aridi Lays Flood Blame on Safadi as Minister Refutes Accusations

Caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi accused the caretaker Finance Minister on Monday of obstructing the allocation of funds for public works throughout the country, including the cleaning of sewers ahead of the winter season.

“I reiterate that I assume responsibility for anything related to the public works ministry,” Aridi said during a lengthy press conference he held at his office after being criticized of neglect when roads were swamped with rainwater last week.

“I am in the service of the people and no matter what is said (about me), I will not change,” he said.

Aridi apologized from the people who spent hours on the roads when several Beirut neighborhoods and the capital's suburbs were flooded because drains were not cleared.

He also thanked journalists, reporters, photographers and their media outlets for following up what happened, saying “I accept from you everything even if they are harmful or are not right.”

Aridi apologized for not answering his phone when roads were blocked with rainwater. But he said that he hadn't been making appearances for a long time.

He stressed however that the public works ministry had no ties to the latest floods.

Aridi said that he asked caretaker Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi on May 3 for the appropriation of funds that had already been approved by the cabinet in 2012, before its resignation.

“Safadi reacted positively to my request,” he said, adding the minister approved them a few days later.

But on Sept. 2, Aridi claimed that he received a notice of non-approval. He showed reporters at his office the documents proving his claims.

“During the period between May and September, we had already called in contractors” to begin works throughout Lebanon, he told reporters.

Aridi said his ministry has until now been allocated in 2013 more than LL3 billion only despite its request for LL61 billion.

Aridi also said that he had asked the cabinet for the renewal of contracts to deal with rainwater on the streets.

But during a session, the finance minister objected, saying there had been a 2 billion embezzlement in the public works ministry.

“At that point, I asked Safadi if he was the thief or he was covering up for the thieves,” Aridi said.

“Safadi later apologized to me,” Aridi added, but he accused him of committing a series of violations when Safadi was public works minister before him.

But Safadi told al-Jadeed TV that the accusations made against him by Aridi were not true.

The campaign against me is political, he said.

“The worst thing is for an official to hold all officials the responsibility of what he should do,” he told LBCI TV.

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