Lebanese Parliament recommends forensic audit of all state institutions

Lebanese Parliament recommends forensic audit of all state institutions
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Lebanon is facing an unprecedented economic and political crisis with mass protest movements continuing since October last year. (Reuters)
Lebanese Parliament recommends forensic audit of all state institutions
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This picture taken on March 21, 2020 shows an aerial view of the Place de l'Etoile (Sahet al-Nejme) where the Lebanese parliament is located, with the government palace seen behind, in the centre of Lebanon's capital Beirut. (AFP)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Lebanese Parliament recommends forensic audit of all state institutions

Lebanese Parliament recommends forensic audit of all state institutions
  • Move is in response to Aoun’s request to audit central bank
  • Civic activists deliver a message to the UN Coordinator, holding Hezbollah responsible for the collapse of the state

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament discussed on Friday a letter from President Michel Aoun requesting assistance in the forensic audit of the Banque du Liban’s accounts.

The request overthrew the contract that the Lebanese government signed with the restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal to conduct an audit of the central bank’s accounts. This is because the Banque du Liban is reluctant to provide information to the firm as it contradicts the Monetary and Credit Law and banking secrecy law.

At the end of the session, members of Parliament endorsed a recommendation that “the accounts of the Banque du Liban, ministries, independent interests, councils, financial institutions, municipalities and all funds undergo a forensic audit in parallel without any hindrances and without invoking banking secrecy or anything else.”

The debate in the UNESCO hall reflected a division between the parliamentary blocs. The Progressive Socialist Party, the Amal Movement, and the Future blocs supported “a comprehensive audit of all institutions,” while the MPs of the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces insisted on “auditing the accounts of the Banque du Liban first.”

The division was reflected in two bills, one of which was submitted by the Lebanese Forces bloc, suspending the banking secrecy law for one year, to be effective from the date of publication of this law in all matters related to financial audits and/or criminal investigations decided by the government on the accounts of the Banque du Liban. The bill of the Amal Movement MPs expands the scope of the forensic audit to include “all ministries, institutions, departments, funds, and councils without exception, discretion, changeability or maliciousness.”

The Hezbollah bloc appeared to be the most embarrassed bloc among its two allies, the Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement. The head of the bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, said during the session: “We support the forensic audit of the Banque du Liban, and we agree that the audit will be conducted in all public institutions, and we propose to endorse the temporary suspension of banking secrecy.”

FASTFACT

The Hezbollah bloc appeared to be the most embarrassed bloc among its two allies, the Amal Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement

MP Wael Abou Faour said after the session: “President Aoun tried to hold Parliament responsible for the failure to conduct a criminal investigation, and Parliament responded by endorsing the recommendation to audit all state departments without exception.”

The Free Patriotic Movement opposed auditing the accounts of the Energy Ministry, which bears half of the country’s public debt. It insisted on auditing the accounts of the central bank. Secretary of the Strong Lebanon bloc, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, said: “The people of Lebanon have the right to know the fate of their deposits.”

Future MP Samir Al-Jisr said: “Hassan Diab’s Cabinet had endorsed the forensic audit and limited it to the central bank’s budget, profit and loss account, and the level of reserves available in foreign currencies. It was not possible to automatically apply the audit to all the state’s ministries, departments, institutions and agencies. However, with Parliament’s endorsement of the recommendation to include in the audit all the state’s ministries, departments, agencies, and institutions, in addition to the Banque du Liban, and turning the recommendation into a law, a financial and forensic audit becomes mandatory.”

Activists from the civil movement lobbied MPs to find out the fate of the money deposited in Lebanese banks. They distributed leaflets to passersby and cars, demanding the right to know the truth about the accounts of the Banque du Liban.

The security forces and a number of protesters clashed, injuring a number of those involved, and the Red Cross transferred them to a hospital in the capital.

Another group of the civil movement staged a sit-in outside the office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, in Baabda. The group delivered a message to Kubis declaring the civil society’s rejection of “a state within the state and illegal weapons” and calling for “the possession of weapons and decision of war and peace to be under the control of the Lebanese state alone.”

The group said: “Hezbollah, which controls the functions of the state, is the main reason for the political, financial, economic, health, and education collapse as well as the isolation of Lebanon from its Arab and international surroundings.”


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2021

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.