The auditing firm Alvarez and Marsal will now resume the forensic audit of the Lebanese Central Bank‘s accounts on Thursday, a statement from the President’s press office announced on Wednesday.
The New York-based firm had canceled the first contract at the end of last year after the Central Bank failed to provide the information or documents needed, all of which are required for the process.
The Central Bank, known as Banque Du Liban (BDL), had cited back then banking secrecy laws as the reason why it couldn’t provide Alvarez and Marsal with the requested documents.
Finance Minister Youssef Khalil signed a new forensic auditing contract with Alvarez and Marsal in September and is expected to receive an initial report within 12 weeks from the team’s first workday.
The audits are reportedly planned to cover at least five years, going back to 2016.
However, skepticism has risen over the forensic audit’s scope and abilities for some particular reasons.
Minister Khalil has worked with BDL since 1982, is considered a close friend to the BDL’s Governor Riad Salameh, and was the Director of Financial Operations for years, including the years under the audit’s scope.
And yet, he will be now overseeing a forensic audit of his own work, hence the growing skepticism among the Lebanese.
Parliament agreed to lift banking secrecy for a year in December 2020, giving Alvarez and Marsal a little over two months from now to complete their audit.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has stated that a forensic audit into BDL accounts is one of the pre-requisite for Lebanon to obtain financial assistance from the fund.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati has resumed technical talk with the IMF recently. He stated on Tuesday that his cabinet has compiled all the necessary financial data required by the financial institutions.
An IMF official said they were hoping for negotiations to start before the end of the year.