President Michael Aoun announced on Wednesday that “without solving the issue of forensic audit, Lebanon can not agree with countries wishing to assist it, nor with the IMF or any similar financial body.”
However, the president has pledged to revive the audit, blaming “interest-driven roadblocks” for derailing it and saying it is needed so Lebanon does not become a “failed state in the eyes of the international community”.
“The letter to parliament on forensic audit is completely independent from political conflicts because it is aimed at addressing a major national tragedy,” Aoun said during a meeting with caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm.
Urging local media to handle this issue “responsibly”, Aoun emphasized that the forensic audit is a national matter that might be the best way to salvage the Lebanese economy.
Aoun’s attempts to gain back the forensic audit might possibly go in vain, as the restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) confirmed on Thursday that it had withdrawn from a forensic audit of Lebanon’s central bank since it did not receive the information required to carry out the task.
The decision, first announced by Lebanon’s caretaker finance minister on November 20th, is a blow to Lebanon as the audit is a key demand of foreign donors to help it exit a financial meltdown, the country’s worst crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
“Due to the insufficient provision of information, A&M is unable to complete its review,” the consultancy said. It also revealed that “the Ministry of Finance and Banque du Liban confirmed that the information A&M requested would not be forthcoming in the near future.”
Its decision came after the finance minister had on November 5th announced a three-month extension to secure the data required after the central bank declined to hand over all the information, citing bank secrecy rules.
The audit is the main demand for the International Monetary Fund, which talks with the caretaker government stalled over inaction on reforms to tackle endemic corruption and waste.