Lebanon signs contract for central bank forensic audit

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BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanon’s new finance minister on Friday signed a contract with a New York-based company to conduct a forensic audit of the country’s central bank, a key request by the international community to restore confidence in the country hit by the crisis.

Alvarez & Marsal withdrew from an earlier deal late last year, complaining that after months of work he was unable to get the information he needed to conduct his business. audit. The pullout was a blow to calls for accountability in the country mired in decades of corruption that many see as one of the main reasons for the economic collapse.

A forensic audit was a key request from the International Monetary Fund and international donors who said they would not give money to Lebanon without major reforms to tackle corruption and widespread waste in the institutions of the world. ‘State. Meeting the demand was complicated by an internal power struggle between different groups in Lebanon who disagreed over the extent of the financial problem and who is to blame.

Lebanon, meanwhile, struggled without a fully functioning government for more than a year amid one of the world’s worst economic and financial crises. A caretaker government urged a forensic audit after the country defaulted to repay its massive debt for the first time in 2020.

A new government was appointed earlier this month and the reinstatement of the forensic audit was virtually the first contract signed by Finance Minister Youssef El Khalil. A former head of the central bank since 1982, El Khalil was the last executive director of the central bank’s financial operations department. According to his curriculum vitae, the position enabled him to participate in the formulation of the bank’s contribution to the reform programs for Lebanon.

El Khalil’s office said the company would report 12 weeks after starting its audit. No date has been given for their start.

The country’s current economic and financial crisis, considered by the World Bank to be one of the worst in the world for the past 150 years, is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement. The tiny country of 6 million people, including Syrian refugees, struggles with fuel, medicine and basic commodity shortages as foreign supplies dwindle and the economy shrinks.

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