Beirut – The ministers of the Lebanese Forces (LF) announced on Tuesday that they will take the necessary measures at cabinet in order to put affairs related to the electricity file “back on track in order to preserve public funds and ensure the rise of the state of law.”
The declaration pits the ministers against those of their ally the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) over Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil’s electricity plan.
The LF ministers said that the differences between the two parties over the plan will not harm relations because the end goal is ensuring the success of the government.
During a press conference on Tuesday, the LF ministers presented their reservations on the bidding process in the electricity file, which they said was contrary to a government decision and violated legal norms.
The LF officials at the press conference were Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani, State Minister for Planning Michel Pharaon, Information Minister Melhem Riachi and Social Affairs Minister Pierre Abou Assi.
Speaking on behalf of the ministers, Hasbani said: “During discussions on the state budget, it was evident that the electricity sector was costing the state losses that have accumulated over the years.”
These losses have exceeded 20 billion dollars and are now a large part of the public debt, he explained, saying that there has not been a “solution in sight” to this issue.
“We have repeatedly demanded that a permanent solution to this crisis be reached by cabinet in order to reduce the budget deficit and provide electricity to the citizens at the lowest possible cost,” he added.
“The electricity minister presented a plan to tackle this crisis on the short and long terms. It was submitted during the first cabinet session that was held after the conclusion of budget discussions. The government took a clear decision, which called for tasking the minister with taking the necessary measures and procuring tenders and gradually presenting them before cabinet according to the rules and procedures,” he continued.
This was however followed by a procurement process that violated the cabinet decision.
He explained that no contract conditions were presented before cabinet, but the Energy Ministry adopted amended ones that were approved by a past government.
“This led to a deal that had several legal and procedural flaws,” he said.
Hasbani added that the bidding process did not abide by legal norms, whether in the management of the tenders or in respecting the general accountability law or the Electricite du Liban company.
He revealed that in his capacity of deputy prime minister, he had twice contacted the cabinet to rectify this situation, but his demands were ignored.
“We were therefore forced to take this stand before the public in order to declare our commitment to the need to respect cabinet decisions and to return to them during each step of the implementation of the electricity plan, specifically in regards to the current conditions contract,” he stressed.
He also demanded the expansion of the conditions contracts in order to find better solutions related to costs, transparency and speed of execution.
FPM Secretary Ibrahim Kanann responded to the LF by asking: “What is the purpose of all this uproar over the electricity?”
He said that the LF ministers should present their case before cabinet, which is set to convene on Wednesday, “but it is unacceptable for them to question our reputation.”
“The upcoming days will reveal that we are keen on reform,” he stressed.