Lebanon to ask consultants A&M to resume central bank audit

Finance minister says Lebanon will contact Alvarez & Marsal to resume forensic audit of central bank, a key condition for foreign aid that has hit roadblock.

BEIRUT - Lebanon's finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Wednesday the country would contact Alvarez & Marsal to resume a forensic audit of the central bank, a key condition for foreign aid that has hit a roadblock.

Parliament agreed this week to lift banking secrecy for one year, after the restructuring consultancy pulled out of the audit, saying it had not received information it required.

"It was decided based on the law from parliament and government decisions to contact the firm A&M to resume the forensic audit," the minister's office cited him as saying after meeting with the president.

A meltdown without precedent has crashed Lebanon's currency, paralyzed banks and sent inflation soaring.

As dollar inflows dried up, the central bank has used dwindling reserves to provide foreign currency for key imports - fuel, wheat and medicine - and some basic goods.

Suggestions of a looming end to subsidies have triggered panic buying and fears of rising hunger. The crisis had made over half the population poor.

"We have the capacity to keep the subsidies for two months," Salameh said earlier this month.

"This question should also be asked of those in charge of the country," he said about the subsidies. He added that lawmakers would meet this week to start drafting a plan.

Foreign donors have demanded a forensic audit of the central bank among key reforms before helping Lebanon out of the crisis, rooted in decades of waste and graft.