BEIRUT: Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and caretaker Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi Sunday traded blame over the delay in paying Lebanon’s annual share of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Mikati denied claims Safadi made to a local newspaper that he delayed the payment by referring the decree to the Audit Bureau first instead of the Finance Ministry.
"The office of the prime minister regrets to reveal the inaccurate claim by the [caretaker] finance minister because the PM ordered the ministry to pay the funds right after the payment decree was approved,” Mikati’s office said in a statement Sunday.
Caretaker Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi said in remarks to Al-Mustaqbal that he was surprised that Mikati referred the payment decree to the Audit Bureau for consideration instead of directly sending it to his ministry.
Earlier this month, Mikati and President Michel Sleiman approved the payment decree which is meant to approve the transfer of funds from the budget reserves to the Finance Ministry
"The controller of spending at the ministry referred the transaction to the Audit Bureau and the minister should have followed up on this issue with the administrative units at his own ministry,” Mikati’s office said.
The procedure to pay the Lebanon's share of the STL funding stipulates that Safadi prepares the payment decree and send it to Mikati and Sleiman for their official signatures.
Caretaker Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi and caretaker Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour must sign the decree as well.
Qortbawi’s ministry can then channel the funds to the STL account. Lebanon owes the Hague-based court nearly $38 million.
Safadi responded to Mikati’s denial, saying the Finance Ministry prepared the decree and sent it back to the PM’s office after obtaining the president’s signature.