BEIRUT: Lebanon will soon transfer overdue telecoms revenue to municipalities, the finance minister pledged Friday, while calling into question millions in missing revenues.
“We are committed to distributing the accumulating funds to the municipalities and we will continue demanding answers and seeking accountability for those who neglected to grant the municipalities their lawful rights,” Ali Hasan Khalil told reporters in a news conference at his ministry.
“The municipalities should be confident that we, as politicians and officials in the government, will secure your right to access the funds.”
While 10 percent of the government's telecoms revenue is designated to go to municipalities, local officials have complained for decades that they weren't receiving the full amount. Successive telecoms and finance ministers have traded blame in recent years, with several Cabinet decrees being issued to release the funds.
Last year, then-Telecoms Minister Nicholas Sehnaoui said that some funds were still witheld after the Cabinet ordered $1.2 billion to be distributed to the municipalities.
Khalil said Friday that he was in the process of drafting a similar decree this year.
The minister said despite repeatedly requesting that the Telecoms Ministry provide the Finance Ministry with a detailed report about the revenues designated for the municipalities, he only received the report in July 2014.
“The accumulated revenues for the municipalities now stand at LL673 billion from the start of 2010 to the end of March 2014,” he said.
“From 2003 to 2009, the revenues were estimated at LL685 billion. This amount was apparently transferred as telecoms revenues to the Finance Ministry without designating it to the municipalities.”
Khalil said the Finance Ministry had no clue “what the amount was or what had happened” to the revenues that should have been transferred to the municipalities between 1993 and 2002.
He said that the amount most likely had gone to the state treasury instead, noting that the government was now indebted to municipalities due to the failures of previous ministries.