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Cesar Abi Khalil
Cesar Abi Khalil
The ministers of the Lebanese Forces on Tuesday slammed the conduct of Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil of the Free Patriotic Movement over the electricity plan that he has proposed.

But the minsters stressed that the disagreement over the file will not affect the political alliance with the FPM.

In a joint press conference, LF ministers Ghassan Hasbani, Pierre Bou Assi, Melhem Riachi and Michel Pharaon stressed the need to “respect the decisions of the cabinet and to return to it during every phase of the electricity plan phases.”

Stressing that they will take “the necessary steps inside and outside Cabinet to put things on the right track,” the ministers said their opposition to their ally’s conduct is aimed at “preserving public funds and supporting the rise of the state of law and institutions that this new presidential tenure had promised upon its commencement.”

Hasbani noted that the Cabinet had taken “a clear decision tasking the energy and water minister with taking the necessary measures, calling for bids, preparing the public tenders and briefing the Cabinet on all the stages in line with the applicable laws and regulations.”

But Abi Khalil “did not submit any book of terms to Cabinet and instead endorsed an amended book of terms that had been approved by a previous government, under which a public tender marred by several legal and procedural flaws has been organized,” Hasbani said.

He emphasized that the call for bids “did not conform to the legal standards – neither through the Public Procurement Administration nor according to the public audit law nor through the Electricité du Liban firm.”

“We insist on diversifying the options in the book of terms in order to seek the best solutions in terms of cost, speed of implementation, transparency, the applicable laws, and environmental priorities,” Hasbani added.

It appears that the FPM honeymoon is almost over

Minister Riachi tried to to define the disagreement as not political but only technical .

“We are partners in this presidential tenure and allies with the FPM and the electricity file is purely technical.”

Suspicious deal
The deal has become a huge scandal in Lebanon and is damaging president Aoun’s image

Phalange Party chief MP Sami Gemayel on Monday also slammed the proposed electricity plan, stressing that what he described as a “suspicious deal” shall not pass.

“We will not allow that the electricity file to be exploited and this issue is not for political gains and overbidding,” Gemayel said at a press conference, urging a solution to the power generation crisis.

He reminded the attendees that that Phalange Party had “exposed this file and its suspicious deals during the parliament’s debriefing of the government.”

“We have a problem with the principle of renting ships,” Gemayel said, noting that “the government wants to rent ships for three years for a cost of $1.8 billion while they can be purchased for a cheaper price.”

“In the public tender that was held today, it turned out that the firm which I had mentioned in the past is the firm that won on the basis that it conforms to the specifications,” Gemayel added.

“You brought two ships in 2010 and today we are in 2017 and you want to bring new ships after having promised us 24/24 power supply,” he went on to say.

His comments come after Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil stressed on Monday the “legality” of the power-generating vessel competitive tenders.

Abi Khalil who spoke at the beginning of the tender opening said: “The tender is perfectly legal and is carried out in accordance with a book of conditions prepared by the government of (former) PM Najib Miqati.”

His new plan calls for leasing three power generating Turkish vessels, instead of two already present in Lebanon, to supply the country with needed power before the summer season begins.

When Minister Bassil was energy minister, Lebanon leased two Turkish power generating vessels to make up for the the Electricite du Liban’s deficit, but power blackouts continue . Reports of kickbacks by the Turkish company to both Bassil and former Finance Minister Mogammad Safadi circulated around October 2012 in Lebanon .

Other politicians also slammed the deal

Speaker Nabih Berri indirectly described the deal as “suspicious.”

“A tender to lease power-generating vessels brings gains to pockets,” LBCI quoted the Speaker as saying.

Berri continued to say that any “bid and tender that does not pass through the Tender Department of the Central Inspection Bureau is considered suspicious.”

Similarly Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblatt criticized the deal as a a financial and monetary disaster if adopted.

“We (the State) have pledged to spend $2 billion to lease two (power-generating) Turkish ships from the same company that came with the other vessels, meanwhile we are able to build a power plant with an equivalent amount of $1.5 billion , equal to the annual deficit of electricity, that produces a capacity of 2,000 megawatts,” stressed the MP.

Revealing that he obtained the figures from a big contractor in a large Lebanese company in Saudi Arabia, Jumblatt added : “He told me that he delivered a factory with these same specifications and at this cost.

Lebanon is one of the most corrupt countries in the world . It ranked 136 out of 176 in 2016 . The public sector is the worst when it comes to corruption in Lebanon

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