IMF underscores need for audit of Lebanese central bank

FILE PHOTO: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington, U.S, September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday its discussions with Lebanese authorities are focused on the need for an accounting and financial audit of the balance sheet of the country’s central bank to help assess its assets and liabilities.

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told reporters such an audit would also help assess the central bank’s financing of government operations and its “financial engineering” of its own net worth, key elements to understanding past losses.

Italy has joined France in pressing Lebanon to rebuild trust between its people and institutions and institute reforms to end decades of state corruption and mismanagement, moves aimed at clearing the way for international aid.

Lebanon had launched talks with the IMF in May but those discussions stalled in July as the government argued with the political parties and banks about the scale of losses in the banking system, which had help fund a mountain of public debt.

A reform roadmap outlined by France calls for Lebanon’s new government to implement an IMF-approved capital control law, start auditing the central bank and launch reforms to the electricity sector.

Rice told a regular briefing that the Lebanese finance minister had recently signed financial and forensic audits of the central bank.

He said IMF officials had also offered Lebanese authorities technical assistance to help face some of the challenges following the Aug. 4 explosion at the Beirut port that killed about 190 people and caused $4.6 billion in damages.

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Writing by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Richard Chang