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Iran Chief Auditor's Report On Missing Billions Angers Rouhani


A handout picture provided by the Iranian Presidency on April 15, 2020, shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani chairing a cabinet session in Tehran.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has lashed out at the country's Financial Controller's Office for a report which says his administration has mishandled the country's budget two years ago.

The report by Iran's Chief Auditor Adel Azar was published on Tuesday April 14 and charged that $4.8 billion of the budget has "disappeared."

Speaking on the Iranian state TV, an angry Rouhani asked why similar auditing is not being done about the financial performance of military organizations, revolutionary institutions and the Judiciary.

He charged that the auditing report does not cover the performance of "insiders" and simply reveals figures about "outsiders" including his administration.

All the three groups of financial entities mentioned by Rouhani are controlled by Rouhani's hardline political rivals at the IRGC, the financial organizations operating under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Judiciary, which is headed by his election rival Ebrahim Raeesi.

The Chief Auditor highlighted financial corruption in the administration, adding that the Rouhani government allocated foreign currency at the discounted government rate to individuals who either did not import anything and pocketed the money altogether, or those who imported things other than the essential commodities they were meant to import.

He was talking about a period when among other cases, Rouhani's Ministry of Industry was accused of allocating billions of dollars to merchants who imported luxurious vehicles instead of foodstuff. This was a time marked by an unusual decline in the value of the Iranian currency rial against foreign currencies, particularly the U.S. dollar.

In unprecedented remarks about the supervisory body affiliated with the Iranian Parliament, Rouhani charged that the Chief Auditor's report was "totally wrong," and "out of ignorance," adding that such "bad" reports should not create doubts among the people.

The Chief Auditor or the Financial Controller's Office have still not reacted to Rouhani's angry comments, but Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeesi has appointed a special committee to probe into the case of mishandling the budget.

According to the IRGC-linked news agency Tasnim, Raeesi has ordered the Tehran Prosecutor to start investigating the case at a special section, as soon as he heard the Chief Auditor's report during an open parliamentary session on Tuesday.

Adel Azar had said at the session that $4.8 billion out of the $31 billion dollars of foreign currency allocated to importers of essential commodities are still unaccounted for, as no goods were imported by those who got the discounted foreign currency from the administration.

He also said that only a small amount of the money has been returned to the treasury.

The Governor of the Central bank of Iran Abdolnasser Hemmati also questioned the integrity of the Chief auditor's report in an interview with the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) Wednesday morning.

He said: "We have told the Judiciary about those who have not fulfilled their financial obligations. So, the $4.8 billion has not been lost."

Nevertheless, Rouhani called on his spokesperson Ali Rabiei and the ministers of economy and industry to respond to the Chief Auditor's comment separately, "not just to defend the administration, but to defend the truth."

Meanwhile, the Chief Auditor had revealed earlier that the Oil Products Distribution Company of Iran, which is part of the Rouhani administration, has not returned 4,140 billion rials and more than $20 million dollars of the money it owed to the treasury.

The report also revealed information about the "astronomical salaries" of the company's managers.

The Financial Controller's Office is part of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) and its chief is appointed by the members of the parliament.

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