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Rouhani Aide Attacks Watchdog Saying No Money Disappeared From Iran's Budget

President Hassan Rouhani (left) with the head presidential office, Mahmud Vaezi, undated. FILE PHOTO
President Hassan Rouhani (left) with the head presidential office, Mahmud Vaezi, undated. FILE PHOTO

President Hassan Rouhani's Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi has joined voices with other members of the cabinet to slam Iran's Supreme Audit Court (SAC) for a report last week that said $4.8 billion provided to importers disappeared.

In a new response to SAC's annual report, Vaezi lambasted the court for keeping mum about the financial activities of other branches of power and state-controlled institutions.

The Supreme Audit Court of Iran (SAC) is an agency of the Islamic Republic, supervised by Majles (the Iranian Parliament) and dates back to 1906.

Every year, SAC publishes a monitoring report on the government’s performance, providing information on financial flows and the implementation of government programs against the goals and targets set in the country's budget law.

The report on fiscal 2018-19 was submitted to Majles by SAC Director Adel Azar on Tuesday, April 14.

Once again, Vaezi dismissed the report as "inaccurate" and "biased", insisting that its publication was also "one-sided".

In his annual report last Tuesday, Adel Azar had disclosed that almost five billion dollars of the Islamic Republic’s money is missing.

Based on the official rate of 42,000 rials for one U.S. dollar, the Islamic Republic government distributed billions of cheap dollars among local importers to buy essential goods from overseas. Many of these importers are politically well-connected individuals.

The SAC report said $4.8 billion of the import appropriations went missing as no goods were imported by the recipients of the subsidized dollars.

A day later, speaking on the Iranian state TV, an angry Rouhani asked why similar auditing is not done about the financial performance of military organizations, revolutionary institutions and the Judiciary (all close allies of the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei).

Furthermore, several members of the cabinet also stepped in, echoed their boss’ comments on SAC, lambasting the report as "one hundred percent wrong". They insisted that, contrary to the report, not "a single dollar" has been lost.

Firing back, Adel Azar maintained on April 18 that Hassan Rouhani had seen the report before its publication, but neither challenged the content nor questioned the figures.

Nevertheless, Vaezi dismissed Adel Azar's remarks as unfounded.

"Immediately after receiving the report, President Rouhani called for a review, and further investigations. Nonetheless, SAC hastily decided to publish its 'incomplete' and 'one-sided' report", Vaezi asserted.

Meanwhile, Vaezi echoed Rouhani’s complaint about the "exemption" of other state-run entities from SAC's scrutiny.

Although Vaezi did not name those institutions, he was implicitly referring to the entities directly or indirectly supervised by Ayatollah Khamenei.

These entities, including the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and numerous so-called charity foundations in the clergy-dominated Iran are not accountable to any regulatory body and do not report on their financial performance.

According to local news outlets, the director and prosecutor of the Supreme Audit Court are scheduled to attend parliament's session on Tuesday to discuss SAC's recent report.

In the meantime, the head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary has also ordered an investigation into SAC's controversial report.