Lebanese Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Ali Hamie © Photo by Murat Gok/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Lebanese Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Ali Hamie © Photo by Murat Gok/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Controversial $122m airport project scrapped over procurement concerns

4 April 2023

A contract for a terminal at Lebanon’s main airport has been cancelled after public works and transport minister Ali Hamie announced it would not proceed with the contract over legal concerns.

The airport would have been Lebanon’s first expansion of its only international airport since 1998 and was announced while the country is in the midst of an economic crisis. In March, the government said Lebanese Air Transport would partner with Irish firm daa International for the project.

However, in a joint statement, a coalition of industry groups including Transparency International Lebanon claimed the deal would “open the door to corruption and nepotism and allow illegal use of public funds”.

The statement said the deal had not been competitive and was “flawed with a lack of transparency and futile spending”. The groups accused the Lebanese government, which has been operating without a prime minister under a caretaker parliament since November 2022, of intentionally misinterpreting and “ill-using” the public procurement law to evade conducting proper tenders for public works.

The groups urged the government to refer the deal to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) in the hope of stopping the project.

Jean Ellieh, head of the authority, confirmed to news outlet AFP on 28 March that “the contract did not pass through” the regulatory body as it should have according to the 2021 public procurement law.

Following this controversy, Hamie submitted the contract to the Court of Audit, seeking advisory opinions on the contracting process, with the project suspended until the audit has been completed. However, the civil society groups accused the Lebanese government of “marginalising or disregarding” the PPA’s role in public contracts, which they said was “contrary to the spirit of the law”. 

Hamie subsequently announced on Twitter that “despite the importance of constructing the terminal”, Lebanon would not be going through with the contract.

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