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Machnouk, Hamad spar over firefighters case.

Summary: Mayor Bilal Hamad said Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk's reprimand against him following an investigation into the deaths of two firefighters was "illegal," shifting blame on the office of the governor instead.

BEIRUT: Mayor Bilal Hamad said Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk's reprimand against him following an investigation into the deaths of two firefighters was "illegal," shifting blame on the office of the governor instead.

Machnouk had sent a "letter of reprimand" to Hamad and the Tenders Committee of the Municipal Council Thursday accusing them of failing to perform their duties which he claimed resulted in the deaths of the two firefighters, Mohammad Mawla and Adel Saadeh, in Beirut last April.

Machnouk dismissed two Civil Defense personnel from Beirut's fire brigade this week for failing to ensure the safety of Mawla and Saadeh. Machnouk's decision and the results of the investigation have yet to be made public.

For his part, Hamad said he was "perplexed" that the results of the investigation had been announced publicly without consulting his office. The mayor of Beirut said his office "rejects the decision of the interior minister" and "any repercussions that might result from it," declaring Machnouk's decision "formally void."

Hamad argued that Machnouk "has no right" to reprimand him, referring to Article 103 of the municipal law which states that the Interior Ministry may only hold the executive authority of a municipality accountable for violations. According to Law 67, the governor, not the mayor, is considered the executive authority of a municipality.

Based on this Hamad said he considered Machnouk's decision to reprimand him "illegal."

Referring to the reprimand against the Tenders Committee, Hamad argued that tenders had been called for communications equipment to be purchased for Beirut's fire department. The company that sold the Beirut fire department wireless communication equipment, such as walkie-talkies, was not required to adhere to a specific set of directives governing the use of materials in hazardous situation.

It is unclear whether the death of the fire fighters was due in part to a technical communications failure. Typically a call for tenders for the purchase of wireless communication equipment is accompanied by a "specifications book," which details the technical requirements of the equipment in demand by officials.

Usually this document is issued by the Office of the Governor, but an investigation in 2014, before the fateful fire incident, by the Beirut Municipal Council uncovered that the specification book handed to the company that won the tender did not include directives detailing the use of equipment in a hostile environment.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Date:Jul 31, 2015
Words:436
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