World Bank must leave its unethical practices
Given the government’s reluctance to disclose the letters that the World Bank had sent it about the ‘corruption conspiracy,’ thinking sections of Bangladeshis have reasons to take the WB allegations seriously. But the Bangladeshis also have reasons to question the WB’s ethical standard about its dealing with projects in the country. A New Age report published on Sunday clearly shows that the WB has displayed ‘double standards’ in dealing with different companies bidding tenders for construction of the now controversial Padma bridge. While the WB has accused the government of indulging in dubious dealings in the tender process, and subsequently cancelled its promised fund for the bridge, it has not taken any disciplinary action against two companies, one Chinese and the other British, for providing false information as part of the tender applications relating to the Padma bridge contract. The New Age report shows that the Chinese company, the China Railway Construction Company, provided the technical evaluation committee with a ‘doctored picture’ of a bridge that it had not built. The British company, Halcrow Group Ltd, which was taken over in 2011 by American company CH2M Hill, provided the technical committee with inaccurate information on ‘at least three of its key personnel in its bid to be construction supervisor. When pointed out to the Chinese company about fraudulence, it withdrew while the British-turned-American company did not although on queries, the company admitted that it had provided false information. The WB’s procurement guidelines allow the bank to take disciplinary actions, such as blacklisting, against errant companies indulged in the kind of fraudulent practices that the two companies have done in connection with the Padma bridge contracts. But the WB is yet to take any disciplinary measure against the two companies in question.
Again, while the government’s allegation against the WB that it had created pressure for giving business to a Chinese company appears to be baseless as another New Age report published the same day shows that one cannot say that the bank never pushes for its people/companies to get jobs unduly. Only the other day, as reported by New Age on August 1, the government was bound to approve the appointment of a ‘consultant’ to ‘assist’ safe disposal and recycling of compact fluorescent lamps although the ‘consultant’ ‘does not have any expertise’ in this particular area. This was done because the WB, financier of the project, wanted the man to get the job. Again, this is not an isolated incident. The WB, as reported by New Age on August 24, 2011, requested the authorities concerned in writing, on March 31, 2011, to give an opportunity to Isolux Ingeneiria SA and Samsung C&T Corporation to get the job of setting up of a 450MW combined-cycle power plant at Siddhirganj after the joint-venture company was duly disqualified in the bid evaluation process. The joint venture company had not only ‘failed to meet some major conditions of the tender’ but also offered a price which was ‘$40 million higher’ than another company for setting up the plant ‘with similar key equipments.’
Under these circumstances, we strongly believe, side by side with putting up resistance against corrupt financial practice of the government, it is very important to protest against the malpractices of the WB.
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