Probe into Indian health projects exposed corruption: World Bank

June 10th, 2009 - 12:15 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, June 10 (IANS) Citing a large-scale review of projects in India’ s health sector, a new World Bank report says it has helped it make significant headway in the fight against corruption during Fiscal Year 2008.

“The India Detailed Implementation Review (DIR) is not only about India,” says the report by the World Bank Group’s Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) which investigates allegations of fraud and corruption in Bank Group-supported activities.

“It has international implications and helps the Bank Group identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities in public procurement across its entire portfolio, to enhance the enabling environment.”

“In response to the DIR, and in light of the Bank’s strengthened the Governance and Anticorruption (GAC) Strategy, the Bank’s South Asia region and Operations Policy and Country Services (OPCS) have developed a health sector-specific governance and anti-corruption reform agenda,” the report, that was couched in the usual Bank officialese, said.

The report noted that completion of the review of projects in India’s health sector had led to simultaneous implementation of the 18 recommendations of an Independent Review Panel, headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.

Since the release of the India DIR, the Bank has started to make other INT reports publicly available, as recommended by the Volcker Panel.

According to the report, Protecting Development’s Potential: Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Integrity Report, the implementation of the Volcker Panel recommendations already has begun to dramatically improve the unit’s value to the Bank and the Bank’s ability to ensure that funds reach their intended beneficiaries.

“I am naturally gratified that the World Bank has adopted the recommendations of the Advisory Panel I chaired. Experience in the last few years has only re-emphasised the importance of dealing with corrupt practices around the world,” said Volcker.

As a result of the Volcker Panel recommendations, INT now has an early warning system so that information gathered during investigations helps operational Bank staff make informed decisions about affected projects, the Bank said.

The new Preventive Services Unit helps raise awareness of fraud and corruption risks; provides practical tools, training and advice to Bank staff; and conducts research to distill lessons learned from investigations that are incorporated into future projects.

With its Independent Advisory Board actively in place and the ongoing publication of redacted investigative reports on its website, INT has further increased its accountability structure and transparency.

The report also describes how the Bank holds wrongdoers accountable for fraud and corruption through the debarment of firms and individuals.

“The World Bank continues to take a strong stand against those who misuse funds intended for the poorest,” said INT Vice President Leonard McCarthy. “Already in FY09 we’ve achieved significant results, with four times the number of debarments we had in FY08.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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