The World Bank Group today reasserted its commitment to fighting corruption and safeguarding development resources, illustrating in its Sanctions System Annual Report how the institution maintained continuity in its mission to investigate and adjudicate allegations of fraud and corruption in World Bank Group-financed activities, despite unprecedented challenges.
The report, which is prepared jointly by the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT), the Office of Suspension and Debarment (OSD), and the Sanctions Board, is an overview of the World Bank Group’s Sanctions System and the activities of its component units over the past year.
In the face of historic global impacts of COVID-19, the World Bank Group has taken broad, fast action to ensure countries have the resources they need to face these challenges. In this context, the Sanction System’s mission to help ensure that these critical development resources are used for their intended purposes and to robustly confront allegations of fraud and corruption has taken on heightened importance.
Despite challenges imposed by COVID-19–related restrictions, by adopting and adapting to almost entirely electronic processes the Sanctions System continued with minimal interruption to carefully assess all received allegations, actively pursue investigations, and review and adjudicate cases for potential sanctions. Teams within the Sanctions System also provided additional preventative support to the World Bank Group to ensure that integrity issues were given prominence in the design and implementation of operations.
During fiscal year 2020, the World Bank Group sanctioned 49 firms and individuals. Pursuant to the sanctions issued, 46 firms and individuals were debarred, making them ineligible to participate in projects and operations financed by institutions of the World Bank Group. In addition, three firms were sanctioned with conditional non-debarment, which means they remain eligible to participate in World Bank Group-financed operations but will be debarred if they do not meet certain agreed-upon conditions.
The institution also recognized 72 cross-debarments from other multilateral development banks (MDBs), while 38 World Bank Group debarments were eligible for recognition by other MDBs. A full list of the firms and individuals currently debarred by the World Bank Group can be found here: www.worldbank.org/debarr.
Fiscal Year 2020 Summary
Over the course of fiscal year 2020, INT initiated 46 new investigations into allegations of misconduct in World Bank Group-funded projects. INT also submitted 26 sanctions cases and 22 settlements to OSD as the first tier of the institution’s two-tiered administrative sanctions system. OSD temporarily suspended 30 firms and eight individuals and issued sanctions against 19 entities that did not appeal their cases.
The Sanctions Board, the second tier of the system, issued sanctions against 7 firms and individuals that had appealed their cases. These sanctions were set out in fully-reasoned, published decisions that offer guidance to the international community involved in anticorruption and sanctions.
All firms or individuals under investigation are given the option of resolving a matter through a settlement agreement, which can deliver more certain and tailored results for all parties. The World Bank Group sanctioned 23 parties in connection with 22 settlement agreements. Each of these settlement agreements was cleared by the World Bank Group General Counsel and reviewed by OSD.
Each of the sanctions related to a finding that the firm or individual engaged in at least one of the institution’s five sanctionable practices – fraud, corruption, collusion, coercion, or obstruction – in connection with a World Bank Group-funded project.
In addition to investigating allegations of fraud and corruption, INT works to prevent corruption in ongoing World Bank Group projects. INT staff identified and worked to mitigate integrity risks in 118 projects, and identified additional integrity concerns in 32 projects. The team also provided advisory services in 53 countries and across 14 sectors.
Finally, the Integrity Compliance Office (ICO), which works with sanctioned firms and individuals to institute reforms in alignment with the World Bank Group’s Integrity Compliance Guidelines and to seek to reduce the possibilities for future misconduct, engaged with a record 107 parties. This year, the ICO determined that 18 firms and individuals had met the conditions required to be released from sanction and are now all eligible to again participate in World Bank Group-funded projects.