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World Bank appoints top expert to watch Bangladesh graft probe

Publication Date : 07-10-2012

 

The World Bank has appointed a panel of international experts to assess credibility of the investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) into the alleged corruption in the Padma bridge project.

Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), will head the three-member panel, said a release of the World Bank on Friday.

He will be assisted by Timothy Tong, a former commissioner of the Independent Commission against Corruption in Hong Kong, and Richard Alderman, a former director of the UK Serious Fraud Office.

A finance ministry official said the team will submit a report to the World Bank within a month.

The global lender has made the move as part of its steps to provide US$1.2 billion credit for the project.

"I welcome the panel and look forward to their findings on the status and progress made by the ACC of Bangladesh in their investigation," said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim in the statement.

"The Padma project is a very significant investment for the people of Bangladesh and we remain committed to ensuring the integrity of its implementation. This panel creates a unique opportunity for the people of Bangladesh to raise the bar on transparency, public accountability and governance."

Panel chief 60-year-old Ocampo is an Argentine lawyer and the first prosecutor of the ICC. He previously worked as a prosecutor in Argentina, famously combating corruption and prosecuting human rights abuses by top military commanders in the Trial of the Juntas.

The World Bank panel will visit Bangladesh in the middle of this month, Ellen Goldstein, country director of the World Bank in Bangladesh, told reporters at a programme in Dhaka yesterday.

Also speaking to the media at the same event, Finance Minister AMA Muhith said the government is fully prepared to cooperate with the World Bank external panel.

The announcement about the appointment of the panel comes after the World Bank on September 20 revived its loan deal for the project.

The World Bank, said the release, will finance the project only after satisfactory implementation of all the measures as well as receiving a positive report from the external panel of international experts.

The panel will share its findings with the government of Bangladesh. It will also advise the World Bank and the co-financiers—Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan International Cooperation Agency and Islamic Development Bank—on the credibility of the government's investigations

The finance ministry official said two World Bank teams will visit Bangladesh this month. One of the teams will introduce the external panel and hold meetings with the ACC and the government to decide on how the panel will function.

The second team will discuss with the co-financiers and the government about the new implementation arrangements of the project.

Meanwhile, Muhith will travel to Japan this week to attend the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund.

On the fringes of the meeting, he is scheduled to meet World Bank Vice President for South Asia Isabel Guerrero and its Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

The minister will brief them about the latest developments on the project and request them for fast-track implementation of necessary measures to make the fund available for Bangladesh.

Last week Muhith met top officials of the JICA and ADB in Dhaka. The two co-financiers have proposed some plans to the minister which he will share with the top World Bank officials, mentioned the ministry official.

The World Bank team would sign terms of reference and a letter of understanding with the government, he added.

Under the terms of reference, the ACC will have to provide the panel with full access to all investigative files, materials, documents and any other information gathered by the anti-graft watchdog's enquiry team.

As per the letter of understanding, the World Bank will have the right to exercise the full range of remedies, including the cancellation of the financing, if it finds that the investigation is not proceeding in a full, fair and expeditious manner at any point prior to the launching of tenders.

Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said, "As the members of the World Bank panel are professionally experienced and have strong backgrounds, I have no doubt about their competency."

The move will ensure a fair and transparent investigation, he told BBC Bangla Service.

ACC Chairman Ghulam Rahman said there would be no necessity to sign any separate agreement with the World Bank.

The panel, he noted, would not take part in the investigation. "Our law does not have any such provision."

The World Bank had cancelled funding for the $2.9 billion project in June this year citing it had proof of a corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian consultancy firm and some private individuals.

 

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