No Information on World Bank Bribery Allegations in Cambodia

More than a week after the World Bank blacklisted a Canadian construction firm over bribes allegedly paid in Cambodia and Bangladesh, it was still unclear Thursday whether the government, or the national anticorruption body, are investigating the allegations.

SNC-Lavalin Inc. was banned from World Bank contracts for 10 years after a unit at the bank that investigates corruption found mis­conduct relating to a bridge building project in Bangladesh and a $5 million contract to build a national control center for state-owned power company Electricite du Cambodge.

In an email last week, SNC-Lavalin senior vice president Leslie Quinton said: “The allegations for Cambodia relate to a bribe supposedly paid on a relatively small project we were awarded in Cambodia in 2010 and are no longer working on.

“No one has been named in the case and no charges have been laid on this matter. We are not currently present in Cambodia,” she said.

The contract was part of the World Bank’s Rural Electrification and Transmission Project, which was overseen by the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy.

Despite the World Bank an­nouncing the Montreal-based firm’s debarment on April 17, little has been said of the bribery allegation in Cambodia.

Eight different secretaries and undersecretaries of state at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy said that they had no knowledge of the allegations.

Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) spokesman Keo Remy declined to speak with a reporter when contacted Thursday.

The ACU was established in 2010, and has brought several cases to court.

The World Bank also did not respond when asked if the alleged wrongdoing at the project it funded in Cambodia was reported to local authorities.

Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said that the ACU, though it has the authority to do so, tends not to investigate cases unless a complaint is filed directly with it, even if allegations are published in the media.

“The ACU is given the authority to press on and do the investigation even without receiving the complaint,” Mr. Kol said.

“I would urge them strongly to take on big cases, and it doesn’t have to be after a complaint is submitted.”

In September, the ACU said it had investigated about 30 percent of the 800 or so cases it had received in the first nine months of 2012.

“The ACU has so many cases on their hands at the moment that they’ve not been able to investigate [them all]. Adding the new cases is not the priority,” Mr. Kol said.

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