World Bank Finds Fraud, But Won’t Discuss It

In a statement that raises more ques­tions than it answers, the World Bank and the government jointly announced Tuesday that the bank has completed a study finding possible collusion and fraud along with mismanagement in some of its projects in Cambo­dia.

The World Bank refused to re­lease the study, titled “Reduction of Fi­­duciary Risks Under World Bank­-Funded Projects in Cambo­dia.” It also declined to say how ma­ny of the projects studied have been identified as targets for inves­ti­gation of fraud or corruption, how much money may be in­volv­ed, or which government min­ist­ries or possible officials are suspected.

“The report will never be re­leas­ed. It is a confidential document be­tween the World Bank and the go­vernment. It is confidential so the government can develop an ac­­­tion plan,” said Bou Sarouen, World Bank country office spokes­man. “The [Integrity] department at the World Bank will choose to in­­­­vestigate some of the cases and if it decided on sanctions then a statement will be released.”

“We cannot say anything more than is in the press release,” Nisha Agrawal, the World Bank’s country manager, added later Tues­day.

The statement released by the bank says that “the study team un­covered cases of poor quality of ex­ecution, weak financial management and indication of possible cases of collusion and fraud.”

It does not say how many suspected cases of fraud have been referred to the Bank’s Integrity department for investigation. In August, it says, 257 contracts out of 632 were found to be of “possible concern.” Of those cases, 120 were studied in the new report.

The report focused on four areas: Flood emergency, rural in­vestment and local governance, road rehabilitation, and biodiversity and protected areas.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay said Tuesday that based on past experience, he does not think the World Bank will disclose their findings.

Son Chhay said that if the World Bank is serious about combating corruption in Cambodia, it needs to get the public and parliament involved in examining government dealings.

“By dealing in secret, they are playing the government’s game. In parliament when we ask government officials how they are using Bank loans we are told that the contracts are secret,” he said. “How can the public help the Bank fight corruption if we don’t know at all what is going on in this country?”

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