World Bank sanctions two firms operating in East Africa

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The World Bank has announced the 24-month sanction of India-based SAI Consulting Engineering Ltd (SAI) in connection with corrupt practices during the company’s participation in three projects in Africa.

A statement from WB noted that the three projects include: the East Africa Trade & Transport Facilitation Project, Mozambique Roads and Bridges Management and Maintenance Project, and the Ghana Transport Sector Project.

The firm, SAI was sanctioned with conditional non-debarment, which means that it remains eligible to participate in World Bank-financed projects as long as it complies with certain corporate compliance obligations that are defined in a settlement agreement.

“The settlement agreement is between the World Bank and both SAI and SYSTRA, a France-based international engineering and consulting group that acquired 65 percent of SAI in 2014. The sanction is reduced in recognition that SYSTRA voluntarily disclosed SAI’s corrupt practices to the World Bank Group’s Integrity Vice Presidency (INT),” a statement from the bank reads in part.

WB has also announced a 15-month debarment of Universal for General Construction and Trading Company (Universal), a company based in South Sudan that provides general trade and import-export services, in connection with fraud during the Uganda Teacher and School Effectiveness Project.

A separate statement from the bank says that the debarment makes Universal ineligible to participate in World Bank-financed projects.

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“It is part of a settlement agreement under which the company acknowledges responsibility for the underlying sanctionable practices,” WB says.

WB notes that the project was designed to support the Ugandan government in improving teacher and school effectiveness in the public primary education sector. According to the facts of the case, Universal used an undeclared agent to prepare a false certificate for a bid on a school construction component of the project. The certificate substantially and falsely inflated a prior contract’s true value, which is a fraudulent practice. The company did not ultimately win the contract.

As a condition for release from sanction under the terms of the settlement agreement, SAI commits to developing an integrity compliance program consistent with the principles set out in the World Bank Group Integrity Compliance Guidelines. The company also commits to continue to fully cooperate with the World Bank Group Integrity Vice Presidency.

Meanwhile, as a condition of the settlement agreement, General Construction and Trading Company, also commits to continue to fully cooperate with the World Bank Group Integrity vice Presidency. The debarment of Universal qualifies for cross-debarment by other multilateral development banks (MDBs) under the Agreement for Mutual Enforcement of Debarment Decisions that was signed on April 9, 2010.

One component of the East Africa Trade and Transport Facilitation Project, which closed in 2015, was designed to improve trade and transport facilitation in the East African Community Customs Union through construction and management of border posts. SAI, which had contracts to build and manage several border posts in Tanzania, offered cash payment vouchers and gifts to project officials to expedite invoice payments, which is a corrupt practice.

The Mozambique Roads and Bridges Management and Maintenance Project, which closed in 2007, was designed to improve coverage and condition of roads and bridges in Mozambique. According to the facts of the case, SAI, which had a contract to do engineering design for a road, offered cash payments and gifts to project officials to expedite invoice payments, which is a corrupt practice.

The Ghana Transport Sector Project, which closed in 2018, was designed to improve mobility of goods and passengers and improve road safety standards in Ghana. According to the facts of the case, SAI, which had a contract to supervise road construction, offered cash payments and gifts to project officials to expedite invoice payments, which is a corrupt practice.

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Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

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