Improving Operations for Country Outcomes
To better serve our clients and partners, we continuously work to improve our operations, policies, and processes; to become a more effective and efficient institution; and to maximize our development impact.
The World Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework
The Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) became effective on October 1, 2018, and applies to all new investment project financing (IPF) operations with Concept Note meetings on or after this date. It offers broad and systematic coverage of environmental and social risks and makes important advances in areas such as transparency, non-discrimination, public participation, protection for vulnerable and disadvantaged people, stakeholder engagement, and accountability, including grievance mechanisms.
As we implement projects under the framework, we are enhancing our capacity and staff skills, upgrading operational systems, revising processes, and strengthening borrower capacity to improve risk management. We have issued guidance materials, templates, and other resources on key topics, including non-discrimination and disability; preventing sexual exploitation, abuse, and sexual harassment; use of security personnel; road safety; and third-party monitoring. The framework has also prompted dialogue with borrowers on the new and more explicit requirements, while new project processes and documents have strengthened transparency, accountability, and stakeholder engagement.
Since contractors are responsible for applying many aspects of its standards, we have integrated the ESF into procurement processes. Project contracts now reflect requirements for preventing child and forced labor, ensuring community and occupational health and safety, managing supply chain and inspections, and addressing sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment.
As part of our rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries and Bank teams have prepared emergency projects while maintaining the organization’s robust environmental and social policies and risk management standards.
The World Bank Procurement Framework
The Bank’s Procurement Framework promotes tailored procurement approaches for investment project finance operations. It allows projects to respond quickly to emerging needs and helps clients determine the best value for money to ensure quality outcomes and sustainability over the life of a project. By focusing on market research, needs analysis, and project-specific risks, including environmental and social issues, we help countries develop procurement strategies and plans that meet their needs and address the operating contexts of projects to ensure successful implementation.
The framework has supported our emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic; projects have adopted flexible measures for fast-track procurement while maintaining fiduciary oversight. We acted quickly to introduce Bank-facilitated procurement for clients who requested help in accessing critically needed medical supplies and equipment as the pandemic drove price volatility, long lead times, disruption of supply chains, risks to transparency and integrity. This option helps countries identify interested suppliers, negotiate prices and conditions, and manage outsourcing logistics, an approach that has been well received by manufacturers, suppliers, and governments alike. Countries remain responsible for signing and implementing contracts. As of July 2020, 27 contracts worth $105 million were signed or due to be signed under this approach.
We have scaled up our Hands-On Expanded Implementation Support for procurement, which helps clients implement effective processes, including for operations addressing the impacts of COVID-19. In fiscal 2020, we provided this support for 70 projects.
Our Alternative Procurement Arrangements (APAs) allow procurement through other organizations, including other multilateral development banks (MDBs) and UN agencies, as well as Bank-approved government agencies under Bank-financed operations; we have used these arrangements with UN agencies to respond in situations affected by fragility, conflict, and violence, including in South Sudan and Yemen. In fiscal 2020, 19 projects involved APAs with UN agencies and other MDBs.
Following implementation of the Bank’s Environmental and Social Framework, we revised all of our Standard Procurement Documents (SPDs) for Works to ensure that contractors hired under the Bank’s financing projects adequately manage environmental and social risks to protect people and the environment. We also enhanced SPDs and processes to help prevent, mitigate, and manage risks as part of broader, concerted measures to protect vulnerable communities and address sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in Bank-financed projects. In fiscal 2020, we finalized measures to further enhance contractors’ performance and accountability. And to support fast-tracked operations during COVID-19, we quickly developed a suite of streamlined emergency SPDs.
The Procurement Framework applies to projects with a concept note on or after July 1, 2016—thus not yet to all of the projects in the active portfolio. We closely monitor and evaluate the application of the framework at the project, country, regional, and global levels. In fiscal 2020, 44 percent of the Bank’s investment project portfolio (36 percent by dollar value) followed the framework’s Procurement Regulations for IPF Borrowers. By implementing a complaints module in our online tool for procurement planning and monitoring, we are now better able to track complaints related to procurement. In its first year, this resulted in a 52 percent increase in the number of complaints recorded. However, only 18 percent of resolved complaints were upheld in favor of the complainant, which suggests that we are doing well at ensuring fairness and transparency in our processes.
In fiscal 2020, we reviewed 2,072 contracts valued at approximately $7.4 billion and provided 890 days of capacity-building training and knowledge sharing for about 18,800 project and government staff.
To increase access to procurement opportunities under Bank-financed projects, we launched a free subscription service that provides alerts of procurement notices and contract-award publications for our operations.
Reforming trust funds for greater efficiency and oversight
Trust funds complement IBRD and IDA by providing financial resources and contributing to development knowledge. They support the global public goods agenda on key development challenges, including climate change, fragility, forced displacement, and pandemics; help attract new sources of finance; promote innovative financial solutions; and help the Bank exercise its global convening power.
The amount of World Bank funds held in trust at the end of fiscal 2020 was $12.2 billion for trust funds and $24.2 billion for financial intermediary funds (FIFs). Bank trust funds finance about two-thirds of the Bank’s advisory services and analytics, with about 74 percent ($14.1 billion) of total trust fund disbursements going to client countries over fiscal 2016–20. Of this amount, over $11.6 billion has been disbursed to IDA and IBRD-IDA blend countries. Contributions to FIFs averaged $7.9 billion annually, while cash transfers to implementing entities remained relatively steady, with an average annual transfer of $6.2 billion over the past five years.
The key focus of ongoing trust fund reforms is to improve strategic alignment, increase efficiency, and enhance oversight of this portfolio to deliver solutions for clients while providing the best value for donors. A key measure is the introduction of Umbrella 2.0 programs, which will reduce portfolio fragmentation. In fiscal 2020, the Bank’s global practices and regions reviewed their full portfolio of 526 trust funds and identified opportunities for consolidation: 70 proposals for Umbrella 2.0 programs will serve as the basis for the majority of future fundraising efforts. We also updated our FIF Management Framework to strengthen future selectivity by introducing a menu of options for responding to global calls for collective action.
Grievance Redress Service
The Grievance Redress Service (GRS) is an avenue for people and communities to submit complaints directly to the Bank if they believe a Bank-funded project has adversely affected them or is likely to. It was established in 2015 based on recommendations from an Independent Evaluation Group review of the Safeguard Policies. It complements project-level grievance mechanisms and ensures that complaints received at the corporate level are promptly and proactively addressed by fostering dialogue and applying relevant dispute resolution tools.
As awareness of the service grew, the caseload rose from four cases in fiscal 2015 to 225 cases in fiscal 2020. Complaints brought to the GRS cover a wide spectrum of grievances, including harm to people’s livelihoods, environmental degradation, and occupational health and safety concerns. Experiences from five years of handling complaints, as well as internal and external feedback, have allowed us to reflect on what works and what could be improved in the processes and functioning of the service. We are working to strengthen the GRS, including by establishing policies, updating systems and processes, and further increasing awareness.