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BRIEF November 11, 2020

Corruption and COVID-19 Response

Governments around the world are taking rapid measures to address the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The World Bank is also taking broad, fast action to help countries strengthen their pandemic response, making available up to $160 billion in financing over the next 15 months tailored to the health, economic and social shocks countries are facing, including over $50 billion of IDA resources in grants and highly concessional terms. All World Bank anticorruption policies remain in place. Moreover, to ensure that this unprecedented level of assistance can have the most impact, the World Bank took extraordinary measures to assess risks and put additional mitigation measures in place. All new contracts financed by the Bank are now published online and are subject to higher levels of post-review.

Ensuring Integrity in COVID-19 Emergency Financial Assistance

In providing emergency financial assistance, the World Bank remains committed to maintaining strong fiduciary standards for operations. Under COVID-19 financing, the Bank is supporting governments’ efforts to be transparent about procurement and results. When needed, borrowers are applying emergency fast-track procurement allowed under the Bank’s Procurement Framework, addressing supply chain constraints, and managing the impact on non-emergency procurement and contract execution. When requested by Borrowers, the Bank supports these efforts with Hands-on Expanded Implementation Support (called Bank-Facilitated Procurement (BFP), in which the Bank helps governments access reliable suppliers for sourcing urgently needed medical equipment and supplies. While Borrowers remain responsible for entering into contracts and managing logistics, BFP includes support for countries to outsource the logistics, as needed. BFP includes significant market analysis, price benchmarking, due diligence on suppliers, and support to countries on risk management and contract implementation. The Bank maintains transparency measures such as publishing project procurement plans, contract notices and awards.

The quality, comprehensiveness, and timeliness of reporting, especially financial reporting, is a major consideration to incentivize transparency. Hence the Bank is helping governments in over 30 countries adopt international financial reporting standards.

Supporting Transparency and Citizen Participation

World Bank teams have engaged civil society organizations to help monitor COVID-19 response projects through Governance and Accountability Action Plans that build on existing fiduciary arrangements, while also adding measures to strengthen accountability, transparency, and citizen participation. The Plans require that the government publishes financial, audit, and operational reports online and communicates the benefits expected through the media, including social media, while also making key information available in local health offices. This also includes local consultations and monitoring by the community as well as a mechanism for citizens to register a grievance. The government’s internal audit processes will be improved, and oversight committees will include representatives from the public.

Enhancing Accountability

The World Bank is providing technical assistance to help over 70 countries’ Supreme Audit Institutions to improve the coverage, timeliness, quality, transparency, and dissemination of audit reports. A  note, Role of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAI) in Governments’ Response to COVID-19: Emergency and Post-emergency phases, provides advice on good practices.  For example, a public sector governance project in Mauritania is helping the Court of Accounts prevent the misuse of emergency funds and securing the country’s electronic spending chain system.

Controlling Corruption in All Bank-Financed Activities

The World Bank [helps to] prevent fraud and corruption in the operations it finances by evaluating these risks during project preparation and instituting risk mitigation measures as part of project design. During implementation, the World Bank’s comprehensive fiduciary framework and sanctions system works to ensure that funds are used for their intended purposes. Bank teams supervise projects and contracts to ensure value for money and that results are delivered. Where issues arise, additional controls and risk mitigation measures are introduced. If fraud and corruption are suspected, Bank staff have a duty to report these concerns.

The World Bank also combats corruption through administrative sanctions against firms or individuals that have engaged in fraud, corruption, coercion, collusion, or obstruction (referred to collectively as Sanctionable Practices) in connection with World Bank-financed activities.  The World Bank Sanctions System is a formal, two-tiered administrative process designed to protect the funds entrusted to the World Bank, while offering firms and individuals involved an opportunity to respond to allegations against them.

The Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) is an independent unit within the World Bank that investigates allegations and pursues sanctions for sanctio​nable practices in Bank -financed activities. Where the Bank's own staff may be implicated in such misconduct, INT's internal investigation unit ​​​​investigates those allegations. Anyone can raise concerns about fraud and corruption in Bank Group projects for INT’s attention by filing a report at http://www.worldbank.org/fraudandcorruption.

The World Bank works to ensure that its investigations and sanctions contribute to broader anticorruption goals. INT extracts lessons from complaints and investigations to better prevent corruption in future operations and, when evidence indicates that the member country’s laws may have been violated, refers its findings to the relevant national authorities. The Integrity Compliance Office works with firms that have been debarred to help them institute integrity compliance programs so that they may exit from sanction. The World Bank’s cross-debarment agreement with the other Multilateral Development Banks program ensures that sanctions have a powerful deterrent effect on the behavior of firms.

Helping countries build capable, efficient, open, inclusive, and accountable institutions.

The World Bank has worked on anticorruption for over two decades.  The Bank recently launched new Anticorruption Initiatives to reflect the global and local challenges countries face today as well as the new opportunities presented by technology, behavioral and political science insights, a growing global community focusing on norms and standards, and new partnership opportunities. The Bank’s  report Enhancing Government Effectiveness and Transparency: The Fight Against Corruption provides a global look at tools and solutions that are demonstrating results in controlling corruption.