Thursday, 12 February 2009

World Bank gets the blame

By Fel V. Maragay and Roy Pelovello
The Manila Standard

The Philippine government had tried to initiate reforms in the implementation of foreign-funded projects, but the lenders themselves blocked these reforms, Deputy House Speaker for Mindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong said yesterday.

Datumanong said he was swamped with protests coming from foreign-funders like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation after he issued an order that limited to 15 percent the allowable increase in project cost from the government’s estimate.

“But they protested. They wanted that projects awarded to contractors with very much high price,” he said.

World Bank officials have refused to attend the hearings at the House of Representatives to find out the truth about the alleged rigging of bids for contracts involving public works projects.

Reports said the Philippines is facing the prospect of a big cut in foreign aid because of corruption.

Datumanong said the report was unfair, as it did not name the source of the supposed statement.

“Why not come out in the open and substantiate it. That is too much and [it is] the height of exaggeration. We can’t even get the complete WB report,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Senate is demanding to get a copy of the “edited” report of the World Bank on the alleged collusive practices of certain local construction firms in the bidding of bank-funded projects.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairman of the committee on economic affairs, said yesterday that country director Bert Hofman sent her a letter promising to provide the Senate with a copy of the “redacted [edited] copy” of the report, which is being finalized by the bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency.

Santiago said Hofman informed her that he has forwarded to the WB main office in Washington D.C. the letter from the Senate protesting and requesting the reconsideration of his refusal to give a copy of the bank’s documents on the collusion scandal that implicated First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

“Your letter raises important considerations of national and international law with respect to availability of information in the context of the World Bank’s recent debarment of international and domestic firms on ground of collusion,” Hofman told Santiago in his letter-reply.

Santiago said she was informed that the edited report will have to be reviewed by the government through a designated reviewing officer, WB executive director to the Philippines Jorge Humberto Botero.

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