World Bank, India agree action against corruption in health sector

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Washington, Mar 14 (UNI) The World Bank Group and the Indian government have announced joint action against fraud and corruption in the health sector in the country, in response to a report.

The Detailed Implementation Review (DIR), which the World Bank and the Indian government made public in January, revealed serious indicators of fraud and corruption in five bank-financed health projects in India, according to a release issued here yesterday.

''We take these indicators of fraud and corruption seriously.

Working with the Indian authorities, we will take action against those found responsible, including debarment and sanctions against firms and individuals from doing business with the Bank, and disciplinary action against Bank staff if warranted,'' said World Bank Group President Robert B Zoellick.

''We will also apply the lessons learned in our projects around the world. Our focus is on ensuring that the people for whom these projects are designed receive the development benefits they deserve,'' he added.

Agreed joint actions include comprehensive procurement audits and performance reviews by independent third-party agents, strengthened procurement and financial management in the Ministry of Health, increased use of community-monitoring and oversight, and intensified supervision for civil works and equipment, and pharmaceutical procurement.

Following the review, the Bank has started nine investigations, which could lead to the debarment of firms and individuals from doing business with the Bank. It has started an internal review and disciplinary action will be taken against Bank staff if warranted.

''We welcome the Government of India's resolute commitment to eliminate fraud and corruption, and are pleased it has already started to implement many of the actions in the plans endorsed today,'' said World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

''We believe our joint agreement will not only improve existing projects, but will also strengthen the design, integrity, and implementation of future projects,'' he added.

The Bank intends to remain engaged in the health sector in India, to help strengthen health care systems and meet critical public needs, provide future projects including mechanisms to counter the risks identified in the DIR, the release stated.

Acknowledging the Indian government's feedback and concerns about the DIR process, and the Board discussion, the Bank has decided to implement the recommendations of the panel, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, to provide governments with 30 days to comment on draft reviews before they are released.

The Bank would create an Independent Advisory Board to advise on the work of its Department of Institutional Integrity, and is supporting preventative services to alert Bank staff to indicators of fraudulent and collusive practices by private firms, the release concluded.

UNI XC RJ GC1808

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