India, World Bank to jointly probe complaints of fraud in 5 health projects in India

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Washington, Mar 15 : After an internal report of the World Bank found "serious" incidents of fraud and corruption in five bank-financed health projects in India to combat diseases like HIV, malaria and TB, the Bank has decided to undertake a joint official investigation with the Indian Government to unearth who were involved in the frauds.

The joint investigation would be carried out despite the fact that two previous findings could not detect any instances of fraud or corruption at any level while giving away contracts for carrying out the projects.

Although the Bank did not specify what allegations it would probe in, its board agreed to work with the Indian government to conduct independent procurement audits. The Bank said it would launch nine separate investigations that could lead to broad institutional revisions of how its programs are monitored and conducted.

"We take these indicators of fraud and corruption extremely seriously. Working with the Indian authorities, we will take action against those responsible, including debarment and sanctions against firms and individuals from doing business with the Bank and disciplinary action against bank staff if warranted," the Washington Post quoted World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick as saying in a statement.

Meanwhile, pending the allegations of fraud, the Government of India is also learnt to have referred three related cases to its central investigating agency, the Central Bureau for Investigation.

Published by the World Bank's Department of Institutional Integrity, the report reviewed funds for five projects, some dating back to 1997, to combat HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Some of the most notable findings involved programs aimed at preventing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, including funds for HIV-test kits.

The report findings released in January by the World Bank's internal investigation arm include possible bid rigging in a bank-funded program that may have distributed faulty HIV-test kits to clinics and blood banks in India.he report noted that five medical facilities in Mumbai that received HIV test kits from one supplier hired by the Indian government and paid with World Bank funds had complained in 2004 and 2005 of high rates of false negatives and other invalid results, reported the Washington Post.

It was also found that one supplier had won a test-kit contract even though the firm appeared not to have complied with technical specifications, had submitted apparently fraudulent documents and was not the lowest bidder.

ANI

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