The Times (UK)
March 17, 2004
The following is an extract from an opinion editorial by the business editor for the Times (UK). For the full article, please see: “The Key Word is Failure, Ms. Kelly”.
This week has seen the opening of a £5 billion multinational dam project in tiny Lesotho, in southern Africa, that has already become more famous for exposing bribery than delivering water.
The project’s local boss has been imprisoned for 15 years. Several international construction and consultancy firms have already been convicted of corruption and others charged. Typically, they contend that new managers cannot be held responsible for the past or that they did not know that contributions paid to Lesotho agents would be used for bribes. The World Bank has, at the behest of the judge, agreed to reopen a case against Acres International, one of the first convicted, with the implied threat of blacklisting it for World Bank projects.
Harsh action may be justified but does not solve the “when in Rome” problem. If matters are ambiguous in the upright heart of Europe, the World Bank would have to boycott countries where corruption is endemic to have much impact.