WB rejoinder and New Age response

Staff Correspondent

Christine E Kimes, acting head of the Bangladesh World Bank country office has sent a rejoinder to the article titled, ‘WB Supported Health Programme: Audit finds $70m spending irregularities’, published on June 20 2014, claiming it contained a number of mistakes.
The letter claims that in 2012/3, the audit objections came to $25.6 million of funds rather than $70 million; that the World Bank did not play down ‘the significance of the 2012-2013 audit’; that the word ‘misuse’ was not necessarily appropriate to describe these irregularities as they ‘denote expenditures requiring additional information or explanation’; that the audit was not done for the World Bank but was done for the overall health programme; that the programme was not worth $3.1 billion but amounted to $7.3 billion; that the donors have committed a total of $1.74 billion and not $2.16 billion in the program; that therefore donor financing accounted for only a quarter of the national program, not two-thirds.
New Age response
The World Bank’s claim that the audit ‘observations’ amounted to $25.6 million and not $70 million is not correct and is based on only a partial counting of the financial irregularities set out in the audit report. The WB claim appears to be based on figures set out in a table at the beginning of the audit report which does not contain financial irregularities relating to eleven observations, the details of which are set out later in the audit.
It is notable that the World Bank did not dispute the $70 million figure either at its meeting with New Age on 23 April 2014, nor in its written response to the paper.
It should be noted that in rechecking the figure, New Age found a small mistake, and the audit irregularities dealing with expenditure amount to $69.4 million rather than $69.8 million.
It was correct for the article to describe the World Bank’s attitude as one in which it ‘played down’ the significance of the audit report as its officials stated that they were only concerned with 22 observations amounting to $10 million out of 97 audit observations involving $70 million worth of expenditure irregularities.
The figures used in the New Age article about the size of the programme come directly from the May 2011, World Bank Project appraisal document (Report No: 59979–BD) which states at paragraphs 27 and 63 that: ‘The estimated development budget is about US$3,334 million of which the GOB will provide about US$1,167 million and the remaining amount of US$2,167 million will be provided by the DPs (development partners)’.
The figure of $7 billion includes the government’s non-development budget (i.e normal health service running costs) which is not audited in this report and therefore would have been a misleading figure to have used in the article. Donor financing therefore does account for two thirds of the audited programme.
New Age considers the word ‘misuse’ as an appropriate generic work to describe the different types of alleged irregularities which are described in detail in the article.
It seems semantic for the World Bank to claim that the audit report was not done for the bank, since its contract with the government requires the production of such an audit each year, that it was sent a copy of the audit in a letter dated 31.12.2013 and that it examines the audit on behalf of all donors.
The article did make one mistake, as noted by the World Bank. There were 97 audit observations not 99 – a typographical error.
New Age therefore firmly stands by the accuracy of this article.

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