Aday before the World Bank’s board of executive directors meets in Washington, DC, to review its findings of corruption in five health projects, India is insisting the global aid agency acknowledge that a recent detailed report pointing to fraud and corruption is “one-sided”, “unfair” and full of “wrong findings”.
Claiming that the report had done “irreparable damage” to the credibility of India’s health programmes, potentially making future fund-raising and implementation difficult, the ministry of health and family welfare wants the World Bank to admit that its detailed implementation review, or DIR, of the Indian projects, which it funded to the tune of some $570 million, or more than Rs2,300 crore at today’s rates, had inaccuracies.
“We are hoping for a balanced outcome. We want the bank board to recognize that the report is one-sided (and) unfair; and make a public statement saying these were wrong findings,” Naresh Dayal, secretary of the health ministry, told Mint in an interview.
The World Bank building in Washington, DC. India is insisting the global aid agency acknowledge that a recent detailed report pointing to fraud and corruption is ‘one-sided’ and ‘unfair’
Dayal had said such reports discredit national programmes, such as those on tuberculosis, which is lauded as one among successful disease-control initiatives in the world with a cure rate of 85% and detection rate of 70%.
Responding to the stinging criticism from India, which is one of its largest borrowers, the World Bank agreed late on Wednesday that including New Delhi’s views in the DIR would have made the review more robust.
But the bank stuck to its core point of corruption in Indian health projects. “...even if all of the GoI (government of India) comments were accepted, there are still serious indicators of both fraud and corruption in the health sector in India, which both parties agree need to be addressed,” it said.
“The bank recognizes that the DIR report would have been a stronger document if GoI had been given an opportunity to provide its comments on the report before it was issued,” a spokesman for the bank said in an email response to Mint queries. “The bank also recognizes that the DIR could have better recognized the positive development impacts that these projects have had, and the actions that GoI has already taken over the last few years to address the risks identified in the DIR.”
The bank’s board is expected to discuss the DIR report, the Indian response and a proposed “joint action plan” to tighten systems and processes in future in Thursday’s meeting, postponed from Tuesday.
The DIR had found “significant indicators of fraud and corruption in all five” projects spanning control of malaria, AIDS/HIV and tuberculosis, a health project in Orissa, and a programme to improve the quality and safety of food and drugs.
The Indian government had agreed to a joint action plan with the World Bank early this year, which will include measures to increase transparency through Web publication of all procurement processes, bidding and contract awards, social audits, tighter scrutiny of non-government organizations and on procurement controls to catch collusive bidding. Three projects in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have been given to Central Bureau of Investigation.
Dayal doesn’t see the action plan as a contradiction to India’s stance on the report. “These are systemic improvements, some of which were introduced before the DIR and some after. We have an allocation of Rs16,000 crore for the health sector and not more than 10% comes through external funding. We are doing all this due diligence for the 90% of the money we pay out of our pocket,” he said.
The World Bank report, meanwhile, has made some international donors jittery. Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is planning to review its programmes in India, where it has given out 13 grants worth $491 million and is awaiting the detailed study of the World Bank for further direction, said Nicolas Demey, communications officer with the Geneva-based Fund.