Monthly Archives: February 2009

The paradox for truth; World Bank versus the Philippine Senate on “bid rigging” investigation

After the senators allied to the Arroyo’s administration bashed at the World Bank during the senate hearing, accusing it of conducting a sloppy investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding Bank-funded road projects, World Bank country director for the Philippines Bert Hofman defended the Bank’s investigation process as well as the reports (about alleged bid-rigging activities of Filipino construction firms) which it shared with the Philippine government was done in a “very thorough process.”

This is in response to senator Mirriam Santiago’s accusation of World Bank of “double speak” by charging corruption in the country but does not cooperate in the probe. “How dare Mr. Hofman say that there is corruption in the Philippines (but refuse) to give us at least the original document,” Santiago said.

Likewise Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez belied reports of sitting down on the case (Word Bank’s bid rigging report) during the senate’s hearing last Thursday. She said the 9-page  World’s Bank’s Referral Report was “full of restrictions” thus making it difficult for her office to conduct the investigation. Further she claimed that she did not received additional assistance from the World Bank after receiving the report. But the World Bank in response said “it had provided additional document to the Ombudsman and even offered to assist them in their investigation.”

And even if there’s truth on Gutierrez’s claim at the senate that World Bank failed  to provide her office additional documents, former officials of the office of the Ombudsman disagreed with her that she could not effectively pursue an investigation. They said there’s “enough information in the World Bank report to  investigate alleged “collusion involving a WB-funded road project.” Other people also  believe that if the office of the Ombudsman wants to run after crooks in the government, it could do so even with a simple letter complaining about scam like what her predecessor Simeon Marcelo did with “the Major General Carlos F. Garcia case.” The Ombudsman is a special prosecuting body that handles corruption cases against government officials.

In a statement released to the Philippine media, the World Bank said it shared to the Philippine government  “an internal document, the Referral Report—one of the several it has produced over the bid-rigging issue” so it could conduct its own investigation. While the Bank initiated the investigation “to protect the funds entrusted to the Bank,” the Philippine government has the discretion to investigate if there’s any of its own laws are violated.

World Bank further explained that it conducted the investigation and banned the involved construction firms to help safeguard the entrusted funds. The Bank had conducted “its own investigations under its own administrative rules and procedures.” If a member country however received a Referral Report and intends to investigate the case it could always ask the Bank for additional information according to the World Bank. In this manner the World Bank said it even offered “follow-up assistance to the Ombudsman in conducting her investigations.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson also perceived that the hearing of the Senate economic affairs committee led by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago was “orchestrated because of some obvious circumstances.” Government television networks were hooked up in the live coverage of the senate hearing. What was even more suspicious was when First Gentleman Arroyo who was also mentioned in the World Bank report “came up with a statement which “dovetailed” with the Senate hearing’s conclusion.”

As of now the Philippine government has enough body of information from the World Bank to pursue a case according to the Bank. But Philippine authorities still insists these are only leads and hard evidences are needed to prosecute a criminal case. In this case the general public is at lost who is telling the truth.

In dealing with the issue of corruption, in the “complimentarity” of truth (between the World Bank Report and the Senate’s hearing conclusion) it is not what one says that matters here but who is saying it. In this case, it is that the World Bank which has the upper hand if public opinion is sought on who is telling the truth.  

 

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