| WASHINGTON, July 15
WASHINGTON, July 15 The World Bank has systemic
defects in its procedures to ensure that people and the
environment are not harmed in development projects, according to
an internal review obtained by Reuters.
The global development lender is undergoing the first major
update to its social and environmental protections in decades,
which are likely to influence other international institutions.
Non-profit groups fear the bank may weaken its protections
to speed up lending approval and better compete with development
rivals, although it has said it aims to keep the safeguards as
strong as ever in its efforts to combat poverty worldwide.
But even the current management of safeguard risks has
problems, according to the review, conducted by the bank's
internal audit department.
Employees who focus on reducing social and environmental
damage from projects lack independence or incentives to do a
good job, and the World Bank has little oversight over how well
their advice is followed and how much money is devoted to
safeguards. The most experienced specialists are not necessarily
assigned to the riskiest projects, according to the review.
One employee wrote that safeguards are treated as a "check
the box" measure rather than an integral part of designing
The person's comments jibed with 77 percent of surveyed
World Bank specialists, who believed the bank's management did
not value their safeguards work.
The audit, dated June 16, relied on a survey of 138 World
Bank employees and interviews with key staff, as well as an
analysis of the bank's projects and procedures.
World Bank rules stipulate that every new project must
comply with social and environmental safeguards, after facing
criticism for displacing people and harming the environment with
massive projects in the 1980s and 1990s. But the safeguards have
not changed in more than a decade, and the bank in October 2012
launched a process to update them according to new global
World Bank spokesman Frederick Jones said the bank's
management requested its internal auditor to review current
practices as part of the update to its policies.
"We are assessing our staff skills, accreditation, and
management of staff working on environment and social
safeguards," he said. "We are also improving our data collection
and better calibrating our support to different levels of risk."
He declined to comment further on the leaked report.
The bank's board is due to hold a technical briefing on the
updated safeguards Thursday, according to an online calendar.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim just finished a major
reorganization of the institution to make it more efficient and
attuned to countries' needs.
Long criticized for a slow bureaucratic process for
approving lending, the World Bank has more recently had to
contend with greater competition for development funds. Many
middle-income countries, for example, can rely more on private
funding and bilateral loans as they grow.
The BRICS emerging market nations are launching their own
development bank and China is pushing a $50-billion Asian
Infrastructure Investment Bank, which is unlikely to have the
World Bank's strict loan conditions.
(Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by James Dalgleish)