World Bank retaliates against Parliamentary Whistleblower

World Bank retaliates against Parliamentary Whistleblower

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Vahan Hovhanissian's Personal Whistleblower

In September 2003, the Armenian Parliament established an ‘Ad-Hoc’ Commission, and gave it a year to determine how effectively Armenia had used the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of credits, grants and humanitarian assistance it had received since independence in 1991. Mr. Vahan Hovhanessian, one of the two Deputy Speakers of Parliament was Head of Commission and nine Deputies were elected as Commission Members.

The Head of Commission invited a British associate and long-time resident in Armenia to head a small team of Armenian specialists, who would gather publicly available information about credits, grants and humanitarian assistance. The information was to be registered in a specially designed computer database and the Commission Members were to determine a method to evaluate the effective use of the funds.

In January 2004, because of the ongoing and Alarming Increase in the Level of Corruption in Armenia, the Head of Commission decided to re-direct the effort, from gathering and studying data, to in-depth studies of selected projects.

He instructed the Senior Specialist to study the Municipal Development Project, a $35 million World Bank project to improve water services for Yerevan’s 1 million residents, a project which had been in progress since 2000. That particular project was of interest because of incessant Complaints from Yerevan’s Residents about inconsistent and bad quality water. There were even a number of attempts to have the project cancelled. The task was to seek out any possible project irregularities and report them to the appropriate authorities, so that they could carry out their own investigations and introduce the necessary corrective actions.

The Commission had Parliamentary Authority to carry out the proposed studies; the question was whether it had the ‘Clout’ to win through against the opposition, which would inevitably come from High-Ranking Officials in the Armenian Government, who would fight to safeguard their vested interests. The Head of Commission gave Assurances that the Commission would use its full Parliamentary Authority in an attempt to Stem the Tide of Armenia’s Increasing Corruption.

On that understanding, the Commission’s Senior Specialist agreed to manage the Municipal Development Project Study and to work directly with Mr. Richard Walkling, the Authorized Representative who was managing the project for the International Operator, ACEA A. Utilities, and with Mr. Roger Robinson, the Country Manager of the World Bank in Armenia. It was assumed that they were both above the vagaries of the Armenian authorities, and conveniently, both were English speakers.

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