World Bank retaliates against Parliamentary Whistleblower

World Bank retaliates against Parliamentary Whistleblower

Friday, December 28, 2007

The MDP and the "Government's Integrated Finance Rehabilitation Plan"

British National Bruce Tasker continues his revelations of high-level (to put it mildly) corruption in the Republic of Armenia, featuring the Armenian representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

During the past several months, Tasker, who in 2003 and 2004 was Senior Specialist for an Armenian Parliamentary Commission, has regularly and resolutely brought to the attention of the Armenian public and to the international community, the saga of how during the period 2000 to 2005 there was gross misuse of World Bank funds which were intended for the improvement of Yerevan’s water utility.

Tasker has on many occasions explained how the matter involved irregularities that amounted to several tens of millions of dollars. He has already presented documents to the Armenian press which support his claim, and he has explained how the matter has the full attention of the American freedom of speech organization, the Government Accountability Project (GAP). Now, during our pre-election period, Tasker has prepared yet another ‘Surprise’, and the size of that surprise is not several tens of millions, but more than one hundred million dollars. Apparently, whilst working for the commission, Tasker studied a second project, the ‘Government’s Integrated Finance Rehabilitation Plan’, supported by the Bank, under IMF ‘Surveillance’ and in which he says there was alarmingly serious corruption. Tasker now reveals that the documents he sent to GAP for assessment indicated the total amount of corruption was nearer to two hundred million dollars (in that year the state budget was approximately four hundred million dollars). In discussions with Armenia Times, the British specialist promised that in the near future he would explain the complete scheme of corruption, and how it was used to misappropriate those funds. Having seen the large suitcase which accompanied Tasker to our newspaper office, barely sufficient to hold the seemingly endless documents that support his claim at the Bank’s Department of Institutional integrity (INT), and taking into account Tasker’s determination, it is hard to understand why to date the INT has not already carried out it’s investigation.

But because the INT seems so reluctant to respond to his claim in a responsible manner, Tasker and GAP are now inviting signatures to a petition, which is published through a number of internet sites, and which on the 15th February 2008 will be submitted to Robert Zoellick, the World Bank President. This is yet another initiative by Tasker and his legal council, this time to encourage the World Bank President to intervene and to persuade the INT to carry out a full investigation. This is also a strong indication that GAP’s determination is no less than Tasker’s.

The British Ambassador in Armenia has added his support and has written to both the Director of INT and to the British representation at the World Bank in Washington, requesting that the claim be investigated in an appropriate and timely manner. The reason for the British Government interest is because Tasker’s claim names British nationals in the wrongdoings, including Mr. Jimmy McHugh, former Resident Representative of the IMF in Armenia, Mr. Roger Robinson, former World Bank Armenia Country Manager (by the way they are both now in Kirgizstan), Mr. Richard Walkling, Authorized Representative for the International Operator, A. Utilities, and General Director of the Yerevan Water & Wastewater Company (YWSC), and others - that is as far as the internationals are concerned. But as far as Tasker understands it, the Armenian authorities were also involved in the matter. “I have absolutely no quarrel with the Armenian authorities; my questions are with the World Bank and the INT. But it is apparent that the Armenian Government also has little interest in having the matter resolved, despite Prime Minister Serge Sargsyan having said that he is ready to re-look at the matter”.

In that way, the British specialist comprehensively and openly answered our questions, and added that in accordance with his instructions from Vahan Hovhanissian, Head of Commission, he passed all the relevant documents to the commission. But for some unknown reason, at the end of the commission term in 2004 the matter suddenly and inexplicably died.

In reply to our question of whether it could be that there is a political motive behind the whole affair, whereby the World Bank, together with the Armenian Government, may prefer to delay an investigation into this very serious corruption, which amounts to more or less two hundred million dollars? (Tasker replied that he would prefer not to link one with the other, but at the same time, he has his suspicions that it could have been politically motivated. But he added that was not his problem; his objective is to expose the entire scandalous affair).

We have the impression from Tasker’s revelations that this slowly developing process will at some time blow up with a loud bang. And it appears that representatives of the international community will eventually be exposed, together with high-ranking officials of the Armenia authorities. This case presented by the British specialist may also go some way to explaining why the Western institutions continue to sing the praises of the Armenian economy. Or if they do criticize, the subdued manner in which they do it fails to engender the improvements that Armenia increasingly needs. Industry is dying on its knees and corruption is becoming more deep-rooted. The role of the international institutions is surely to encourage a wider range of improvements for Armenia, such that the Republic would become more industrious, and to encourage a decrease in corruption - not to further increase it.

Hayk Gevorgyan.

Chief Editor

Armenia Times Newspaper

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