After 18 months of unrelenting pressure on the World Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) and the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), they have eventually completed their investigations into the ‘Blowing the World Bank Whistle’ claim of multiple acts of fraud, corruption and embezzlement associated with the World Bank funded Municipal Development Project in Armenia, as exposed (but covered up) by Vahan Hovhanissian’s Parliamentary Commission in 2004.
Washington’s Government Accountability Project (GAP), legal counsel throughout the process, submitted the 62-page claim to the INT in March 2007 and has subsequently provided the INT with several packets of compelling evidentiary documentation. GAP has persistently pressured the INT into carrying out the investigation it would otherwise have avoided, and there has been additional pressure from numerous high-ranking British Government officials in the UK, in Armenia and in Washington, who have written to and spoken to the INT on numerous occasions. Extensive human and logistical resources have been expended in the internationally-backed effort to persuade the INT and the SFO to investigate this claim, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of Dollars.
In March 2008, a team of INT investigators travelled to Armenia to interview witnesses and gather information. The work continued in Washington and on the 21st August, the British Ambassador in Armenia advised that the investigation had been completed.
The process was extensive, and investigations found that Mr. Richard Walkling, Authorized Representative for the International Operator in Armenia, ACEA – A. Utilities, managing the Municipal Development Project, was centrally involved in multiple cases of fraud, corruption and the embezzlement of Armenian public funds, in collusion with Mr. Roger Robinson, who was World Bank Armenia Country Manager at the time of the wrongdoings. The total loss to the people of Armenia, who should have benefitted from the $35 million World Bank project, was tens of millions of dollars.
Information has not been released on what corrective action the Bank may take, if any. But Roger Robinson continues to work for the Bank in Kyrgyzstan, despite having colluded in this affair, and it is understood that Richard Walkling now works as consultant in a Yerevan water project, although not financed by the World Bank. However, the recently released World Bank ‘Economic Monitoring Note’ for 2008 indicates that the Bank may now be operating more responsibly in Armenia, under the management of Mr. Aristomene Varoudakis, which is an encouraging sign that this arduous campaign could have been in some way beneficial.
The full report is being translated to Armenian, for distribution and publication, and it will be available to readers of this article upon request.
Armenian Parliamentary Commission (2003/4)
Blowing the World Bank Whistle