WB launches probe into Padma Bridge consultancy allegations

Canadian authorities question SNC-Lavalin gr
Munima Sultana
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has launched an investigation into allegations of corruption in a Canadian company’s bid for supervision consultancy on the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project.

The RCMP has taken the initiative following a referral by the World Bank’s independent Integrity Vice Presidency, said a WB statement, made available to the FE by its Bangladesh country office Saturday.

The Canadian police are now investigating employees of SNC Lavalin for violation of Canadian law in relation to the company’s bid for the consultancy, it said. The police have executed search warrants in several locations in this connection.

The WB signed deals in April last with the government of Bangladesh to extend $1.2 billion to the $2.9 bridge project. The Bank now has financial involvement worth $14.1 billion in a total of 48

high-risk projects in 29 countries and the Padma Bridge is one of those.

The Bank in its statement said disbursement of funds for Padma Bridge project has not yet been authorized pending the investigations by the Integrity Vice Presidency which is responsible for ‘investigating allegations of fraud and corruption in the bidding processes under the WB’s financed operations.

The Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), the government agency responsible for the construction of the Padma Bridge, has already completed all evaluations to shortlist bidders for five categories of work of the bridge.

According to international news agency Reuters, Leslie Quinton, a spokeswoman for SNC-Lavalin, said the company was assisting Canadian authorities with an investigation on a specific case, but gave no further details.

“We are complying fully with their requests and are not aware of any reason that would warrant such an investigation,” Quinton said. “Because the situation is under investigation, we cannot comment any further.”

The World Bank signed a 40-year deal in April to loan $1.2 billion to Bangladesh to build a bridge linking its underdeveloped south with the capital, Dhaka, and the country’s main port, Chittagong.

An international consortium, led by the World Bank, last year agreed to lend Bangladesh up to $2.9 billion for the 6-km (4-mile) multi-purpose bridge over the river Padma.

The bridge, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Dhaka, is expected to be completed by 2014, improving transportation between Bangladesh and other countries, and establishing a missing link along the longest corridor under the Asian Highway Network that connects Tokyo to Istanbul.

The World Bank last week outlined its increased efforts to prevent and deter fraud and corruption. Over the past year, the bank said its new Preventive Services Unit (PSU) had helped build precautions against fraud into 48 high-risk projects in 29 countries with a total value of $14.1 billion.

The bank said it had trained over 2,700 government officials and bank staff on how to conduct forensic audits and identify suspicious transactions.

Meanwhile, a high-profile WB team is expected to arrive in Dhaka soon to review the progress of the Bank-financed projects in Bangladesh. It would also examine the feasibility of new projects.


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