BENIN CITY, NIGERIA. September 27, 2021… The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) has called for sweeping reforms and policy changes in the World Bank following the discontinuation of publication of the Ease of Doing Business report occasioned by the damning panel report set up by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to review the internal circumstances at the Bank and investigate the scandalous data manipulation and other irregularities identified in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports.
Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor in a reaction said the panel report has not only exposed the irregularities associated with the 2018 and 2020 reports, but casts a dark shadow on all previous reports of the Ease of Doing Business Report published by the Bank and called for sweeping policy reforms and total overhaul of the World Bank’s operational system to forestall future occurrence of such irregularities.
Rev Ugolor flayed the scandal that uncovered data manipulation and altered scores in four countries which led Saudi Arabia being named the top improving economy of 2020 around the time of the “Davos in the Desert” summit and a year after the Khashoggi murder!
“It was quite unfortunate that data irregularities led Saudi Arabia to be placed in the ‘Doing Business 2020 top ten improvers’ at about the time the country was hosting its “Davos in the Desert” summit. Just a year later the same summit was boycotted by business leaders over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” Ugolor said.
The ANEEJ Chief Executive Officer, however, commended the audit firm for the thoroughness in their investigations and the current management of the Bank for their courage in instituting and publishing the report and taking action, pointing that the Bank needs to take further actions to redeem its image.
“We are pleased with the internal mechanism of the bank that led to the independent investigations and the outcomes. The Bank will need to take a step further to sanction all those responsible for the scandal as that did not come out clearly in both the audit report and the Bank’s response.
“This is also against the backdrop of the toxic culture and emotionally harrowing work environment in the Bank which required members of the Doing Business team to execute data changes that they knew were inappropriate and the startling revelations that Members of the team had nowhere at the Bank to turn for support as employees felt that they could not challenge an order from the Bank’s president or CEO without risking their jobs,” as stated in the panel report.” Ugolor said.
Ugolor expressed shock that a global institution like the World Bank could harbour a “bully” who instilled fear on the Ease of Doing Business team; that managed employees “by terror and intimidation” as contained in the panel report and called for the sack of all bullies in the Bank’s system.
The ANEEJ Chief further charged the bank to deal with the issue of the inherent conflict of interest that advisory services create as raised by investigative panel report pointing that from all indications and scooped evidences the specter of the Bank’s advisory services program hung over the irregularities in the Bank’s operations.
While welcoming the decision of the Bank to work on a new approach to assessing the business and investment climate, ANEEJ said the World Bank should put in place procedures to protect its employees from undue pressure or influence from Bank senior management, regional vice presidencies, advisory services colleagues, and member countries, so as to reduce the ugly incident going forward.
“We encourage the Bank to expeditiously consider changes to the Bank’s employment practices, particularly the use of short-term contract employees if it will ever embark on assessment of the global business and investment operations.
“We also urge the Bank to commence the promotion of a vision of the economy where the state plays a critical role in ensuring that the private sector puts people and planet before profit.” Rev Ugolor advised.
It will be recalled that the Ease of Doing Business Report is the most controversial publication of the World Bank, ranking 190 countries for their performance in 10 areas and 41 indicators of business regulation. It has been highly criticised for pushing countries into a race to the bottom in deregulation and liberalisation.