World Bank has proof of bid rigging – Pimentel

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr., citing a WB report, said “evidence of alleged collusion, fraud and other corrupt practices gathered by WB investigators provided the basis for the Bank’s decision to blacklist three Filipino construction companies – EC de Luna Construction Corp., Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp. and CM Pancho Construction, Inc.”

Four foreign construction firms – China Road and Bridge Corp., China Geo-Engineering Corp., China State Construction Corp. and China Wu Yi Co. Ltd. were also banned.

Pimentel said Leonard McCarthy, WB Vice President for Institutional Integrity (INT), clarified that although the Bank has furnished to the Department of Finance and Office of the Ombudsman a referral or summary report of its investigative findings, together with accessory documents it has “made no judgment” on whether anti-graft laws of the Philippines have been violated.

The senator said the WB shared the referral report on a “strictly confidential basis” because it “contained sensitive information which may be relevant to investigation in the Philippines and made no judgment as to whether the laws of the Philippines had been violated.”

The confidentiality [of the report] would “allow the investigative authorities in the Philippines to undertake their own investigation and reach their own conclusion,” Pimentel, quoting a letter from McCarthy dated Feb. 13, said.

“McCarthy also said that the WB-INT prepared a Notice of Sanctions Proceedings that included evidence necessary for the respondent contractors to answer the allegations that they had engaged in sanctionable practices under the Bank’s own legal framework and for the Ombudsman to proceed with her investigation,” the senator added.

Pimentel had asked the WB on Feb. 3 for copies of the evidence in its possession that would help the Philippine Senate and other investigative agencies in looking into the alleged rigging in the awarding of WB-funded projects. 

He sent a similar letter to WB President Robert Zoellick and Vice President James Adams for East Asia and the Pacific Region. 

Pimentel said that while McCarthy pointed out that the documents were tailor-made to meet the Bank’s “internal requirements”, the referral report and accompanying documents the Bank sent to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez “constitute the relevant body of information for the Ombudsman to consider carrying out the investigation she deems appropriate.”

The three Filipino contractors were suspended for 15 days by the Department of Public Works and Highways, but they may continue projects already awarded to them and bid for public works projects.

Pimentel called DPWH’s action a virtual exoneration of the blacklisted contractors.

“I deem it utterly unacceptable that thieves who have drained the resources intended for our people should ever be allowed to get away with their thievery with only a rap on the knuckles as it were,” he said. 

Pimentel said he has filed a bill that seeks to ban firms found engaged in corrupt practices by international lending agencies like the WB from participating in all public works projects. (MindaNews)