World Bank vows to speed spending on South Sudan


The World Bank acknowledged yesterday it needs to speed up funding for rebuilding war-torn South Sudan but said it also had to ensure the aid was not wasted through corruption or mismanagement.

Western donors criticized the institution yesterday for being too slow to disburse the funds from the World Bank Multi Donor Trust Fund (MDTF), one of the main ways for donors to funnel cash into the region.

Obiageli Ezekwesili, vice-president for the World Bank’s Africa Department, said the institution was working with donors and the government to speed up implementation of rebuilding programs. It had a high-level mission on the ground looking at the issue, she said.
“We need to move much faster, while still ensuring the proper use of funds, and we continue to look for ways to speed up the program’s effectiveness, including channeling money through faster mechanisms,” she said.

She admitted shortcomings in the trust fund, saying it had “not met our standards achieved by other trust funds we administer in similar countries.”
“It is important to remember that this is donor money that has been entrusted to the World Bank, and we are expected to ensure the highest fiduciary standards to see that resources go to the poor and not the powerful,” she added.

Donors said the funds had been tied up by red tape and only $188.1 million of the $524.1 million of funds given to the trust fund had been disbursed since Sudan ended more than two decades of north-south civil war in 2005.

Much of the south is still in ruins and the UN said this month that almost half the population in South Sudan faced food shortages because of conflict and drought.

Anti-corruption efforts

World Bank figures show that of the $594 million committed by donors to the trust fund, some $213 million had been disbursed. The Bank has targeted another $100 million for projects in the current fiscal year which ends in July.

In addition, 12 projects worth $326 million have been approved over the next several years.

The Bank has long been pressured by donors, especially the United States, to ensure that money for development is well spent and not lost through corruption. In recent years it has stepped up its anti-corruption efforts and barred companies that have abused its funding.

Ezekwesili said that despite the criticism there had also been progress in South Sudan, including the rehabilitation of the main hospital in the southern capital Juba and half of the city’s water supply. Financing has also providing basic materials for health care and education, and supported agricultural projects and ensured government ministries are set up with offices.
“Nevertheless, we need to move faster,” Ezekwesili added.

She said the Bank had nearly doubled the number of staff on the ground over the past two years, with many living in tents, and assigned two international procurement specialists to its team and added experts in the finance ministry to handle funds.

It also simplified requirements for small business contractors and increased the threshold for the number of contracts that can be locally approved.
“The development issue in Sudan is urgent and in addressing that urgency we must ensure that limited resources that are available are effectively and efficiently used,” she said.
“That has meant we would have to comply with at least the possible minimum level that ensures us effectiveness of use of resources in such a challenging and complex environment,” Ezekwesili added.