Today GAP released a report that evaluates recent reforms to the World Bank’s Peer Review Services (PRS), the lower level of the internal justice system used by Bank whistleblowers and staff to challenge violations of their rights. The report – which is available here – finds that the Bank has created a deficient justice system that fails to comply with both numerous international human rights standards, and with recommendations made by experts who previously reviewed the system.
Serious rights violations and structural shortcomings identified include:
Many staff members are denied the right to appeal. For example, cases that challenge actions, inactions or decisions (including the imposition of disciplinary measures) taken in connection with misconduct investigations performed under the Bank’s whistleblower protection policy go directly to the highest level of the Bank’s justice system – the Administrative Tribunal – with no possibility of a subsequent appeal to another body.
PRS fails to guarantee the rights to call or cross examine witnesses.
The right to obtain documentary evidence can also be limited by a Peer Review Panel, contrary to recommendations made in several Bank studies.
Oral hearings are not guaranteed before PRS or the Administrative Tribunal and are not required to be public, in violation of several international standards.
Courtesy of Flickr user brunosanIn another judicial setback in the U.S. for the Inter-American Development Bank, on August 3, 2011, the District Court for the District of Columbia granted a Motion to Amend a complaint filed in 2006 by Jorge R. Vila, an independent consultant, against the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC). The amended complaint joins the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as a defendant.
Based on a recent Supreme Court decision (Krupski v. Costa Crociere S.p.A, 2010), the District Court decided that because the IDB knew or should have known that it could have been sued by Vila when he filed his complaint against the IIC in 2006, his Motion to Amend his complaint by adding the IDB as a defendant should be granted. In making its decision, the Court considered that the two entities are "inextricably linked through their organizational structure."
This is not the first judicial setback in this case for the IDB. On July 15, 2010 the District Court granted a Motion by Vila to Strike the IIC's renewed claim to immunity, a matter decided against the IIC by the District Court in February 2008 and confirmed by the Court of Appeals in June 2009.
The claim against the IIC has entered the discovery phase, with Vila requesting documentation from the IIC and testimony from IIC and IDB officers in anticipation of a jury trial in the near future.
Egypt is currently in pressing need of economic assistance. In the wake of the revolution that deposed the Mubarak regime, the country’s financial reserves are in a rapid state of decline, the tourism industry has collapsed, and the political system is fragile. In response to this need, in late May, the World Bank announced a joint $6 billion loan for Tunisia ($1.5 billion) and Egypt ($4.5 billion). At the time, the funds were touted by World Bank President Robert Zoellick as a way to assist the economies of the two countries where the Arab Spring took root while helping to “modernize” them. Keep an eye out for that word: “modernize.”
Not long afterward, in early June, the IMF announced an arrangement with Egypt for a one-year loan worth $3 billion. According to Ratna Sahay, Deputy Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the IMF, the deal was without conditions. The loan “[…] would have supported the government’s homegrown economic plan, which aimed at promoting social justice through higher social spending, preserving macroeconomic stability, and designing a road map for reforms after the elections.”
However, on June 25, then-Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan (soon to be replaced by Finance Minister-designate Hazem El Beblawi) stated that Egypt had revised its 2011-2012 government budget down from 11% to 8.6% of GDP and would not borrow from either the World Bank or the IMF as a result. On July 4, Radwan justified rejecting the loans, saying that Egypt would not need Bank or Fund assistance so long as lending was available from Egypt’s Gulf allies.
In June 2011, Sri Lankan whistleblower, chartered accountant and public interest activist Nihal Sri Ameresekere sat down with GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards to discuss international corruption and fraud. Ameresekere is the author of six books on these subjects, and is known for exposing corruption, fraud and nepotism within the Sri Lankan government. He also served as a key player in the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption.
In his talk, Ameresekere is adamant that auditors must be held to higher levels of accountability. They should be the watchdogs, not the lapdogs, of organizational resource managers. International development organizations -- especially multilateral development institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Development Bank -- promote openness and transparency in their rhetoric, but are often complicit in these economic crimes.
The Whistleblower, which details the true story of the United Nations’ complicity in the sex-trafficking industry in Bosnia, debuts Friday in select theaters, with widespread distribution to follow. The movie, starring Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz as real-life truth-teller Kathryn Bolkovac, chronicles Bolkovac’s attempts to blow the whistle in the late 1990s and early 2000s while working with the UN International Police Force.
As GAP’s International Program Officer, one of my job duties is to monitor whistleblower rights and cases at the United Nations. I'm obviously eager to see the film, and GAP will put out a review of it in the coming weeks. If the movie sticks to the known facts about the actual events, it may raise much-needed awareness of whistleblower problems at the United Nations. As a Human Rights Watch official stated about Bolkovac's tale:
“Women and girls trafficked into Bosnia and Herzegovina's brothels endured debt bondage, rape, and beatings. International police and peacekeeping forces should have protected these victims. Instead, some committed trafficking crimes. Kathy Bolkovac bravely blew the whistle on them. She paid a high price in her career, but had the integrity to take a stand against grave human rights abuses.”
Focusing on Bolkovac's case, it seems the perfect time to ask: What has changed? If a UN whistleblower were to come forward today – a decade later – with similar allegations to those made by Bolkovac, would s/he also “pay a high price” for making disclosures?
Cisco Systems apparently doesn't like whistleblowers. As in really doesn't like. A story emerged today (the Vancouver Sunfirst broke the story last month) that reads like an Alfred Hitchcock movie script: regular guy gets caught up in corporation's nefarious plots.
Our Cary Grant in this story is Peter Adekeye, a former executive for Cisco and founder of Multiven, an Internet infrastructure maintenance service, and Pingsta, a cloud software and services provider.
In 2008, Adekeye, a British citizen, had moved back to Britain and eventually to Zurich, Switzerland. Later that year, he filed a civil suit against Cisco, alleging that Cisco's forced maintenance contracts for Cisco products hurt competition and consumers. Essentially, these contracts forced customers to go back to Cisco for any repairs instead of being able to use outside servicing.
That's when all the trouble started. Adekeye wanted to return to the United States in order to participate in the case. He was denied entry. Several times. Finally, the two sides agreed to meet in Vancouver, Canada. Turns out that before they even met, Cisco had filed a criminal complaint against Adekeye, claiming he had illegally accessed their computer network. They convinced U.S Homeland Security authorities that he was "a 'sinister' Nigerian on the run from 97 charges of illegal computer hacking." Homeland Security, in turn, told the Canadian authorities.
In a troubling development, a ruling handed down this month by the World Bank Administrative Tribunal held Bank management responsible for breaches of confidentiality, even when the "confidences" exposed revealed serious misconduct. The case, which echoes an earlier ruling, involved facts (revealed to the press and published) about a staff member and his corrupt business relationships, as well as a concealed conflict of interest.
In this recent decision, No. 451 , the Tribunal reviewed the case of Ben Hu, a former World Bank short-term consultant. Hu served on the board of directors of the now-debarred Bank IT vendor Megasoft while simultaneously working for the Bank itself. Hu facilitated contracts for Megasoft, including numerous sole-source contracts and one competitively bid contract, over a short period of time. Taken together, the contracts were worth approximately $2 million.
In 2005 and 2006, Hu was investigated by the Bank for these activities.