Bangladesh stands to miss out future aid programmes of the World Bank (WB) if unbridled graft remains an albatross around the nation's neck.
The cancellation of 14 road contracts by the Washington-based lending agency on the ground of corrupt bidding has strengthened suspicion that Dhaka could forfeit its eligibility for future lending on infrastructure projects.
"The bank has cancelled 14 road contracts in Bangladesh because of corrupt bidding. Two government officials have since been fired, and the WB plans to impose ban on the involvement of the private firms concerned in future WB contracts", says a recent report of the Washington Post.
Official sources fear if the trend continues, the WB may withhold its promised assistance for the promotion of the country's infrastructure projects.
"We continue to press the government for making the tendering process of the projects in sectors such as power and road more transparent and," a WB official said while giving his reaction to the Post report.
Non-transparent bidding process in the power sector often prompts the government agencies concerned to go for re-tendering, the WB official said.
"The reason of re-tendering is not hard to find Ö It has become a common phenomenon in the power sector," he said, referring to the recent remarks of Christine Wallich, the Bank's Country Director.
"But such corrupt practices cannot go unabated. If the government turns a deaf ear to the Bank's call for curbing corruption, the country may see its aid squeeze in near future," he said.
During his visit to Bangladesh, WB President Paul Wolfowitz said lavish election financing comes from corruption in large infrastructure projects, with the power sector becoming "a tempting target".
Pointing his finger at the latest inclusion of Congo on the Bank's corruption watch list, the WB official said it should serve as an eye opener for Bangladesh as the country's fight against corruption remains more or less confined in rhetoric.
It may be mentioned that the WB recently put Bangladesh, Chad and Kenya, India and Argentina on its watch list due to problems of corruption.
The global anti-graft body, Transparency International, has rated Bangladesh as the most corrupt nation in the world for the five years in a row.
The Post report mentioned that the Bank had held up $800 million in lending to Indian health projects. Indian politicians were said to have their hands on the health funds, so Wolfowitz blocked the loans.
The Bank has frozen lending to Chad, whose government had reneged on a promise to spend its oil revenue on poverty reduction. It took some courage to admit that the curse of oil remained unbroken.
The Bank has frozen five loans to Kenya because of corruption, though it did go ahead with a project to improve Kenya's financial management.
The Bank has interrupted a project in Argentina that topped up the wages of poor workers. Some of the money seems to have greased the ruling Peronist Party's electoral machine before elections in 2003, and the government has brought charges against one senior official and fired 10 others.
The report said that the Bank has postponed debt relief for Congo. A team from the International Monetary Fund had certified that the country deserved relief, and the Bank was supposed to fall in line last Thursday.
The punitive action against the errant nations is part of Wolfowitz's global push for reining in the massive corruption.