At the World Bank Spring Meetings last week, there was a very interesting discussion, moderated by Femi Oke, on the topic of “Investment, Infrastructure, and Integrity,” On the panel were a few worthies from the private sector, Karan Bhatia, of General Electric, Peter Solmssen of Siemens AG, and Julio Rojas of Standard Chartered Bank, along with Rashad Kaldany and Janmitra Devan of the World Bank. They were joined by the Minister of Finance of Indonesia, Agus Martowardojo, and the Secretary of Finance of the Philippines, Cesar Purisima.
The issue is a prickly one: How to promote clean business in large infrastructure projects? It is unavoidable for the World Bank, the private sector and governments to be involved in infrastructure, so it is essential that the reputation of the infrastructure sector be tied to integrity. At the same time, the response to corruption has to be pragmatic. The challenge is to figure out the balance and respond appropriately and make “risk-based” decisions, versus “rules-based” decisions. The panelists alluded to the role of knowledge and the open dissemination of knowledge on private-sector business dealings and in government contracting and procurement to spur accountability and governance in this arena. There was agreement that the World Bank’s open agenda would be helpful in pushing this forward.
The panel was asked to share their individual “principles” to achieve integrity.
Solmssen: Transparency is the principle for me. When things are visible, it is hard to hide corruption.
Bhatia: Institutions and responsive structures are my principle.
Martowardojo: Improve quality of government officials and planning procurement. Building institutions and building the trust of the local community.
Purisima: Learning to talk to both sides – private sector and government – and to cooperate on zero tolerance for corruption.
Rojas: Key principle for the private sector: You can generate value beyond profits and partnership with governments and multilaterals is key.
Rashad: The key principle is the power of collective action whether it is on transparency or sharing standards; when we act collectively we can do a lot more.
Devan: Peter [Solmssen] reminded us that criminals are clever and sophisticated, so we need to be sophisticated in our approach to overcome corruption.
Photo Credit: World Bank on Flickr