Uganda’s road infrastructure development has been dealt a blow after the World Bank Group suspended a huge chunk of its financial support due to allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by the some contractors.
“The multiple failures we’ve seen in this project — on the part of the World Bank, the government of Uganda, and a government contractor – are unacceptable,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement last month.
He cited contractual breaches related to workers’ issues, social and environmental concerns, poor project performance, and serious allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse by contractors.
He said: “It is our obligation to properly supervise all investment projects to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are protected in our work. In this case, we did not. I am committed to making sure we do everything in our power – working with other stakeholders – first to fully review the circumstances of this project and then to quickly learn from our and others’ failures so they do not happen again.”
However in the first week of January, the World Bank put a halt to funding two further projects in Uganda, also overseen by the UNRA – the North Eastern Road-Corridor Asset Management Project and the Albertine Region Sustainable Development Project – pending a review.
Consequently, Uganda Transport Sector Development Project (TSDP) has been suspended.
According to a statement, On September 28, 2015, a Request for Inspection was registered by the Inspection Panel, an independent complaints mechanism for people and communities who believe that they have been, or are likely to be, adversely affected by a World Bank-funded project. The Request concerned complaints received from the Bigodi and Nyabubale-Nkingo communities located along the Kamwenge to Fort Portal Road. The Request contains numerous allegations of adverse environmental and social impacts stemming from the Project’s construction works, including impacts related to road safety and compensation for land acquisition, as well as serious allegations of road workers’ sexual relations with minor girls in the community, and sexual harassment of female employees.
On October 22, the Bank suspended the financing for the project. After further review, and after the government and the government- hired contractor did not take corrective steps, Bank management informed the Board on December 17 that it was cancelling the project.
Because of the serious nature of the allegations, Bank management has informed the World Bank Board and the Inspection Panel that it will take action on the project even while the Inspection Panel carries out its important work.
The World Bank also is committing to several immediate follow-up actions related to this project, including: The Bank will work with the government to support the affected communities, help ensure that people are protected from retaliation, and address deeply rooted social problems.
With a view to making needed improvements, the Bank will conduct reviews to assess related risks in other parts of our programs in Uganda and other countries. The Bank will also commission its own review of the project, which will include a focus on supervision.