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World Bank’s Doing Business affair: Multilateral institutions must firewall against politics & self-interest

To remain credible and maintain trust, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will need to undertake significant efforts to insulate themselves from politics and undue influence, Transparency International said today. Other multilateral bodies must also get serious about building better safeguards to protect their mandates and legitimacy.

Last week, the World Bank released the findings of an independent investigation into irregularities in its 2018 and 2020 Doing Business reports, implicating the Bank’s leadership in the abuse of their positions to alter country rankings.

The probe has cast a shadow on the conduct of Kristalina Georgieva – current Managing Director of the IMF and CEO of the World Bank at the time – due to her alleged efforts to boost China’s ranking. The events in question coincided with the Bank’s capital increase campaign, during which negotiations with their Chinese counterparts were reportedly contentious. Georgieva has rejected allegations of impropriety.

“It is not shocking that governments with authoritarian tendencies try to game international assessments,” said Daniel Eriksson, Transparency International Secretariat’s Chief Executive Officer. “If further substantiated, the willingness of officials in the top ranks of international organisations to bend to this pressure – be it in line with their personal objectives, desire to remain relevant or under the guise of multilateralism – would be truly alarming.”

Unless firewalled from politics, studies and country assessments conducted by multilateral and international organisations will suffer the loss of credibility and trust. This is especially true in the cases of processes and negotiations taking place behind closed doors.

“Greater openness to civil society scrutiny can go a long way in mitigating the risks of political interference and undue influence,” continued Eriksson. “International financial institutions also need to embed integrity systems to manage the conflicting interests and mandates of their operations.”

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