The World Bank’s suspensions and debarment system aims to exclude wrongdoers from projects financed by the Bank and serves as checks and balances in sanctions cases selected by the Bank’s Inspection Panel. This sanctions systems thus prevents “unqualified, fraudulent or corrupt contractors” from participating in the Bank’s projects.

The Sanctions System includes the option of debarring “parties that engaged in fraud and corruption in connection with World Bank-financed projects”. Debarred firms and individuals are ineligible to participate in Bank-financed projects run by shareholder governments. Debarment may either include the option of conditional release or be fixed (without conditional release). Other possible sanctions are conditional non-debarment, a public letter of reprimand, and restitution.

The report shows continued enforcement efforts – in its fiscal year 2015, the Bank temporarily suspended 54 firms and individuals and sanctioned another 73 (most of whom were debarred). The Bank further emphasises its focus on compliance measures. The Bank provides for guidance on conditions for release from debarment. The conditions focus on following and incorporating “standards, principles and components commonly recognized by many institutions and entities as good governance and anti-fraud and corruption practices. Such programmes may also serve as a mitigating factor in determining the severity of the sanctions imposed by the Bank.

In its report, the Bank emphasises the potentially broader effects of its sanctions. It points at the practice of bringing sanctions cases to the attention of governments that have jurisdiction over the individual or firm in question. Further, the Bank notes that debarments for more than a year almost always lead to cross-debarment by other multilateral development banks, including the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the Inter-American Development Bank.

At the Third Suspension and Debarment Colloquium, speakers praised the effectiveness of the Bank’s sanctions system. They stated that the Bank “has not yet seen a case of recidivism” and that “companies are increasingly investing in compliance programs as a mitigation measure in sanctions proceedings.” Speakers also mentioned that the cross-debarment mechanism is an example of harmonised efforts to combat fraud and corruption. Companies participating in Bank-financed projects should continue to pay attention to their employees and their compliance programmes, which must be in line with the Bank’s guidelines.