Washington (AFP) – The World Bank on Monday canceled funding for a Uganda transport initiative, citing environmental concerns and allegations of sexual misconduct by contractors working on the project.
“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,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
“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.”
The bank took action following complaints received by an independent board.
Communities in western Uganda had complained of negative environmental and social impacts from the project’s construction, including worrisome impacts on road safety.
The complaint also outlined “serious allegations of road workers’ sexual relations with minor girls in the community, and sexual harassment of female employees,” the World Bank said.
The World Bank said it suspended financing of the project in late October and canceled it on December 17 after the Uganda government and the government contractor failed to take corrective steps.
The project, which aimed to improve Uganda’s road network and road management system, was seen rising to maximum funding of $265 million.
In addition to canceling the project, the World Bank said it would review other World Bank programs in Uganda and other countries to make “needed improvements.”
Canceling projects is rare for the World Bank. A bank spokesperson told AFP that the bank ended a $1.2 billion bridge project in Bangladesh in 2012 following accusations of corruption.
The World Bank in February 2014 suspended a $90 million loan to Uganda following the African country’s enactment of a harsh anti-gay law.