By Paul Ndiho
Western donors are criticizing a fund run by the World Bank for failing to pay out millions of dollars to projects in war-ravaged South Sudan, saying funds have been bogged down by red tape. The World Bank Multi Donor Trust Fund was set up as one of the main channels for donors to provide cash to the oil-producing region following its two-decade-long civil war. Donors have given the fund over 500 million dollars since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005. Michael Elmquist, the head of a donor group, says more than 100 million U.S. dollars in funding still needs to be spent before a deadline of 2011.
“We are now just one year from the end of the fund and there’s still more than 100 million U.S. dollars in the fund that need to be spent and at the current spending rate we don’t believe that it’s going to be possible to spend all that money within that timeframe.”
The aid group Oxfam says the World Bank’s strict rules make it difficult for development organizations, particularly Sudanese groups, to apply for funding. The aid agency also criticizes the World Bank for being slow and ineffective, especially with regard to health and education projects.
World Bank official Joseph Saba has reviewed the South Sudan donor trust fund, and says it has been moving too slowly.
“The bank has not been satisfied with the performance of this trust fund, which in some respects has not met standards achieved by other trust funds we administer elsewhere, in large part due to severe capacity constraints. We want to move faster, while still ensuring
proper use of funds.”
Saba says the bank needs to disperse its funds quickly as the deadline looms and ensure that donor monies benefit the poor and are not lost to corruption.
South Sudan’s semi-autonomous government acknowledges that it is partly to blame for poor distribution of funds.
Aggrey Tisa, under-secretary of South Sudan’s Finance ministry, says donors have unrealistic expectations about the fund’s administration.
“Yes, the bank has been blamed for being slow, for being rigid, for being stringent in its procurement procedures. Maybe they have part of the blame, but to lay the entire blame squarely at the door of the bank I think is over-blowing it and being a little bit unfair.”
In 2011 Southern Sudan will go to a referendum to decide on whether it will split from the north as a separate country (or join a unified government, remain as one country.
By Paul Ndiho