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World Bank plan is risky

World Bank plans to devolve decision-making powers to borrowing countries will jeopardise the quality of its projects, international consultants warned this week.

At the annual International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) conference in Singapore, incoming FIDIC president John Boyd told NCE that many developing nations would only be able to make decisions on key infrastructure schemes on a cost basis.

“Quality should be the only criterion for procurement selection, but very few countries would be able to manage this,” said Boyd.

The World Bank operates a system that measures both quality and cost in its decisions to
approve projects.

World Bank chief procurement policy officer Bernard Becq, said: “We propose to hand the selection process over to those countries whose processes meet our minimum standards and abide by our procedures and policies.”

Boyd said, however, that clients from World Bank borrower countries were not usually sufficiently qualified to judge bids. “If the agency making the selection does not understand quality, then they will give all bids the same value, and so revert to price again.”

Boyd is keen to push for selections on quality only, and wants to elevate consultants to the role of trusted advisors to agencies, to help them with selections and raise the standards of decision making.
Scott Wilson chairman Geoff French agreed. “Quality-based selection is basically what is done in the private sector. Private clients have good terms of reference and a good idea of what they want.”
Becq admits, however, that some World Bank projects have been failures. “The selection process is imperfect – it is not a guarantee of quality of output at the end of the project.

However, some delegates at FIDIC’s annual conference, which will be held in London in 2009, have asserted that bids on quality alone are also flawed.

Chief Michael Adesina, principal partner at Nigerian consultants Sswed Associates, said: “The consultant who has been pre-determined to win is awarded the highest points. Even on quality”.

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