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U.S. Business Groups Urge World Bank to Include International Business Community in Procurement Discussion
Date: 6/8/2007
Written By: Eric Thomas or Jennifer Cummings, The Fratelli Group for NFTC, 202-822-9491

Letter Signed by Key Trade Groups Calls for Transparency

Washington, DC -  The National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC) today joined six other leading trade associations in urging the World Bank to allow feedback from the private sector regarding its new proposal for changes in procurement polices. The World Bank's "Use of Country Systems in Bank Supported Operations" Status Report dated May 8, 2007, was released to the Bank's Executive Directors this week without any opportunity for the private sector to review and provide input.

 

 

In a June 5 letter to Bank officials, business groups expressed deep concern about both the process and substance of the major changes contemplated in the new "country system" proposal on procurement. "At a time when the Bank is calling for transparency and good governance from its member countries, it is essential that the Bank avail itself of every opportunity in its operations to display transparency and good governance by requesting comments from the private sector . . . " Business groups had provided detailed comments on an earlier March 2005 pilot project proposal to use country systems as a substitute for the World Bank's procurement guidelines, standard bidding documents and international best practices.

 

 


According to the letter, whose signatories include - the Coalition for Employment through Exports, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Foreign Trade Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Council for International Business – the Bank should convene a meeting with private sector representatives before the May 2007 Status Report is considered by the Executive Directors. The associations also requested that the report be made available online for public comment "in recognition of the extensive European and other comments received on the March 2005 paper."

 

 


In addition to calling for substantive consultations, the seven signatories outlined specific concerns with respect to the text of the Status Report. The groups state that in contrast to the March 2005 proposal, the current report fails to include specific details about the methodology that would be used to assess and implement country systems. Another concern raised relates to how country systems will achieve ‘equivalence' with the Bank's standards, with the associations asserting that the new report ignores private sector feedback on the shortcomings of previous proposals designed to ensure that individual country systems sync with overarching standards.

 

 


"Concerns from business stakeholders on the impact of this proposal on good governance and procurement best practices are many, which is all the more reason why meeting with Bank officials to discuss the report is so critical," said Mary Irace, NFTC Vice President of Trade and Export Finance.

 

 

Steve Canner, Vice President for the United States Council for International Business, stated that "At a timewhen developing countries are trying to engage private sector expertise, technology andinvolvementin their development plans, the Bank'sapproach to procurement willsurelylockout private sector engagement."

Pat Mears, Director of International Commercial Affairs for the National Association of Manufacturers, added that "It is worth noting that the U.S. Congress viewed the March 2005 country systems proposal as such a threat to good governance and the ongoing anti-corruption work of the World Bank and other institutions that it voted to withhold a portion of US funding were it to be implemented. Clearly, any new proposals on this issue deserve a through review by affected parties and an opportunity for affected parties to provide constructive feedback."

 

 

Please click here for a copy of the letter.

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The National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org) is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves hundreds of member companies through its offices in Washington and New York.