Joshua Ray of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli considers their new approaches.

The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted some multilateral development banks to enlist the services of external firms.

With staff at multilateral development banks (MDBs) unable to travel due to Covid-19 restrictions, some of their anti-corruption units are using other companies to carry out investigations.

Late in 2020, the World Bank sought firms to investigate and carry out forensic work and due diligence for its anti-corruption unit, the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT), in areas including Africa, Central Asia and Latin America. Under supervision of World Bank staff, firms could be asked to carry out interviews, on-site visits and audits.  A number of firms are now drawing up investigative framework agreements with the bank.

With Covid-19 restrictions preventing INT's team of 80 from carrying out on-site, in-person investigations, such an arrangement can boost activity. On similar lines, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) appointed a number of firms last year to carry out investigations and due diligence, while management remains in-house. The African Development Bank (AfDB) is also using external firms to work on cases.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has not hired outside help, but it has conducted what has been termed its first-ever, fully-remote investigation; in relation to fraud in Mongolia.

Such arrangements show how the enforcement arms of the MDBs have been able to adapt to the pandemic and continue on their mission to fight fraud and corruption. Yet it remains to be seen whether this will allow them to maintain the pace of investigations and debarments that they were able to achieve before the pandemic.

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