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World Bank delays $63 million to Mali over spending concerns

Source: Reuters - Wed, 25 Jun 2014 22:07 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (standing C) salutes troops during a military parade to mark Armed Forces Day in Bamako January 20, 2014. REUTERS/Joe Penney
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WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - The World Bank has delayed $63 million in budget support for Mali while it evaluates the government's spending and anti-graft plans, the bank's chief operating officer said on Wednesday.

The International Monetary Fund last month also said it would delay a $6 million aid disbursement to the west African country while the government clarifies its purchase of a $40 million presidential jet, given the country's pledge to fight poverty.

The World Bank said it was coordinating its response with the IMF, as both international institutions were concerned about Mali's procedures for managing its budget.

The controversy over the jet and a separate loan for military supplies risks undermining confidence in Mali's donor-backed recovery from twin crises in 2012. These involved the military ouster of the president and the occupation of its vast northern desert regions by al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters.

The World Bank's chief operating officer, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, said the bank was evaluating Mali's approach to public finances. The bank said it had delayed board approval of $63 million in budget support since May 29.

"We are delaying our program now because we want to evaluate and make sure ... there is a verification of all the spending," she told reporters.

The IMF last week said authorities in Mali had agreed to do an audit of the transactions and develop budget guidelines by September, when the IMF plans to return to the capital Bamako for its next review of Mali's $46 million aid package from the Fund.

"After ongoing talks with Mali to resolve the issue, and once the IMF concludes a follow-up mission to Bamako planned for later in the year, we may be in a position to resume budget support operations to Mali," World Bank spokesman David Theis said in an email.

The World Bank has nearly $900 million committed in Mali, with nearly $300 million approved in the past year, including projects in energy, transport, and rural and public sector development. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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