Uganda: World Bank Discontinues Doing Business Report Over False Data

22 September 2021

The World Bank has discontinued publication of the annual Doing Business report over irregularities and change of submitted data for 2018 and 2020.

The decision, the World Bank said, was reached after changes were made in submitted data in the 2018 and 2020 reports. The changes, the banks said, had been reported internally, forcing a pause in further publication of reports.

The cancellation means that policy makers, governments and investors, among others, will have to look for alternative forums from which they can, for the meantime, source competent data to inform investment and business decisions.

In a statement released together with an investigation report, the World Bank said it had reviewed and audited data for 2018 and 2020, which exhibited irregularities in data entered for China during the 2018 Doing Business report.

The statement also noted more irregularities had been found in data entered for Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan while for the 2020 Doing Business report.

"After reviewing all information available to date ... including the findings of past reviews, audits, and the report ... released today on behalf of the board of executive directors, the World Bank ... has taken the decision to discontinue the Doing Business report," the statement said, noting that internal reports had raised ethical matters, including the conduct of former board officials as well as current and former bank staff.

The investigations conducted by WilmerHale found that in the 2018 World Bank Doing Business report some entries and reporting methodology had been changed under pressure from senior officials from the president's office in an effort to boost China's score.

The report also found that data entries for Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates had been changed by senior World Bank officials to reward Saudi Arabia for the role it had played in the bank's community programmes and projects.

For more than 17 years now, the Doing Business report, authored by the World Bank has been a valued tool for countries seeking to measure cost of doing business.

In particular, Uganda has been using the report to measure its progress against other East African member states with the view of improving its state of the economy.

The reports, which are annual, the World Bank had said previously that were vital in informing the actions of policymakers, investors and academia to make informed decisions and allow stakeholders to measure economic and social improvements more accurately.

The reports have also been a valuable tool for the private sector, civil society, academia, journalists, and others in terms of broadening the understanding of global issues.

During the investigation, according to the report by WilmerHale, the World Bank had sought to understand how improper changes to data for China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan were effected, who at the bank had directed the changes, implemented, or knew about the changes to the data and how their direction or pressure had manifested.

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