HARARE (Bloomberg) — The U.S. asked the World Bank to impose stringent controls on a $7 million grant the Washington-based lender extended to Zimbabwe to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The request comes a week after U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien accused Zimbabwe of exploiting protests over the killing of George Floyd and identified the southern African nation as a “foreign adversary.”
U.S. Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote to World Bank President David Malpass asking for “strict accountability and transparency measures” to ensure the funds aren’t misspent.
“I urge the World Bank to impose very strict benchmarks and transparency and accountability measures on the $7 million grant and any future programs for Zimbabwe to ensure that procurement processes are fair and transparent,” Risch said in the letter. The lender was also asked to ensure that contracts for goods and services are not awarded to Zimbabwean companies under U.S. sanctions or known to engage in corrupt practices.
“The Covid-19 crisis will require an exceptional response, but it is equally important not to lose sight of the historical behavior of countries like Zimbabwe, where the government has used and continues to use state resources and international aid to suppress its population and enrich the country’s ruling elite,” he added.
Nick Mangwana, a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe government, didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking comment. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube sent a letter to the heads of international lenders in April asking for assistance in the country’s fight against the virus, amid shortages of fuel, foreign currency and surging inflation.
The southern African nation is also one of three countries in Africa, including Eritrea and Sudan, that are in arrears to international financial institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank, rendering them ineligible for regular finance and emergency-relief programs.