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Sanctions System at the World Bank

As a result of reforms approved by the Executive Directors in July 2004 and in August 2006, the World Bank’s sanctions system consists of a two-tier adjudicative process, with a first level of review carried out by the Bank’s Suspension and Debarment Officer (SDO)* and, for contested cases, a second level of review by the World Bank Group Sanctions Board, an independent body composed of seven (7) members who are all external to the World Bank Group.

In the system’s first tier, the SDO determines (1) whether the evidence submitted by the Integrity Vice Presidency (INT) is sufficient to support a finding that the respondent engaged in fraud, corruption, coercion, collusion, or obstruction in connection with a World Bank Group-financed project, or violated a material term of the Voluntary Disclosure Program (VDP) Terms and Conditions; and (2) whether the respondent should be temporarily suspended from bidding on Bank-financed contracts, pending the final outcome of the sanctions process. In addition, the SDO recommends a sanction to be imposed on the respondent, which becomes effective where the respondent elects not to challenge the allegations against it. If the respondent contests the allegations or the SDO’s recommended sanction, the case is referred to the Sanctions Board. 

The Sanctions Board carries out a full de novo review in each contested case. It is not bound by the SDO’s recommendation. An administrative hearing may be held by the Sanctions Board either upon a party’s request or at the discretion of the Sanctions Board Chair. In its deliberations, the Sanctions Board considers INT’s allegations and evidence; the respondent’s arguments and evidence submitted in response to INT’s allegations and evidence; INT’s reply brief; the parties’ presentations at a hearing, if applicable; and any other materials contained in the record. After completing its review, the Sanctions Board determines whether it is “more likely than not” that the respondent engaged in a sanctionable practice. If so, the Sanctions Board imposes a sanction on the respondent, which may be extended to the respondent’s affiliates, successors and assigns. The decisions of the Sanctions Board are final and non-appealable. 

Sanctions imposed by the Bank Group are published on its website at For all cases initiated prior to 2011, publication is limited to the identity of sanctioned parties, the nature of sanctions imposed, and the provisions under which the sanctions are imposed (e.g., for fraudulent, collusive, or corrupt practices). For cases initiated from 2011 onward, publication extends to the full text of Sanctions Board decisions, with factual background and legal analysis, and SDO determinations (for uncontested cases). 

* The World Bank Group has four officers that oversee suspension and debarment decisions at the first tier, depending on the institution affected: (i) the IBRD/IDA (World Bank) Suspension and Debarment Officer (SDO); (ii) the Evaluation and Suspension Officer (EO) for International Finance Corporation (IFC); (iii) the EO for Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and (iv) the EO for investment projects guaranteed by the World Bank (known as partial risk guarantees or PRGs). The sanctions system for each of IFC, MIGA and PRG parallels that of IBRD/IDA, with a first level of review conducted by the respective EO and a second level of review conducted by the World Bank Group Sanctions Board.





Fact Sheet: Two-Tier Sanctions Management Process

Sanctions Process Flow Chart

Colloquium on Suspension and Debarment

10th Anniversary of the World Bank Group Two-Tier Sanctions System

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