Last fall, Taimour Lay wrote a review of World Bank performance by topic area for The Africa Report, titled The World Bank: Does It Pass the Test? (WBDPT). The grades were not good, ranging from a “B” in Agricultural Development to an “F” in Diversity and Merit. In between, the bank earned a “C” for its Anti-corruption and Accountability work.

The diversity grade is remarkable for a multilateral development bank focused on reducing poverty in Africa, and GAP research on the topic validates the grade. In July 2009, GAP released a report that found evidence of racial discrimination against black professional grade employees at the World Bank. The report, Racial Discrimination at the World Bank, documented the treatment of these employees in recruitment, retention and internal judicial decisions. Findings included that a race ceiling exists at the institution, and that the Bank’s legal system fails to address racial discrimination adequately. Specifically, the report details (again, as of July 2009) that of over 3,500 professional grade World Bank staff worldwide (more than 1,000 of whom are Americans), there were only four black Americans. Days after our report was released in 2009, GAP reported that racial slurs were written on the inside walls of the Bank.

GAP has also found problems with the Bank’s anti-corruption and accountability efforts: the departments responsible for anti-corruption investigations – Ethics and Business Conduct and the Integrity Vice Presidency – are long on rhetoric and policy announcements but short on casework and asset recovery.

The WBDPT report is a useful review, but the results are grim and the implications of the results are even more dismal. If, in its own corporate practices, the bank is discriminatory and fails to reward merit, if senior management and national counterparts can play fast and loose with bank resources without answering to anyone, then a lack of poverty reduction and development is to be expected in client countries is hardly surprising.