On March 29, 2023, the World Bank Group announced the 15-month debarment of Vanuatu-based power and communication company PCS Limited for engaging in “fraudulent practices” in connection with the Vanuatu Rural Electrification Project, a project to improve the accessibility of electricity services for households, aid posts, and community centers located in remote, off-grid areas of Vanuatu. According to the World Bank, between November 2018 and May 2020, PCS submitted subsidy reimbursements for a non-subsidized item and knowingly misled the Project Implementation Unit in an effort to obtain a financial benefit from the project. This action constitutes a fraudulent practice under World Bank procurement guidelines.
PCS received a reduced period of debarment for admitting its culpability for the sanctionable practice, cooperating with World Bank investigators, and implementing voluntary remediation efforts. PCS’ debarment qualifies for cross-debarment by other multilateral development banks. As part of the settlement, PCS is ineligible to participate in projects and operations financed by World Bank institutions throughout the debarment period, and it must continue to cooperate with World Bank investigators. As a condition for release from debarment, the company also agreed to develop and implement an integrity compliance program that reflects the principles approved by the World Bank.