Corruption has plagued the LHWP from its inception. Masupha Sole, the Chief Executive of the Lesotho Highlands Development Agency, was accused of accepting more than $6 million of bribes from multinational corporations hoping to secure work on the project. In 2003, he was convicted in a Lesotho court of accepting bribes, fined heavily, and sentenced to 18 years in prison (later changed to 15 years). Three multinational corporations – one from Canada, one from Germany, and one from France – were also convicted of bribery and inflating the costs of the LHWP. Other multinationals have gone to court in this case as well.
The World Bank has fallen under scrutiny due to the lack of action taken by the Bank toward these multinational corporations. Bribery and corruption can (and, in this case, did) drive up the costs of the project – costs that can burden people or groups that were originally intended to benefit from the project (such as the Lesotho Government) – so these cases should be taken seriously. Some have suggested that corruption is ubiquitous in projects like the LHWP, where multinational corporations from the developed world compete intensely for work in developing countries. Because bribery is so common, many believe, the World Bank has shown an unwillingness to blacklist corporations found guilty of corruption from working on projects that the Bank funds, nor has it agreed to establish funds to aid in the costly legal process of investigating cases of corruption, despite the Government of Lesotho’s suggestion. Should the World Bank take a stronger approach toward rooting out corruption in projects that it helps fund?