The World Bank on Wednesday announced the two-year debarment of French water engineering company OTV and one-year debarment of Brazilian water treatment technology company Veolia Water Technologies Brasil for fraudulent and collusive practices during a bidding process under the World Bank-financed Río Bogotá Environmental Recuperation and Flood Control Project in Colombia.

The debarment makes the two companies ineligible to participate in World Bank-financed projects. Both debarments are part of settlement agreements under which the companies acknowledge responsibility for the underlying sanctionable practices and agree to meet specified corporate compliance conditions as a condition for release from debarment.

The project was designed to assist the Colombian government in improving water quality, reducing flood risks, and creating multi-functional areas along the Bogotá River, with the goal of making the river an environmental asset for the Bogotá Distrito Capital metropolitan region. OTV engaged in fraudulent practices by failing to disclose fees paid to commercial agents during the tender prequalification and bidding processes. These agents assisted the company in obtaining confidential information.

OTV and VWT Brasil further worked with one of these agents in an attempt to improperly influence the tendering requirements, engaging in collusive practices prohibited by the World Bank’s procurement guidelines. The contract was ultimately awarded to another bidder, and neither OTV nor VWT Brasil participated in the project.

The settlement agreements provide for reduced periods of sanction considering the companies’ cooperation and voluntary remedial actions, including encouraging honest disclosures by employees and coordinating internal investigations with World Bank Group Integrity Vice Presidency (INT).

As a condition for release from sanction under the terms of the settlement agreements, the companies commit to developing an integrity compliance program consistent with the principles set out in the World Bank Group Integrity Compliance Guidelines. The companies also commit to continue to fully cooperate with the INT.