Photograph — Fortune

The World Bank has suspended a South Sudan-based construction and trade company for 15 months due to alleged corruption while undertaking the Uganda Teacher and School Effectiveness Project (UTSEP). 

The Sudanese firm, Universal for General Construction and Trading Company, allegedly used an undeclared agent to prepare a false certificate to bid on a school construction component of the project. The certificate substantially and falsely inflated the true value of a prior contract. 

The segment of the project in question involves construction of classrooms, functioning toilets and access to water in 138 schools in 31 districts, selected through a combined needs and effort-based assessment, as well as improve teacher effectiveness. In the end though, the company did not win the $33 million contract.

The UTSEP is in line with the Ugandan government’s goal of addressing the challenges facing the country’s education sector which include a high level of teacher and student absenteeism, weak school level management structures, inadequate availability of learning materials, and large class sizes. A major issue is also the availability of teachers in disadvantaged areas and a lack of accommodation for teachers in rural, inaccessible areas.

Funding for the $100 million education project was provided by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) through the World Bank. Spanning over a three-year period, the ongoing programme is aimed at helping the Ugandan government to improve the standards in primary education.

Some of the intended beneficiaries of the project include over eight million pupils from new textbooks; a million pupils from improved teacher effectiveness in early grade reading teaching; 112,000 others from new classrooms and another 80,000 from trained childhood caregivers. It would also retrain about 20,800 teachers in primary schools on early grade reading.

The programme has so far become a prominent name in the education sector in the country, bringing about noticeable changes in the quality of Primary Education in Uganda. Also, the country is producing a new class of capable and confident teachers who are able to teach young learners to read and write at an early age. 

Moreover, the revised primary education curriculum has been reinforced through provision of instructional materials to pupils in public primary schools, improving the text book to pupil ratio for English, Mathematics and local languages from 14:1 to 1:1.

With this debarment the construction giant becomes unqualified to participate in World Bank-financed projects for the specified time. The Bank also announced a 24-month suspension of India-based SAI Consulting Engineering Ltd over alleged fraud in three projects in Africa.

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