ENGINEERS comprise almost 10 per cent of the professional staff of the World Bank, not a surprising figure considering their important function in its work. The primary responsibility of the Bank’s 75 specialist engineers is to appraise the projects for which loans are requested, and in discharging it they must bear in mind not only the engineering, but also financial, managerial, organizational, and economic aspects.
The engineers, who come from many countries, work closely with economists and financial analysts in reaching judgments on the projects, the amounts of loans, the grace periods, and the contractual arrangements to ensure successful construction and operation of the projects recommended. After loans are made, the Bank’s engineers visit the projects during construction to inspect progress, to determine if the various conditions set forth in the Loan Agreements are being observed and, in general, to get at the problems. If major problems are found, they recommend a course of action for the Bank to take, and on lesser problems they assist in ironing out the difficulties. The engineering staff does not undertake any engineering work for borrowers. This is almost always done by consultants retained by borrowers; the Bank merely reserves the right to approve the borrower’s choice of consultant.
However, the Bank’s technical assistance work involves it more directly with engineering firms. Besides lending for projects, it also carries on a small technical assistance program financed on a grant basis—currently running at about $12.5 million a year—and administers a much larger amount as Executing Agent for the UN Special Fund. Expenditures under these technical assistance programs are usually for feasibility studies designed to assess the potentialities of resources within a defined area or sector of an economy or to identify and formulate projects. When the Bank is meeting the costs of such studies, it selects the consultants itself.
To assist it in judging the ability of consultants to carry out proposed tasks the Bank maintains a comprehensive file of the names and experience records of all firms desiring to’ be included—about 1,800 of them at present. The Bank takes a wholly impartial view in the selection and approval of consultants; it wants only to be assured that any assigned task will be performed with full professional competence.