The status of a highly publicized $3-billion bridge-and-road program, seen as an economic driver for the impoverished nation of Bangladesh, remains unclear after the World Bank canceled a $1.2-billion credit, citing the government's "inadequate response" to charges of corruption on the project.

Jim Yong Kim, former Dartmouth College president and the bank's new chief officer, said on July 2 the decision was "appropriate." The bank had been in talks with Bangladesh officials since September, he said. Government officials on July 9 said they would proceed with the project using Bangladesh funds, according to local reports.

In its June 29 announcement, the bank said it has "credible evidence" that points to "a high-level corruption conspiracy" among officials of the Bangladeshi government, Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and others involved in the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project.

The project's key element is a $1.4-billion, 6.15-kilometer-long bridge across the Padma River, near Dhaka. In its statement, the lender said it provided evidence to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other officials, urging them to investigate the corruption charges and prosecute anyone found responsible.

A spokeswoman for SNC-Lavalin says two former executives who were "related to alleged improper practices in the bidding process" by a subsidiary were arrested last year. She says the contract, "which was never awarded, was to act as the Owner's Engineer for the Bangladesh government by supervising the contractor responsible for the overall bridge construction."

A spokesman for AECOM says its $16-million bridge design contract was completed last November; that milestone came a year later than originally projected. However, the status of construction could not be determined.