World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz came out swinging today against charges levelled at him by the World Bank that he used his position in order to provide a nice raise and cushy promotion for his girlfriend:
WASHINGTON — World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on Monday decried what he called a “smear campaign” against him and told a special bank panel that he acted in good faith in securing a promotion and pay raise for his girlfriend. He reiterated that he had no plans to resign, and President Bush gave him a fresh endorsement.
In a prepared statement to the panel, Wolfowitz said the institution’s ethics committee had access to all the details surrounding the arrangement involving bank employee Shaha Riza, “if they wanted it.”
Wolfowitz told the panel, “I acted transparently, sought and received guidance from the bank’s ethics committee and conducted myself in good faith in accordance with that guidance.”
The special bank panel is investigating Wolfowitz’ handling of the 2005 promotion of bank employee Riza, who was scheduled to appear later in the day.
The controversy has prompted calls for the resignation of Wolfowitz, an architect of the Iraq war in his preceding Pentagon job. The bank’s 24-member board is expected to make a decision in the case this week.
Back on the 16th, the Wall Street Journal posted a lengthy piece titled “The Wolfowitz Files -The anatomy of a World Bank smear” which is well-worth the read if you want to understand how shallow the World Bank’s case is against Wolfowitz. A sampling:
The World Bank released its files in the case of President Paul Wolfowitz’s ethics on Friday, and what a revealing download it is. On the evidence in these 109 pages, it is clearer than ever that this flap is a political hit based on highly selective leaks to a willfully gullible press corps.
Mr. Wolfowitz asked the World Bank board to release the documents, after it became possible the 24 executive directors would adjourn early Friday morning without taking any action in the case. This would have allowed Mr. Wolfowitz’s anonymous bank enemies to further spin their narrative that he had taken it upon himself to work out a sweetheart deal for his girlfriend and hide it from everyone.
The documents tell a very different story–one that makes us wonder if some bank officials weren’t trying to ambush Mr. Wolfowitz from the start. Bear with us as we report the details, because this is a case study in the lack of accountability at these international satrapies.
The paper trail shows that Mr. Wolfowitz had asked to recuse himself from matters related to his girlfriend, a longtime World Bank employee, before he signed his own employment contract. The bank’s general counsel at the time, Roberto Danino, wrote in a May 27, 2005 letter to Mr. Wolfowitz’s lawyers:
“First, I would like to acknowledge that Mr. Wolfowitz has disclosed to the Board, through you, that he has a pre-existing relationship with a Bank staff member, and that he proposes to resolve the conflict of interest in relation to Staff Rule 3.01, Paragraph 4.02 by recusing himself from all personnel matters and professional contact related to the staff member.” (Our emphasis here and elsewhere.)
That would have settled the matter at any rational institution, given that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, worked four reporting layers below the president in the bank hierarchy. But the bank board–composed of representatives from donor nations–decided to set up an ethics committee to investigate. And it was the ethics committee that concluded that Ms. Riza’s job entailed a “de facto conflict of interest” that could only be resolved by her leaving the bank.
All of this is so unfair that Mr. Wolfowitz could be forgiven for concluding that bank officials insisted he play a role in raising Ms. Riza’s pay precisely so they could use it against him later. Even if that isn’t true, it’s clear that his enemies–especially Europeans who want the bank presidency to go to one of their own–are now using this to force him out of the bank. They especially dislike his anticorruption campaign, as do his opponents in the staff union and such elites of the global poverty industry as Nancy Birdsall of the Center for Global Development. They prefer the status quo that holds them accountable only for how much money they lend, not how much they actually help the poor.
Make sure to read it all.
Andrew Young, who used to despise Wolfowitz when he was Deputy Defense Secretary for the Bush administration, defends him here:
We must get beyond the current crisis at the World Bank, a careful examination of which will show that Wolfowitz was operating in what he felt was the best interest of the institution and with the guidance of its ethics committee.
This crisis also should not redound to the detriment of Wolfowitz’s companion, Shaha Riza, a British Muslim woman who is an admired World Bank professional and a champion of human rights in the Muslim world.
I am a Protestant Christian minister, a product of America’s excessive Puritanism. I’ve always looked to Europe for sophistication, temperance and the tolerance the world needs to survive. It is my appeal that we offer Paul Wolfowitz the same chance to learn from the misjudgments of the past and move on together to construct a more just, prosperous and nonviolent world.
Young sounds a little frou frou, but the essence of his comments there and throughout the piece are essentially to the World Bank: look, I hated him during the run-up to the Iraq war just like you did, but I’ve learned to put my grudges behind me and grown to respect him – and so should you.
If the facts are anything like they are as represented in the WSJ, it would appear that the World Bank is targeting and setting up Wolfowitz for one reason and one reason only: because he was a Bush guy and because he’s not a ‘business as usual’ guy at the World Bank.