World Bank Irony Watch: Anti-corruption Crusader Wolfowitz Apologizes for Inappropriate Influence
Paul Wolfowitz, who, according to an intriguing profile in this week’s New Yorker, has made the fight against government corruption a center piece of his tenure as World Bank President, was forced to issue an apology for arranging a job for his “significant other” (a World Bank employee) at the State Department. As the NYTimes reports, Wolfowitz’s favorable treatment may put him in hot water with the Bank’s board:
“I made a mistake, for which I am sorry,” Mr. Wolfowitz said in a statement on the World Bank’s Web site. He said that in retrospect he should have “trusted my original instincts” and stayed out of the job negotiations involving the woman, Shaha Ali Riza.
The transfer of Ms. Riza from the World Bank to a higher-paying job at the State Department has caused resentment among employees of the World Bank, and at an unfortunate time. The controversy threatens to overshadow the annual meeting of the World Bank and its sister organization, the International Monetary Fund, in Washington this weekend. The yearly event draws finance ministers from hundreds of countries.
Mr. Wolfowitz seemed to be throwing himself on the mercy of the World Bank board members, who are meeting today. “I will accept any remedies they propose,” he said in his statement. He had promised earlier to “cooperate fully” with the board’s review of the episode.
“I cannot speculate on what the board is going to decide,” Mr. Wolfowitz told The Associated Press.
But the World Bank’s staff association said today that Mr. Wolfowitz had “compromised the integrity and effectiveness” of the bank and “destroyed the staff’s trust in his leadership,” and so should resign, The A.P. said.
Mr. Wolfowitz, 63, has said that he arranged for Ms. Riza’s transfer because World Bank rules bar the institution’s employees from supervising anyone with whom they have a personal relationship, and that he consulted the bank’s executive board. But the transfer — and Ms. Riza’s salary, which the Government Accountability Project, an independent watchdog group, said is $193,500, about $10,000 more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s — only fueled more resentment among bank employees.
Here is what Wolfowitz said a year ago about the problem of corruption and the “good governance” solution:
In the last half-century we have developed a better understanding of what helps governments function effectively and achieve economic progress. In the development community, we have a phrase for it. We call it good governance. It is essentially the combination of transparent and accountable institutions, strong skills and competence, and a fundamental willingness to do the right thing. Those are the things that enable a government to deliver services to its people efficiently.
Will the World Bank board apply the same standard to its president that it applies to the leadership of developing countries?