Wolfowitz sits tight amidst more allegations and divided ministers

16 April 2007

The latest in Washington indicates that Wolfowitz will remain as World Bank head for a while yet, despite an increasingly shaky defence. Over the past few days more allegations have come to light regarding his questionable hiring, firing and payment activities, as well as his continued ‘obsession’ with US Iraq policy. Word is that the US and African ministers are backing his cause, whilst the Europeans are divided. Germany’s development minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, said Mr Wolfowitz has to decide “whether he still has the credibility to represent the position of the World Bank”. The UK development minister Hilary Benn has said “this whole business has damaged the Bank and should not have happened.” Antoinette Sayeh, finance minister of Liberia and a former World Bank official, praised Mr Wolfowitz’s “visionary leadership”.

In a carefully worded statement, which referred to the Bank’s mandate, staff concerns and risks to the institution’s credibility, Development Committee chair Carstens announced that the committee will leave the decision to the board. He ended: “we expect the World Bank to adhere to high standards of governance”. “We have to ensure that the Bank can effectively carry out its mandate and maintain its credibility and reputation as well as the motivation of its staff. The current situation is of great concern to all of us. We endorse the Board’s actions in looking into this matter and we asked it to complete its work. We expect the Bank to adhere to a high standard of internal governance”.

Wolfowitz's continued obsession with US Iraq policy

Since the scandal that errupted last week following Wolfowitz’s admission that he personally intervened in the pay rise and promotion of his girlfriend, which resulted in calls from the Bank’s staff association and elsewhere for him to resign (see Calls for Wolfowitz to resign mount), the Financial Times has since reported that Xavier Coll, the Bank’s senior human resources officer, was not consulted over the terms and conditions offered to Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems, former Bush administration officials who Mr Wolfowitz brought with him to the Bank. Moreoever, of the top five outside international appointments made by Paul Wolfowitz during his nearly two-year tenure, three were senior political appointees of right-wing governments that provided strong backing for U.S policy in Iraq.