by Suzie-Q @ 9:05 PM MDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Development ministers from around the globe on Sunday voiced “great concern” over World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz’s handling of his girlfriend’s promotion, but Wolfowitz said he intends to stay in his job.
“The current situation is of great concern to all of us,” the top officials said in a communique issued after a meeting of the IMF-World Bank Development Committee.
“We have to ensure that the bank can effectively carry out its mandate and maintain its credibility and reputation as well as motivation of the staff,” the ministers from World Bank member states said.
In a news conference shortly after the Development Committee’s tough words were released, Wolfowitz said he believed he could still effectively lead the poverty-fighting lender. “This is important work and I intend to continue it.”
Top European officials were among those who expressed worry in closed-door sessions on Sunday that Wolfowitz had tarnished the bank’s reputation by helping to secure a high-paying promotion for his girlfriend, bank employee Shaha Riza.
At the start of speeches to the Development Committee, ministers from Britain and Germany said the bank’s reputation had been dented, sources told Reuters.
Other sources monitoring the meeting said several other European countries also briefly addressed the issue, although they did not call outright for Wolfowitz to step down.
The Netherlands, a large donor country, was among the chorus of nations wondering how the bank’s credibility could be restored. “We are critical but are awaiting development,” William Lelieveldt, Dutch Treasury spokesman, told Reuters.
MORAL AUTHORITY IN QUESTION
Staff and development activists accuse Wolfowitz of breaking bank rules in helping to arrange Riza’s promotion before she was assigned to outside work at the State Department.
They argue the institution’s moral authority has been left in tatters, especially its authority to make countries who receive aid accountable for the money, a priority for Wolfowitz, who has ruffled feathers at the bank with a strong-arm anti-corruption push.
The former No. 2 official at the Pentagon has apologized for his handling of Riza’s promotion and has said he was advised by a World Bank ethics panel to assign her to a job outside the bank to avoid a conflict of interest.
While his backers in the White House have come to his defense, large shareholders like Britain, Germany and France question whether he still has the credibility to lead the bank, which spends about $25 billion a year on projects to fight poverty in developing countries.