Wolfowitz faces calls to resign

World Bank chief admits clearing promotions and large pay rises for his girlfriend.

Paul Wolfowitz, president of the World Bank, gave Shaha Riza a $200,000 package [AP]

The World Bank’s staff association said on Friday that Wolfowitz, the ex-US deputy defence secretary, had “destroyed” the trust of employees and should quit.
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“He must act honourably and resign,” the de facto union said in a letter to the World Bank’s 10,000 staff.

The bank’s 24 executive directors said the ethics committee had not been involved in the decision to award Shaha Riza rises that gave her a salary greater than that of Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state.
They adjourned a meeting on Wolfowitz’s future, saying they would move quickly to reach a decision.
‘An object of scorn’
The Financial Times newspaper also called for Wolfowitz to go in an editorial on Friday.
“If the president stays [the World Bank] risks becoming an object not of respect, but of scorn, and its campaign in favour of good governance not a believable struggle, but blatant hypocrisy,” it said.
The controversy has become a deep embarrassment for Wolfowitz as he battles to overcome scepticism about a campaign that he is waging against corruption in the 185-member World Bank’s multi-billion-dollar lending.
He is also under fire for his management style, following a series of clashes with the board and hostility towards his appointment of US Republican party allies to jobs in his inner circle.
Wolfowitz, a “neo-conservative” hawk, was nominated two years ago by Bush, a move widely seen as controversial given his position as a main architect of the Iraq war.
Pay rises ‘a mistake’
Wolfowitz apologised on Thursday for authorising the rises for Riza, describing the move as a “mistake”. 
“I made a mistake for which I am sorry”, he told a press conference in Washington.
Wolfowitz refused to say if he might have to resign as the World Bank’s board of governors discuss the row.

Wolfowitz personally ordered the hefty pay rises for Riza, according to a report by The Financial Times published on Thursday.


It cited two people who had seen a memo from Wolfowitz to the head of human resources spelling out the terms of the package.


‘Real regret’


Wolfowitz said: “This was not in any way to protect personal interests. My real regret was that I didn’t more forcefully keep myself out of it.


“I take full responsibility for the details of the agreement,” he said, after saying that he had followed advice given by the bank’s ethics committee on the employment of Riza.


Colin Bradford, research professor in economics and international relations at the Brookings Institution, told Al Jazeera: “The fact is that there’s evidence that he directly intervened in the matter and made some decision or recommendations that amount to decisions on his case on how to handle it.


“It takes absolutely no brains whatsoever that it is utterly and totally inconsistent with the message of anti-corruption and good governance, which the bank is trying to promote.”


‘Personal dilemma’


Riza was transferred from the World Bank’s communications office to the US state department in line with bank regulations to avoid a conflict of interest after Wolfowitz’s appointment in mid-2005.


While still on the World Bank payroll, she was rapidly promoted and given large salary increases.


Wolfowitz acknowledged that the situation surrounding Riza “had the potential to harm this institution” and said that given his romantic involvement with her, he faced a “painful personal dilemma when I was new to the institution”.

Source: News Agencies