Mittwoch, Mai 16, 2007

He must be doing something right ...

Paul Wolfowitz, so much under fire for working according to the rules of the World Bank (he's done nothing less than to have done exactly what he was supposed to do after checking with the Bank's personnel department!), has apparently now become persona non grata with the German Minister for Development, that lady in red with the unspeakable name, a certain Ms. Wieczorek-Zeul.

He is no longer welcome at the World Bank's Africa Forum meeting in Berlin next week, according to her account in Der Spiegel (unfortunately only in German...).

You know what this really means?

That the powers-that-be at the World Bank - the entrenched bureaucracy - is deathly afraid of him.

And that Wieczorek-Zeul is supporting them.

He must be doing something right if he has managed to make so many enemies at such a place. He came to reform, and reform is the very, very last thing that these folks at the World Bank are interested in.

After all, they've managed to lose around $100bn since 1947 to corruption; a full 20% of their loans are based on corrupt practices; the prevalent picture is one of money being diverted by collusion, kickbacks, bribes and procurement fraud.

In other words, his creation of an anti-corruption group at the World Bank was long over-due, and he has upset the apple cart.

Good for him. He probably won't survive, given the concerted, aggressive attempts to drive him out of office.

If he leaves the World Bank, then hopefully his successor will have a mandate to really shake things up there: "Business As Usual!", the apparent battle cry of the World Bank, can only be the continuation of corrupt practices that need to be driven out.

What did Wolfowitz do wrong?

This summary is as good as any:

Supposedly, Wolfowitz used his position at the bank to promote his girlfriend and shower her with $60,000 in raises.

But according to e-mails and memos, Wolfowitz did the right thing at every step. Before Wolfowitz had one thing to do with the bank, his girlfriend had worked there for years earning a glowing reputation. Upon his nomination to head the World Bank, Wolfowitz had his lawyers inform high officials at the bank of the potential conflict. They said the problem could be taken care of.

When Wolfowitz got to the bank, he tried to recuse himself from any decision having to do with his companion. The bank's ethics committee said nope, you've got to transfer her out of the agency while making sure her career prospects and finances are not hurt. Wolfowitz said that was fine and suggested the ethics committee go ahead and do that. The ethics committee told Wolfowitz, in writing, that he needed to do it. So he did.

And then he submitted the proposal to the ethics committee for their approval. They approved. A year later, someone anonymously complained about the deal, so the ethics committee reopened the decisions and again ruled, in writing, that everything was done by the book.

Now, another year later everyone calls Wolfowtiz the bad guy. The ethics committee chief, Ad Melkert, now among the highest officials at the United Nations, says he never bothered to read the details of the job transfer when Wolfowitz proposed it. Melkert also says that when he said he investigated the situation a second time, he really didn't bother.

In this scandal, one official did his best to do the right thing while another didn't bother to do anything. It is clear who should be fired.

What this means is that Wolfowitz is being made the fall guy. I think it's because of the relative success of the anti-corruption group that puts the fear of God into the mid-to-upper level careerists at the World Bank, who are probably collectively guilty of failing to exercise due diligence in dealing with the billions lent by the World Bank, with at least a few profiting, directly or indirectly from the deals done.

Never riles up a bureaucrat like pointing out that what they were doing should have made them criminally liable. People at the World Bank are highly privileged, with tax-free salaries and not a few perks like their retirement benefits. Threaten those privileges at your own risk.

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