"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Wolfowitz honeymoon at World Bank appears over
Yahoo News/AFP
January 29, 2006

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Barely eight months after taking office, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz is fulfilling the fears of some staffers who looked askance at the hawkish former Pentagon number two's appointment.

"Communications with the management are pretty much non-existent, they do not understand the culture of the Bank," said one official at the international lender who, like other disaffected staffers, declined to give her full name.

"At first, we wanted to give him a chance," she said.

The honeymoon period for Wolfowitz seems to have been short-lived following his replacement of World Bank chief James Wolfensohn last June.

Many at the organisation had grave misgivings at the US government's nomination of a figure who was the "neoconservative" deputy to US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a prime architect of the war in Iraq.

Those concerns were quieted initially by Wolfowitz's promises to continue the World Bank's action against global poverty and his insistence that he wanted to listen to the collective expertise present in its ranks.

But members of staff say that discontent has begun to simmer, in particular at the appointment by Wolfowitz of former US administration insiders to senior positions as he promotes an aggressive campaign against corruption.

Some appointments were uncontroversial, such as his choice of Swedish national Lars Thunel as head of the International Financial Corporation, the Bank's lending arm, and of Italian Vincenzo La Via as chief financial officer.

But other job placements have caused a stink, notably the naming this month of Suzanne Rich Folsom as director of the World Bank's Department of Institutional Integrity, its anti-corruption unit.

The Republican lawyer, who is close to the White House, now keeps tabs on all of the Bank's 10,000 personnel in Washington and around the world to ensure they are administering funds cleanly.

Rich Folsom, whose husband leads the International Republican Institute, had already been serving as an adviser in Wolfowitz's private office since June.

Wolfowitz has brought in his Pentagon aide Kevin Kellems, who was also spokesman to Vice President Dick Cheney, as his special adviser and director of strategy for external affairs.

Robin Cleveland, Wolfowitz's new counsellor, was formerly associate director of the Office of Management and Budget in the White House.

The World Bank's staff association, its de-facto trade union, says Wolfowitz's appointments risk opening the organisation to charges of hypocrisy when it demands transparency of the poor countries that receive its aid.

"In order to be effective as an institution, we must exemplify the recommendations we make to others," it said in a letter to Wolfowitz that was distributed to all staff members and obtained by AFP.

"It sends the wrong message for positions such as these to wear the dual hats of director and counsellor in the president's office: a practice for which there is no precedent and which has raised questions about independence and objectivity," it said.

Aggrieved staffers say the aides brought in by Wolfowitz have retained a mind-set forged in the very different culture of the Republican administration of President George W. Bush.

"They don't seem to understand it's not Washington but an international organisation," one high-ranking insider told the Financial Times.

"The executives have insulted us. They don't trust us."

Why would any sane person trust someone from the Bush White House who got everything wrong about WMD in Iraq. The World Bank should be ashamed of itself for allowing this incompetent tyrant to take power.