Wolfowitz Responds to Controversy Over Staffer
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, in a memo to the bank’s staff, responded today to the growing controversy surrounding the salary paid to a staffer with whom he is romantically linked after she was detailed to work at the U.S. State Department in September 2005.
“I…acted on the advice of the [World Bank] Board’s Ethics Committee to work out an agreement that balanced the interests of the institution and the rights of the staff member in an exceptional and unprecedented situation,” he said.
The World Bank’s staff association had said Shaha Ali Riza, who remained on the bank’s payroll while working at State for the Middle East Partnership Initiative, had received $61,000 in raises since she left, a sum the association said is out of line with bank rules governing salary increases.
Her annual salary — $193,590 — exceeds that of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and as a foreign national working for an international institution, Riza isn’t subject to the same U.S. income taxes as Rice.
The bank’s 24 executive directors — representatives of the countries that own it — said last week they “have decided to acquire all the information related to this matter and will respond to the issues raised as soon as possible.” The executive directors asked World Bank General Counsel Ana Palacio, a Wolfowitz appointee and former Spanish foreign minister, to handle the inquiry.
The text of Mr. Wolfowitz’s memo follows:
“Over the past few weeks, information regarding the external assignment of a World Bank staff member has raised concerns among some of you about upholding Bank Group rules regarding the rights, obligations, and fair treatment of all employees,” Wolfowitz said. “I would like to assure the staff that I have always acted to uphold these rules to the best of my ability, and I will continue to do so.”
“The case of the staff member mentioned prompted me to seek the advice of the Board of Executive Directors upon my arrival at the Bank. I subsequently acted on the advice of the Board’s Ethics Committee to work out an agreement that balanced the interests of the institution and the rights of the staff member in an exceptional and unprecedented situation. Just as one example, a normal external assignment is voluntary and for a maximum of three years, but this one was involuntary and for the length of my service.”
“As President of this institution, I accept full responsibility for the actions taken in this case.
“I have already indicated to the Board my intention to cooperate fully in their review of the details of the case. In particular, I will ensure that the Board has access to the facts in this case, in a manner that also respects the Bank’s rules concerning the right of every staff member to the confidentiality of his or her records.”
“What remains of the utmost importance to me is the protection of the interests of this institution as a whole, and our need to remain focused on our agenda of helping the world’s poor.”