Aid minister backs Wolfowitz resignation

Dutch aid minister Bert Koenders told Radio 1’s Journal news programme on Friday that he is glad former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz has maintained his dignity by resigning, after bitter and protracted international controversy.

Even if Wolfowitz’s departure was inevitable, the whole affair had lasted too long, said Koenders, and the Bank has been damaged by the affair.
Wolfowitz’s romantic relationship with long time bank staffer Shaha Riza, her promotion and $60,000 salary increase had been the source of increasing pressure on the American-appointed chief. He had campaigned fiercely to shift some of the blame for that decision.
The bank’s board statement yesterday said that ‘a number of mistakes were made by a number of individuals in handling the matter’ and that ‘the bank’s systems did not prove robust to the strains under which they were placed’.
The board’s statement was not interpreted by Koenders as an attack on former Labour leader Ad Melkert, chairman of the bank’s ethics commission at the time.
Melkert had written to Wolfowitz as far back as 2005 declaring the issue of his relationship with Riza and her promotion ‘closed’ and thanking him for his openness in disclosing that relationship. Melkert has since been cleared of any wrong-doing by an internal bank inquiry.
The nomination process for Wolfowitz’ successor threatens a new row, it traditionally having been done in secret by the US government.
Koenders said he does not see it as a forgone conclusion that the next president of the bank will be American – as all ten of them have been since its establishment in 1944.
A number of NGOs and anti-poverty groups have called for the next head of the bank to be appointed on merit through an open, accountable process.

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