Monday, May 21, 2007

The Problem With Discharging Wolfowitz

To no great surprise, Paul Wolfowitz was stiff-armed out of his job as president of the World Bank on Thursday. The New York Times today has an op-ed by Christopher Burnham describing a victim of his departure -- the bank's anti-corruption drive.

Burnham, who was under secretary for management at the United Nations, contrasts the anti-corruption campaign at the bank with the investigation of the oil-for-food scandal at the UN:

New reforms proposed by Secretary General Kofi Annan and his successor, Ban Ki-moon, await approval from the General Assembly. Why hasn’t more been done? Claims of politicization — a common excuse for inaction — have prevented the organization from making all the changes it should.

My fear is that a reform agenda at the World Bank, absent Mr. Wolfowitz, faces a similar fate. . . .

One of the key reasons the oil-for-food scandal occurred was because the investigations division of the United Nations’ oversight office was undermined in the past by pathetic management and lack of staff. This is a mistake the World Bank needs to avoid. A rigorous independent investigations office is critical.

Even more crucial is a chief executive who will continue to fight corruption just as vigorously as Wolfowitz, but without the political baggage that made him dead meat. A good choice may be Paul Volcker, whose investigation of the oil-for-food scandal was lauded for its thoroughness.

© 2007 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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Wall Street Versus America was published by Penguin USA on April 6.
Click here for its Amazon.com listing and here for more information on the book, from my web site, gary-weiss.com.

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