Employees of the World Bank have been "expressing concern, dismay, and outrage" regarding favoritism shown by the bank and the Bush administration towards the one-time girlfriend of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, according to an internal memo circulated within the bank by the World Bank Group Association, which represents the rights of the bank's 13,000 employees. Among other things, the April 3 memo alleges that Shaha Riza, Wolfowitz's romantic interest was given a "promotion [that] clearly does not conform" to bank procedures. Moreover, the memo alleges, she was then given a raise "more than double the amount allowed" by the bank's rules.
A copy of the memorandum was leaked to myself and other journalists Wednesday evening as World Bank employees have become more outspoken in their criticism of Wolfowitz's tenure as president of the bank.
Wolfowitz, who as Deputy Secretary of Defense was considered an architect of the U.S. war with Iraq, disclosed to bank board members that he had a romantic relationship with a senior bank communications officer, Shaha Riza, shortly after he was nominated to head the World Bank. Bank regulations disallow bank employees from supervising spouses or romantic partners, but Wolfowitz reportedly attempted to circumvent the rules so he would be able to continue to work with Riza. Informed by the bank's ethics officers that that would not be allowable, the problem appeared solved when Riza was detailed to work at the State Department's public diplomacy office in September 2005--even though her salary was still to be paid by the World Bank.
Before she was detailed over to the State Department, Riza was earning $132,660, according to the bank's payroll records obtained by the Governmental Accountability Project. Had the bank's board adhered to its ordinary rules, as Riza was shifted over to the State Department, she should have only been eligible for a raise of about $20,000. Instead she was given a raise of $47,340, whereupon her salary became $180,000. Then last year, she received yet another raise which brought her salary to $193,950. That salary increase not only meant that Riza earned more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but apparently made her the single highest paid State Department official.
After GAP shared the records it obtained with the Washington Post's "In the Loop" columnist Al Kamen, and the New Yorker also mentioned the preferential treatment in a profile of Wolfowitz last week, the World Bank's Group Association was "inundated with messages from staff expressing concern, dismay, and outrage," according to the April 3 memo circulated by the association to the bank's rank and file employees.
"We call on Senior Management and the Board to clarify what appear to be violations of Staff Rules in favor of a staff member closely associated with the President," wrote Alison Cave, the chairman of the association.
In the same memo, Cave went on to write: "This case sends the message to staff that the rules apply to everyone except those associated with the most senior levels of management. It also sends the message to managers that they may flout the Staff Rules with impunity. It is extraordinarily discouraging to staff who may have been denied promotions and/or who receive a minimal salary increase despite a stellar performance evaluation-- and to hardworking... staff whose entire annual salaries are less than Ms. Riza's promotion increase."
As to the romance between Wolfowitz and Riza, it is unclear where that stands. The Washington Examiner recently reported that the two had split up. But Wonkette reported earlier today that the two of them were recently spotted making out after a party at the Japanese ambassador's house.
And as to any internal probe taking place at the World Bank of any of this, no-one at the bank is expecting anything to happen anytime soon. The person who would conduct any such investigation, Suzanne Rich Folsom, is a Republican party activist and long-time friend of Wolfowitz's. In appointing Folsom to the position, Wolfowitz had disregarded the recommendations of an executive-search firm which after considerable expense and time recommended no less than nine qualified candidates for the position to Wolfowitz.
Additional background on Murray Waas:
Jim Boyd, "Editorial Pages: Why Courage is Hard to Find," Nieman Reports, Summer 2006.
Eric Alterman and Dannile Ivory, "Blogosphere to Mainstream Media: Get Off the Bus," Center for Amercan Progress, Mary 4, 2009.
Ryan Chuttum, "Reuters is Excellent in Digging of A Health Insurer's Tactics," Columbia Journalism Review, March 10, 2010.
Matt Welch, "Salon's Coverage Commands Respect for Net Journalists," Online Journalism Review, April 30, 1998.
Reporters and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Receive Barlett & Steele Awards, Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Oct. 4, 2010.
Murray Waas will be writing more about this on his personal blog. A professional biography of Waas can be found here and additional information about the writer here. Collections of articles by Murray Waas can be found here and here.