Wolfowitz to leave World Bank

The World Bank has confirmed its president Paul Wolfowitz will resign, leaving on June 30. Mr Wolfowitz has been under pressure to step down after being accused of arranging a pay rise for his girlfriend, working for the U.S. State Department.

Shaha Riza had worked for the World Bank for eight years before Paul Wolfowitz became chief of the institution.  When Mr Wolfowitz took over at the bank, Ms Riza, was moved to the State Department. Shortly after  her tax-free World Bank salary rapidly raised from  US $ 133 000 to about US $193,000. A special Ethics Panel investigating this matter concluded that Shaha Riza’s salary increased at the discretion of Paul Wolfowitz “in opposition to the rules of the institution”.

Paul Wolfowitz’s critics say that his tenure has resulted in the weakening of the bank oversight system and that his resignation will mark the beginning of a new period.

“He has dismantled to a large extent the oversight mechanisms which were in place before he arrived. He weakened the Mediation Office, the Office of the General Council and the Department of Institutional Integrity. And we feel there needs to be a period after his departure for a general clean-up at the bank. We are to restore at least the status quo in terms of oversight mechanisms,” underlined Bea Edwards, Government Accountability Project Director.

President of the World Bank since 2005, Paul Wolfowitz continually resisted calls to leave, relying on the support of the Bush administration in which he used to serve as Deputy Defense Secretary. He still insists he acted in good faith, a sentiment echoed by President Bush, who has reluctantly accepted Mr Wolfowitz’s resignation.

Some insiders say that Mr Wolfowitz’s tenure at the World Bank was doomed from the very beginning. He is known as a conservative and the key architect of the Iraq war – which may Europeans in the World Bank oppose.