World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz apologized for his role in the promotion of a woman with whom he was romantically involved but still faced an open revolt from staff members agitating for his resignation.
Wolfowitz told a press conference in Washington that he’s prepared to accept whatever “remedies” the bank’s board proposes. He later addressed the group’s Staff Association in the atrium of the bank’s headquarters, where colleagues shouted “resign, resign.”
The Staff Association, which represents about 13,000 World Bank employees, hasn’t called for the resignation of a president before, according to Alison Cave, who heads the group. She is pressing the board to release all documents related to Riza’s pay increase and transfer.
The former U.S. deputy secretary of defence has taken responsibility for the temporary transfer of Shaha Riza to the State Department after he arrived at the lender in June 2005. Her move took place under bank rules that forbid one partner to report to another, though Riza got a pay raise that was twice as large as bank rules allow, according to the Staff Association.
Wolfowitz, 63, on 12 April 2007 said he initially tried to avoid involvement and finally intervened because of the “legal risk” associated with an “involuntarily reassignment” of a staffer.
“I made a mistake, for which I am sorry,” he said at the press conference. He also acknowledged the need to reorganize his personal office, where aides have been criticized for a lack of expertise in development aid and for ties to the Republican Party.
The board’s probe of Riza’s promotion is overshadowing the semi-annual meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Wolfowitz’s press conference opening the meeting was dominated by the issue. He was asked only a handful of questions about the bank’s lending program.
Riza, 52, couldn’t be reached for comment.
The White House, though, is backing him. The Bush administration, which nominated Wolfowitz for the job, has “full confidence” in the World Bank president, said Deputy White House Press Secretary Tony Fratto.