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Wolfowitz Faces Showdown with World Bank Board

Protesters have been calling for World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to resign.
Win McNamee
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Protesters have been calling for World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to resign.

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is likely to find out Tuesday if he will keep his job. On Monday, a bank investigating committee reported that Wolfowitz broke bank rules in arranging a pay raise for his girlfriend. Wolfowitz is due to appear later Tuesday before the board of directors, in whose hands his fate now rests.

The investigating committee, which consisted of seven of the 24 members of the board, is withering in its criticism of Paul Wolfowitz.

Their report says his management of his girlfriend's pay raise amounted to a clear conflict of interest. It says Wolfowitz did not share information about what he was doing and even told the bank official who was handling the promotion to keep it to himself.

With that conduct, the committee concluded, Wolfowitz put his personal interests ahead of those of the bank.

The committee said Wolfowitz's recent public statements attacking the committee's work meant that he was "denigrating the very institution he was selected to lead."

The committee did not have the authority to fire Wolfowitz — that would be up to the full board — but it left little doubt of its own views.

The committee said the board should consider whether Wolfowitz will be able to provide the leadership needed at the bank, in light of "the damage done to the reputation of the World Bank and the lack of confidence in the present leadership."

The Bush administration, however, is not yet budging in its defense of Wolfowitz and for a time yesterday, the White House tried to delay the release of the committee report.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson then began calling other ministers, arguing that the facts in the Wolfowitz case are not so serious as to warrant his dismissal.

Whether an intense U.S. lobbying effort will be sufficient to block any move to get rid of Wolfowitz should be seen this afternoon when the full board meets with him.

According to board sources, 13 of the 24 directors would have to vote against Wolfowitz — and against the Bush administration — in order to force him out.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Tom Gjelten reports on religion, faith, and belief for NPR News, a beat that encompasses such areas as the changing religious landscape in America, the formation of personal identity, the role of religion in politics, and conflict arising from religious differences. His reporting draws on his many years covering national and international news from posts in Washington and around the world.