Thursday, April 05, 2007

Favoritism towards Wolfowitz Girl Friend?

Huffington Post
Murray Waas
Favoritism towards Wolfowitz Girl Friend?

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 girl friend 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.

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, she was earning $132,660, according to bank 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 $193,000. That's substantially even more than the salary of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

After GAP shared the records it obtained with 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.

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.

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.