WASHINGTON - Fighting to keep his job, World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz issued a rebuttal yesterday that blamed unclear bank rules for creating questions about his handling of hefty pay raises for his girlfriend.
The rebuttal comes as a special bank panel is putting together a report on whether Wolfowitz acted properly in the arranging the 2005 promotion and compensation package for bank employee Shaha Riza. The panel's findings and recommendation will go to the bank's 24-member board, which will decide Wolfowitz's fate.
The bank's former top ethics official, Ad Melkert, told the panel this week that the bank's ethics committee was not consulted and did not approve of Riza's compensation package. The bank's former general counsel, Roberto Danino, said he believed Wolfowitz acted "incorrectly."
Yesterday, Wolfowitz wrote to the special panel's chief, Herman Wijffels, that "rather than attempt to adjudicate between our conflicting interpretations of the events that occurred here, the board should recognize that this situation is the product of ambiguous bank rules and unclear governance mechanisms."
Wolfowitz has maintained that he acted in good faith and did not try to hide information about the package from bank officials. He has said the package's details "flowed from the back-and-forth negotiating process" between the bank's human resources head and Riza, who had her own counsel.
The bank's ethics officials, he said, had access to all details of the package.
Among the things the special panel is looking at is whether Wolfowitz violated bank rules, including conflict-of-interest rules, in getting involved in Riza's promotion and compensation package. She was moved to the State Department to avoid a conflict of interest but stayed on the bank's payroll. Her salary rose from close to $133,000 to $180,000. With subsequent raises, it eventually reached $193,590.
The board could meet today, although it is unclear whether a decision would emerge from that session.