April 13, 2007 -- With his job on the line and executive directors of the World Bank seeming troubled by a controversy involving his romantic partner, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz fought to keep his job Friday. In paper, audio and streaming video statements, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz apologized Thursday for his role in helping his girlfriend Shaha Ali Riza secure a lucrative job at the State Department, for which she is said to be paid even more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"I made a mistake, for which I am sorry," said the controversial Wolfowitz, a former deputy Secretary of Defense who was one of the main architect's of the current war in Iraq. "In hindsight, I wish I had trusted my original instincts and kept myself out of the negotiations."
World Bank Weighs Wolfowitz's Fate
The timing of Wolfowitz's announcement was not coincidental. World Bank delegates are convening in Washington, D.C., this weekend for annual meetings. The World Bank board met Thursday to discuss Wolfowitz's fate, though it adjourned without reaching a decision.
The 24 executive directors of the World Bank issued a statement in their review of the controversy -- Wolfowitz's girlfriend was promoted and received massive pay hikes after he took over in 2005. They "found that the Ethics Committee, including its chairman, had not been involved in the discussions with the concerned staff member. Neither did it find that the terms and conditions of the agreement had been commented on, reviewed or approved by the Ethics Committee, its chairman or the board."
This seems to contradict statements from Wolfowitz that he "took the issue to the Ethics Committee."
The executive directors said they "will move expeditiously to reach a conclusion on possible actions to take. In their consideration of the matter the executive directors will focus on all relevant governance implications for the Bank."
His apology was apparently also not enough for the World Bank Group Staff Association, which issued a statement saying Wolfowitz "must acknowledge that his conduct has compromised the integrity and effectiveness of the World Bank Group and has destroyed the staff's trust in his leadership. He must act honorably and resign."
Girlfriend's Pay Exceeded Secretary Rice's Salary
A copy of payroll data from the World Bank showing Riza's raises obtained by the Government Accountability Project, or GAP, indicate that Riza, a communications officer, received a $47,300 (35.5 percent) raise (to $180,000) after Wolfowitz arrived at the World Bank in 2005.
Once the relationship between Wolfowitz and Riza, who are both divorced, was made public in September 2005, Riza was assigned to work at the State Department, though she continued to draw a salary from the World Bank.
In 2006 Riza received a $13,590 (7.5 percent) raise (to $193,590). According to GAP, World Bank staff rules would cap her raise percentage increases at 12 percent and 3.7 percent. Riza's current salary, $193,590, is approximately $7,000 more than what Rice earns.
Wolfowitz has helmed the World Bank since 2005, and has made rooting out corruption in developing nations one of his clarion calls.
"It's ironic that Mr. Wolfowitz lectures developing countries about good governance and fighting corruption, while winking at an irregular promotion and overly generous pay increases to a partner," said Bea Edwards, GAP international director.