After Wolfowitz: Redouble Corruption War

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Tens of billions of dollars have been stolen through the decades.
Wolfowitz’s successor must be equally committed to fighting corruption. In fact, the Bank should consider appointing a Vice President for combating the scourge.

EDITORIAL

 

Doubtless there are some African officials who are pleased with the crisis at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

The drama temporarily diverts attention from a mission that Paul Wolfowitz had launched at the bank; combating corruption, including the theft of money meant for development programs in Africa. Tens of billions of dollars have been stolen through the decades.

The message was correct, but the messenger was flawed. Though he showed zeal in denouncing corruption in developing countries we don't recall any outcry when companies such as Halliburton, associated with his friend US Vice President Dick Cheney was stealing taxpayer money through no-bid Iraq contracts or inflated invoices. One can't fight corruption selectively; which is why he can't explain his personal debacle.

Wolfowitz’s successor must be equally committed to fighting corruption. In fact, the Bank should consider appointing a Vice President for combating the scourge. Wolfowitz’s crisis is of his own creation. How could a person of such intellect act so unintelligently?

Didn’t Wolfowitz know that coming from the Defense department, where he was instrumental in leading the US into the Iraq quagmire, he'd have many opponents watching?

When Wolfowitz joined the Bank two years ago, his girlfriend, Shah Ali Riza was already an official there. Sooner or later, conflict of interest would arise, it was suggested. The solution? Riza was to move elsewhere.

Wolfowitz argues that he had initially offered to recuse himself from resolving the Riza matter. However, he was told to help deal with the problem. Even if true, didn’t the Bank president realize that news would leak about Riza’s salary at her new job at The State Department, considering that it exceeded Secretary Condoleezza Rice's pay?

Wolfowitz argues that Riza could have sued the bank for having been made to quit her job for something not of her own doing. The excess pay was part compensation. Valid point. That’s why it was even more critical that he not play a role in setting the salary—a compensation committee would have best handled the matter.

It’s water under the bridge. By staying, Wolfowitz, would embolden corruption everywhere: What moral authority would he have to raise the issue? The scourge is so vicious that in Uganda even money meant to fight HIV/AIDS was stolen, allegedly including by the country’s former Health minister.

Wolfowitz insists he’s being punished for his stint at the Defense department. Yet, he has no one to blame but himself. He squandered an opportunity to rewrite his history. Then again, perhaps that was his destiny.
 

 

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