Wednesday, January 16, 2008

World Bank's Integrity Head axed

Six months after taking over as president of the World Bank, Robert B. Zoellick faced new turmoil on Wednesday over a campaign against corruption in bank lending, with the resignation of the chief of the bank’s antifraud unit.

Bank officials said that despite Mr. Zoellick’s efforts to heal the wounds left from the stormy tenure of his predecessor, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the resignation of Suzanne Rich Folsom, Mr. Wolfowitz’s top deputy in his anticorruption campaign, was stirring new bitterness. They said that several of Ms. Folsom’s aides were also resigning.

Mr. Wolfowitz, who had made the battle against corruption a priority, was ousted as bank president last year after the disclosure that he had arranged a pay increase and promotion for his companion, a bank employee, in 2005.

“There is just a lot of bad blood,” said a bank official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss internal matters. He added that many in the bank remained “allergic” to efforts to prosecute cases of fraud. Another official said that ties between Ms. Folsom and the bank had been on a “downward spiral” in recent months.

Associates of Ms. Folsom said she had decided to leave her job because she had accomplished the goal of making the battle against corruption a major priority, but realized that opposition to her work by others had made it difficult for her to go on.

News of her departure stirred mixed reactions within the bank, where many welcomed her decision, saying she had been selective in her prosecutions or overly aggressive, while others said she had done much to combat complacency.

Relations between Mr. Zoellick and Ms. Folsom, which were positive in the beginning, were described by many inside the bank as increasingly frayed in recent weeks, especially after editorials in The Wall Street Journal cited internal investigations and suggested that Ms. Folsom was being undercut and driven out.

A spokesman for Mr. Zoellick, Marwan Muasher, a senior vice president for external affairs, said that Ms. Folsom had not been pushed out and that Mr. Zoellick had been entirely supportive.

“He did not force her out in any way, shape or form,” Mr. Muasher said of Mr. Zoellick, adding that when Ms. Folsom told Mr. Zoellick last year that she wanted to leave for a job in private business, he offered her a different job at the bank and then asked her to stay until the bank completed its investigation of corruption in India.

The report on India was released Friday, and it found extensive corruption in several Indian lending programs. The report was filled with pictures of shoddy construction work at hospitals, clinics and other facilities that had been certified as adequate. It also contained pledges by India to work with the bank on improving its procedures, but some officials in the bank said these were similar to ones made and not kept in the past.

Ms. Folsom’s resignation was announced Wednesday morning in a posting in the bank’s internal Web site, without a statement praising her from Mr. Zoellick.

-Head of World Bank Fraud Unit Resigns


Ken Houghton said...

It's nice to see Wolfie's defenders are still in place at the NYT.

Tired of it said...

Since when has Paul Wolfowitz ever had a defender in the New York Times? Give up knee jerk reactions and try to pay attention. This endless polarized hate-fest has got to stop. There are real problems in the world that will never be solved by the constant ping-pong match of one-upsmanship.

Stckler for facts said...

Interesting to see WSJ bemoan the departure of Suzanne Rich Folsom with the same passion as it mourned the "coup" against Wolfowitz. Both were champions of corruption... except for this inconvenient matter about Wolfowitz and his girl friend. WSJ also "reports" that 90% of funds in India were siphoned off by corrupt officials. Wonder what WSJ's source is. This number certainly does not appear in the World Bank's INT report that is posted on its own website. But then when did WSJ "reporters" let facts get in the way of their reporting. Keep up your good work, which will be even stronger under Murdoch.