Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The World Bank Coup?

The Paul Wolfowitz scandal at the World Bank has been the subject of seemingly endless one-sided coverage. The Wall Street Journal focuses on the other side today...
Mark Malloch Brown spoke Monday to a crowded auditorium at the World Bank's headquarters, warning that the bank's mission was "hugely at risk" as long as Paul Wolfowitz remained its president. Only hours earlier, news leaked that a special committee investigating Mr. Wolfowitz had accused him of violating conflict-of-interest rules. A coincidence? We doubt it.

Mr. Malloch Brown, remember, was until last year Kofi Annan's deputy at the United Nations. In that position, he distinguished himself by spinning away the $100 billion Oil for Food scandal as little more than a blip in the U.N.'s good work, and one that had little to do with Mr. Annan himself. Last week, Mr. Malloch Brown was named vice president of the Quantum Fund, the hedge fund run by his billionaire friend George Soros. A former World Bank official himself and ally of soon-to-be British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Mr. Malloch Brown would almost surely be a leading candidate to replace Mr. Wolfowitz should he step down. Not surprisingly, Gordon Brown cold-shouldered Mr. Wolfowitz at a recent meeting in Brussels.

The bank presidency would be a neat coup for Sir Mark, and not just because the post has heretofore gone to an American. He also stands for everything Mr. Wolfowitz opposes, beginning with the issue of corruption. Consider Mr. Malloch Brown's defense of the U.N.'s procurement practices.

"Not a penny was lost from the organization," he insisted last year, following an audit of the U.N.'s peacekeeping procurement by its Office of Internal Oversight Services. In fact, the office found that $7 million had been lost from overpayment; $50 million worth of contracts showed indications of bid rigging; $61 million had bypassed U.N. rules; $82 million had been lost to mismanagement; and $110 million had "insufficient" justification. That's $310 million out of a budget of $1.6 billion, and who knows what the auditors missed.

Mr. Malloch Brown also made curious use of English by insisting that Paul Volcker's investigation into Oil for Food had "fully exonerated" Mr. Annan. In fact, Mr. Volcker's report made an "adverse finding" against the then-Secretary-General. Among other details, the final report noted that Mr. Annan was "aware of [Saddam's] kickback scheme at least as early as February 2001," yet never reported it to the U.N. Security Council, much less the public, a clear breach of his fiduciary responsibilities as the U.N.'s chief administrative officer. Mr. Malloch Brown described the idea that Mr. Annan might resign as "inappropriate political assassination"--a standard he apparently doesn't apply to political enemies like Mr. Wolfowitz.
What's even more perturbing to me is that the same corrupt figures float through these multi-national organizations accruing power and answering only to one another. At least we elect the crooks who end up in Congress.


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