Jan 27, 2006 8:34 pm


Remember how Wall Street tycoons used to hate Roosevelts? Today it is possible to argue that by using the state to balance and regulate big business, the two Roosevelts saved Capitalism from itself. Today it occurred to me that by demanding accountability the Bush administration may be doing something similar with international organizations.

No, I am not referring only to the notorious oil for food program which continues to reverberate from Australia to Turkey. That seems to have been merely the opening salvo in the clean up process. Today I became aware of two additional anti-corruption efforts. The first one reported by the Financial Times had to do with Paul Wolfowitz' anti-graft campaign in the World Bank. The FT certainly did not seem any more sympathetic to his efforts than the MSM has been to the oil for food revelations. Its front page article carries focused on staff unhappiness with their new president and his people. To get to the heart of the matter, one had to read most of the second article on page 6. It included the following story:

Four current and former and bank staff, who insisted they not be identified, told the FT that Ms Rich Folsom last year pressed the Department of Institutional Integrity to begin investigating the e-mails of staff members thought to have leaked information about corruption investigations. They said she urged Mr Hindle to bypass internal procedures, which required the signature of the general counsel and a managing director before staff e-mails could be accessed.

Mr Wolfowitz's office strongly denies that version of events. In a timeline prepared for the FT, the president's office said the issue arose in August after a whistle-blower - using the bank's new voluntary disclosure programme that encourages companies involved in bank projects to come forward - alleged corruption on a World Bank project in south Asia.

Several days later, the whistle-blower came back saying he had been threatened and harassed, and was afraid for his safety, because his identity had been leaked by two bank staff members to government officials he had implicated in the corrupt activities.

An investigation was ordered into e-mails of the two staff members in an effort to corroborate the allegation. Senior bank officials said Mr Hindle was not available to act on the request and did not immediately return phone calls. Ms Rich Folsom then tracked down Mr Zhang, who was travelling overseas, to get his approval, and also got approval from the office of Mr Dañino. The FT has seen documentary evidence of the request. But the effort took five days, during which time the whistle-blower fled his country, according to the timeline.

In other words, the"bad" Ms. Rich Folsom and the whistle-blower lost the battle. But the fact that she tried upset her colleagues. Wolfowitz, God bless him, is determined to continue the war. He has called on the"staff to treat the bank’s investigations unit as an “ally” helping to root out corruption rather than a “watchdog” that held the staff under suspicion." I would not hold my breath if I were in his place.

The BBC news brought information about another UN scandal. This time it has to do with procurement for peacekeeping operations. 8 staff members have been suspended with pay (of course) following internal investigations of the UN peacekeeping operations:

The United Nations is conducting some 200 investigations into its procurement activities and has placed eight officials on special leave with pay in that connection, the senior UN management official announced today, estimating that the funds involved could top the tens of millions of dollars.

I know this is only the tip of the iceberg. The international institutions' culture of impunity is decades old. Still, wouldn't it be ironic if it would be the Bush administration which would revive the credibility and usefulness of the international institutions they are accused of scorning?

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