- The Washington Times - Friday, April 13, 2007

The woman at the heart of the controversy that has embroiled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz says she is a victim and was forced into a job transfer because of their relationship.

Shaha Riza said that at no time did she report directly to Mr. Wolfowitz and that he had proposed to recuse himself from any decisions involving her to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

She said the ethics committee of the World Bank’s board had required her “to go on external assignment contrary to my wishes.”

Miss Riza was moved to a high-paying job at the State Department in September 2005. “I have now been victimized for agreeing to an arrangement that I have objected to and that I did not believe from the outset was in my best interest,” she said.

Her comments were made in a memo to an ad hoc committee of the World Bank looking into the circumstances surrounding her transfer. The memo was part of a set of documents released by the bank yesterday.

Mr. Wolfowitz has said he made a mistake and has apologized for his role in Miss Riza’s promotion. The White House expressed fresh support for Mr. Wolfowitz yesterday.

However, some of the bank’s staff have called for him to resign.

The World Bank’s board has been looking into the matter, which has overshadowed this weekend’s meetings of the 185-nation World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

A bank official said the board was not discussing the Wolfowitz matter yesterday but was focusing on the meetings. The bank’s mission is to fight poverty and improve living standards for the poor. It lends about $20 billion a year for various projects.

Before her transfer to the State Department, Miss Riza worked as a communications adviser in the bank’s Middle East Department. In her memo, Miss Riza said she did not want to be assigned to duties away from the bank and did not expect “any special considerations.”

She lamented “vicious public attacks” she said she has received over the matter. The episode, she said, has affected her “professionally, physically and psychologically.”

The packet of documents released by the World Bank included new details about Mr. Wolfowitz’s involvement in Miss Riza’s job transfer.

Two months after arriving at the bank on June 1, 2005, Mr. Wolfowitz sent a memo to the bank’s vice president of human resources, laying out details concerning Miss Riza’s employment and compensation.

“I now direct you to agree to a proposal which includes the following terms and conditions,” Mr. Wolfowitz instructed. “You should accept immediately her offer to be detailed to an outside institution of her choosing, while retaining bank salary and benefits.”

The Wolfowitz memo went on say that Miss Riza should receive a promotion, draw a salary of $180,000 and get annual pay increases of 8 percent.

Before the transfer, Miss Riza was thought to be getting paid close to $133,000. Afterward, she received $193,590, according to the Government Accountability Project, a watchdog group.

Miss Riza remains on the World Bank payroll though she left the State Department job in 2006 and now works for the Foundation for the Future, a group that gets some money from the department.

When asked what Miss Riza does at the foundation, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said yesterday his “best understanding” was that she is an adviser to the foundation’s board. “I do not have a job description for her, no,” he said.

Miss Riza’s pay package has led to accusations of favoritism from bank employees. The World Bank’s staff association wants Mr. Wolfowitz to resign. So does presidential hopeful John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina who weighed in on the matter yesterday.

“America’s ability to lead in the fight against global poverty is undermined with Paul Wolfowitz at the helm of the World Bank,” Mr. Edwards said. He charged that Mr. Wolfowitz’s tenure at the World Bank has been marked by some of the same “failures as his term managing the war in Iraq — cronyism and rhetoric that does not match reality — and now serious questions of financial integrity.”

President Bush appointed Mr. Wolfowitz — a main architect of the Iraq war when he served as deputy defense secretary — to the top job at the World Bank. The appointment was greeted with protests by international aid and other groups.

The United States — the bank’s largest shareholder — is standing by Mr. Wolfowitz during the current turmoil. “The president has confidence in Paul Wolfowitz and his work at the World Bank,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Joaquin Almunia, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, didn’t speak directly about Mr. Wolfowitz’s ability to continue leading the bank, but suggested there is concern.

“It seems there has been a scandal. I don’t know what the consequences will be,” Mr. Almunia said. “I have been this morning with the European secretary directors of the World Bank and they have transmitted to me that it is a real concern.”

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