Copyrighted material


by Emad Mekay

on Wolfowitz controversy

(IPS) WASHINGTON -- Kevin Kellems, the right-hand man of embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, has resigned from the Bank in what analysts say is likely an effort to save his boss.

"Kevin Kellems, director of strategy in external affairs and senior adviser, has informed me of his intention to resign from service in the World Bank Group, effective next week," said Marwan Muasher, senior vice president for the Bank's external affairs, in a statement.

The statement did not give a reason for Kellem's resignation, but observers say it is almost certainly related to the scandal now besetting his boss and former Bush administration colleague Paul Wolfowitz.

In statements to the press, Kellems cited poor working conditions inside the Bank for his departure and said he is looking for new opportunities.

Wolfowitz has been embroiled in a controversy over what appears to be an unauthorized pay raise and promotion for his girlfriend and fellow Bank staffer, Shaha Riza. The World Bank's Board of Directors is now investigating the issue, with reports that it is leaning towards concluding that Wolfowitz broke Bank rules.

"Kellems' resignation is perhaps a last-ditch effort to stave off a vote of no confidence by the Bank board," said Manish Bapna, executive director of the Bank Information Center, an independent watchdog group.

"It's too little, too late. If anything, this seems to suggest that Paul Wolfowitz's future at the World Bank is incredibly precarious, and that his days are numbered," Bapna said.

The nepotism charges against Wolfowitz top a long list of complaints about his management style, and have triggered an open revolt from Bank staff. Some of the institution's top managers joined calls in recent weeks from across the world for Wolfowitz to resign.

Seeking to appease some of that anger, Wolfowitz offered two weeks ago to rein in two of his hard-line advisors, Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems, who have angered many staff members with their harsh style and high salaries -- reportedly approaching 250,000 dollars.

Kellems, in particular, has been at the center of the Riza-Wolfowitz controversy. It was his office that initially denied any wrongdoing on the part of Wolfowitz and told the Washington Post that the board had in fact authorized the salary package with Riza, statements hotly denied by board members and top managers.

Members of the Ethics Committee of the Board, the relevant body that would have approved the raise, say that they knew nothing of the deal.

Payroll data obtained from the World Bank show that Riza, a communications officer in the Bank's Middle East Office, received a 47,300-dollar, or 35.5 percent, pay raise -- to 180,000 dollars -- after her boyfriend, Wolfowitz, arrived at the Bank in 2005.

That raise was followed last year by another 13,590-dollar raise, about 7.5 percent, to a total salary of 193,590 dollars.

Kellems, a former spokesman for U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, was named director of external strategy last year. He was also an advisor to Richard Lugar, the former Republican chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

When he was appointed, many World Bank staff members were furious because they viewed the posting as political, when the job is traditionally filled after a competitive process. Kellems quickly came under fire for lacking experience in international development.

Kellem's responsibilities were to better integrate the role of the external affairs department across the World Bank Group, and to "strengthen the Bank's global public affairs impact."

Meanwhile, staff complaints mounted. In January 2006, a complaint was filed anonymously by a World Bank employee against the president asserting that "bank rules and procedures were stretched in the appointment of close advisers to Paul Wolfowitz, the bank's president."

The complaint, which received a good deal of media attention, also questioned the logic behind the high salary and open-ended contracts given to Kellems and Robin Cleveland, a former associate director of the White House office of management and budget who played a key role in planning the bungled post-war reconstruction in Iraq.

Observers say that Kellems' resignation could lead to further departures from the inner circle that Wolfowitz has built around himself since he was appointed by the White House to the job in June 2005.

"Could this be a prelude to a week of further resignations? I expect so," wrote Alex Wilks on the website, which has kept track of changes inside the Bank during the current controversy. "Remember that Wolfowitz already offered to sacrifice his other aide, Robin Cleveland, an offer that World Bank staff rejected."

Now that Kellems has left, it will certainly be hard for the Wolfowitz camp to keep the focus on the narrow Riza-Wolfowitz affair this week, Wilks said.

"All bets are off on how many of the Wolfowitz senior appointees are preparing their resignation letters," Wilks added.

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Albion Monitor   May 7, 2007   (

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