World and Nation

As Top Aide Resigns, Future For Wolfowitz Still Uncertain

World Bank president Paul D. Wolfowitz's efforts to keep his job floundered Monday as one of his top two aides resigned and several senior bank officials expressed concern in interviews that countries might withhold donations if his fate as head of the world's leading development institution isn't settled soon.

Many outside analysts have predicted that Wolfowitz either will step down or be fired by the bank board for his role in engineering a promotion and pay raise for his girlfriend, a former bank employee. A committee investigating the misconduct charges submitted its findings to Wolfowitz and the bank's board Monday. Those findings conclude that Wolfowitz's actions constitute a violation of bank rules on conflict of interest, according to published reports.

As the dispute has turned progressively uglier in the past four weeks, bank officials have said in interviews that they worry that the damage to the institution could take years to mend. Billions of dollars are at stake, they said, mostly in the form of contributions from rich countries to a fund for developing nations. And the focus on Wolfowitz's ethics has put a harsh spotlight once again on an institution that has long battled international perceptions of being an ineffectual bureaucracy.

"The bank can only do a good job if there is a good and sound reputation," Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos told reporters Monday in Brussels. "I am concerned about this reputation at the moment."

The pressure on Wolfowitz increased Monday with the resignation of his aide, Kevin Kellems, who blamed the turmoil surrounding Wolfowitz. "Given the current environment surrounding the leadership … it is very difficult to be effective in helping to advance the mission of the institution," he said.

But for many bank officials, Wolfowitz's management style, described as depending heavily on outsiders Kellems and a second aide, Robin Cleveland, was the source of much of the conflict with staff and donors. Kellems and Cleveland, who followed Wolfowitz from the US Defense Department to the bank, routinely disregarded input from senior bank officials. Cleveland could not be reached for comment, and Wolfowitz issued no public comment Monday.

"Three people can't run the World Bank," said one senior bank official who is an expert in African development, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job.

Kellems's departure was taken by many analysts as a sign that Wolfowitz, too, would soon leave. But others suggested it also could be a sign that Wolfowitz is hoping to build a new management team in order to save his job - if the board lets him.

"It may be a last-minute effort to stave off a vote of no-confidence, but it is too little, too late," said Manish Bapna, executive director of the Bank Information Center, a watchdog group. "Kellems's resignation would not appease his many critics inside or outside the bank, nor should it."

Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Bush administration's war in Iraq, took the World Bank post with a pledge to fight corruption as his top priority. When the details became public last month of his involvement in negotiating the pay raise and promotion of his companion, Shaha Ali Riza, he apologized and said he made a mistake.