Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Mohamed Muhsen in a happier moment

Read the full article titled "World Bank Staffers Protest Appointments" by Paul Blustein in The Washington Post. (January 24, 2006.)

In defending recent appointments (including that of Suzanne Rich Folsom to head the unit that investigates misconduct and corruption at the bank), World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz told an interviewer
"that staffers had grown too 'comfortable' with the laxness of the Institutional Integrity Department, which he said had been run with 'very puzzling negligence' until Folsom took over as its acting director in October. Although he emphasized that the overwhelming majority of bank staffers are honest, he said, 'I'm aware of a particularly serious set of allegations' involving a senior bank official."
The article further states:
Wolfowitz declined to name the individual under suspicion, because the investigation is continuing. But internal bank documents obtained by The Washington Post show that the watchdog unit is investigating Mohamed Muhsin, who retired three months ago as the bank's chief information technology officer. Sources familiar with the investigation said it involves alleged improprieties in the bank's procurement of technology services.

Muhsin's attorney, Joshua Hochberg, said Muhsin "is shocked, as are his colleagues, that unfounded rumors have circulated at the end of his 17 years of dedicated service during which his integrity was never questioned." He added that Muhsin expects "full exoneration."

I believe Mohamed Muhsin has played an important role in making the World Bank a leader in use of ICT in the community of donor agencies, and a leader in the dissemination and utilization of ICT in developing nations. I find it really distasteful that the President of the World Bank would make comments that would lead to the publication of Muhsin's name in the context of this investigation. I believe in the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty. I regret that some will believe the worst of Mr. Muhsin due to this publicity without waiting for the conclusion of the investigation, and that his reputation will be damaged even if and when he is fully exonorated.


Anonymous said...

It's about time the corruption in the World Bank be taken seriously and investigated seriously. If the staff are concerned about corruption being investigated, that is a sure sign there is lots of it. The Bank has shut its eyes to corruption since its founding. James Wolfensohn tried to change the Bank's culture of corruption but was undermined by the entrenched bureacracy. The undermining of the well-intentioned Integrity Unit has been public knowledge for some time. Hopefully for once the Bank can cleanse itself of the corruption that is inherent in every international organization.
Those of us who have worked at the Bank and been appalled by the covering up of corruption both at headquarters and among the borrowers will rejoice if the new President's clean up works.

John Daly said...

I really don't know about the level of corruption at the Bank. I have consulted there for years, but that is not close enough to see corruption. Of course, any corruption there should be rooted out and the corrupt should be dealt with. I applaud Wolfenson for focusing on the issue, and pushing anti-corruption efforts.

But I don't think hints that someone of high rank may be corrupt help. And I wonder who leaked the memo's containing the name to the Washington Post, and why a leak that so conveniently supported Wolfowitz's point occurred at so convenient a time. Whoever the leaker was should be disciplined -- that leak would not have helped the investigation, may have unfairly branded an innocent man, and tarnished the reputation for fair play and transparency of the Bank itself.

Anonymous said...

the Financial Times is also reporting heavily on staff discontent at the Bank - just go to Ft.com and search for "World Bank". Three or four articles/op-eds have been published in the last 5 days.
I think that the FT has managed to steer clear of the Muhsin topic much more effectively than the WaPo-- you can draw your own conclusions on journalistic integrity between the two publications. The topic at hand is Wolfowitz's actions in senior staff apointments, and I think that the FT has done a better job of sticking to just that.

Anonymous said...

Working at the Bank, I would be VERY surprised if there was widespread corruption at the Bank. I do not know of anyone who I could imagine would make decisions for personal financial gain. Most people at the Bank view themselves and their collegues as people of high integrity in such matters.

Frankly, there would be little incetive as well - most Bank employees are long term employees and it is not in their financial interest to engage in corrupt practices.

Whatever the conclusions of the specific allegations regarding Mr. Muhsin are, one hopes that the Bank issues a full report.

Anonymous said...

It is true that World Bank employees are long term and engaging themselves with financial fraud is not to their best interest. However, looking at the lax by Integrity department and keeping his seniority and uncontrolled power given to Mr. Muhsin by Mr. Wolfensohn, maybe Mr. Muhsin thought that he can slip away with anything i.e. even accepting bribes amounting to Millions of Dollars. After all greed is a human nature ........

John Daly said...

Of course the World Bank must be ceaselessly vigilant for any traces of corruption. There are thousands of employees handling tens of billions of dollars per year, so there probably is some corruption.

However, the investigation process is not helped by leaks, and the protection of the innocent is important, even if they fall under suspicion. Anonymous charges are the worst since the person making them is hiding from legal action by the person being charged.

I would note that Mr. Wolfowitz himself left the Bank under a cloud.

The Economic Times (India) recently reported that "(t)he World Bank administrative tribunal in 2007 found that Mohamed Muhasin (sic), the bank's former vice-president, had purchased shares of Satyam, some of them under preferential terms." Satyam, a global business and technology services company based in India, apparently had a large portfolio of projects with the World Bank at the time Mr. Muhsin acquired shares in the company.

Again, while I have met Mr. Muhsin various times, I have no personal knowledge relevant to this charge. I find it hard to credit since a number of friends and colleagues think very highly of him.