Summary: With a new World Bank president taking office this coming Saturday, this Forbes cover story looks at how corruption and mismanagement permeates the ranks and programs of the institution. The Bank, as the long-form article details, is plagued by mission-creep from major donor countries, widespread opaqueness in procedures, continual decision-making marked by conflicts of interest, and questionable financial practices. According to a former director interviewed by Forbes, “the inmates are running the asylum.”
The piece also touches on how the Bank has a terrible record on whistleblower rights (more in the companion piece below). Unfortunately, the record on whistleblower rights of incoming president Jim Yong Kim does not inspire hope, as GAP Executive Director Bea Edwards explored when he was first nominated.
Key Quote: But numerous managers and vice presidents that I spoke with inside the bank say that corruption continues unabated. Five years ago a commission led by Paul Volcker drilled into the bank and called it a massive problem. He recommended restructuring the bank’s corruption-fighting unit, including moving the leadership into a more powerful notch in the bureaucracy. Zoellick adopted everything in the Volcker plan, but there are big questions today whether it’s having a deep impact. “Certainly the World Bank in its official attitude has changed,” Volcker tells FORBES. “Now I can’t tell you how much that’s penetrated into the field staff … or the people who make the loans.”
Summary: This companion Forbes article highlights the trials of World Bank whistleblower and GAP client John Kim, who gave internal documents to the media after he determined there were no effective internal channels for reporting wrongdoing. In retaliation, he was put on administrative leave and eventually fired. After he filed an appeal, the tribunal ordered him reinstated, but – despite this landmark ruling – he was forcibly retired a few months later.
Key Quote: With nowhere to turn Kim was guided into the offices of the Washington, D.C.-based Government Accountability Project–the only game in town for public-sector leakers. “Whistle-blowers are the regulators of last resort,” says Beatrice Edwards, the executive director of the group. Edwards helped Kim file an internal case for wrongful termination (World Bank staffers have no recourse to U.S. courts).
Summary: This is additional coverage of the UN Dispute Tribunal decision that sided with a whistleblower over the institution. The Tribunal ruled that the Ethics Office failed to protect the whistleblower, who was fired after he raised concerns about corruption in the UN Kosovo operation. This case is largely considered a test case for the recently created Dispute Tribunal.
Key Quote: Of the 297 cases where whistleblowers complained of retaliation for trying to expose wrongdoing inside the UN, the ethics office fully sided with the complainant just once in six years, according to the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a watchdog organisation in Washington.
"Like any internal office in an institution, it is always subjected to huge pressures from above," said Bea Edwards, GAP's executive director. "It is very difficult for an official employed by the institution to be impartial."
Summary: The UK police reportedly sent a letter to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, telling him to appear at a London police station tomorrow. Assange has been staying at the Ecuadorian embassy for the past nine days, awaiting a decision from Ecuador on his political asylum application.
Related Article: Huffington Post
Summary: Recent testing shows varying levels of a carcinogen known as 4-MI in Coca-Cola drinks that comes from industrially-produced caramel coloring. GAP's Food Integrity Campaign notes the disconcerting trend of manufactured ingredients (including high fructose corn syrup) in common products, that are joined with potentially harmful chemicals.
Summary: A recently unsealed whistleblower suit alleges that drug company Merck defrauded the federal government by convincing them to buy mumps, measles and rubella vaccines whose effectiveness had been far overstated.
Summary: Yet another article asking about President Obama’s crackdown on intelligence whistleblowers in the name of stopping “leaks.” The Director of National Intelligence announced a new policy this week to discourage leaking by asking about communications with journalists when employees are subject to a polygraph test. Yet the policy “makes no distinction between employees who improperly disclose sensitive national security information and those who blow the whistle on illegal government activity.”
Hannah Johnson is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.