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Bonuses critic says World Bank retaliating against him

WB-GROUPWASHINGTON, United States, Nov 4 – A French World Bank official who criticized large bonuses given to senior staff says he has been placed under investigation for leaks allegedly in “retaliation,” according to internal staff memos seen by AFP.

Fabrice Houdart, a bank officer for northern Africa, said he is being falsely blamed for the leak of a document on looming changes to the bank’s “Safeguard Policies,” by which it sets environmental and social standards for countries receiving loans and grants.

After the document was leaked earlier this year, the bank came under strong criticism from social and environmental groups for allegedly loosening its standards.

“I have been placed under investigation,” Houdart said in an internal Bank blog post published on October 26th.

According to Houdart, in mid-October three bank investigators seized the memory of his scanner-copier as part of a probe launched three months earlier over the leak of the Safeguard Policies document.

“Of course, this is only a pretext. As a mere senior country officer for the Maghreb, I had no access to the highly confidential document that was leaked,” he wrote.

“This is how retaliation works: you are always accused of something else, not of blowing the whistle,” Houdart wrote.

Houdart did not respond to AFP attempts to contact him.

In September, Houdart posted on internal staff blogs strong criticisms of the bonuses offered to senior officials even as the bank implemented sharp spending cuts as part of a sweeping reorganisation of the 16,000-strong staff launched by President Jim Yong Kim.

The criticism was most directed at chief financial officer Bertrand Badre, who after some weeks of controversy and a general staff meeting called by Kim, turned down a $94,000 bonus.

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The bank declined to comment on Houdart’s claims. But also on the internal forum, Xian Zhu, chief of the World Bank’s Office of Ethics and Business Conduct, said on October 17 that “no staff member is under investigation for any matter related to reporting of alleged unethical behaviour.”

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