After all the controversy about World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, the Economist has now opened the attack on Secretary General Angel Gurría of that other global governance institution, the OECD. Since accountability and good governance are some of the main priorities in the OECD, it’s a good thing that publications like the Economists keep a close watch on the internal governance of such international organisations.
Iain Carson, the author of the article, points to a number of issues that leaves some – to say the least -suggestion of nepotism, corruption and excessive compensation. Clearly this is not exactly the desired PR for an organisation like the OECD; it doesn’t come as a surprise therefore that Gurría was very swift in issuing a reaction to the article.
The issues raised mainly related to the excessive expenses for the refurbishment of his apartment, the lack of transparency in an appointment of a top level executive and the appointment of his daughter and a political friend (and spouse). Then there were some issues with soccer tickets and the accusation of favouring the Mexican government. All in all not a pretty picture.
I have complained about the Economist’s tendency to ‘twist‘ the facts before. Here again, the Economist could have been a bit more careful and accurate in their reporting. They omit for instance that Gurría’s daughter was employed for 2 weeks and received a French minimum salary (taxable!) and that he asked her to leave in order to avoid any controversy. On the other hand, he adds that he acted this way following advice that he received; I would guess a person in that position could figure that out himself!
The appointment of his friend was based on his qualifications and the employment of his friends spouse is related to the fact that the OECD has a policy to assist spouses to find a job. Dismissing accusations by passing responsibility to the OECD’s regulations or practices is something that Gurría does rather frequently. The refurbishment of his house – totalling nearly a million Euros – and the salary, compensations and bonuses are all attributed to OECD regulations, Gurría responded. Such a way out seems a bit too easy to me. The issue on the case of favouring Mexico is clearly and easily refuted by Gurría. This should have been reported by Carson!
Summarising: the Economists that deliberately tries to blow up a story by omitting some and exaggerating other information. And a statement of the Secretary General that counters some of the accusations but clearly fails to counter all of them…
One major difference with the Wolfowitz case is that Gurria has the support of his staff