WASHINGTON — In comments to staff on Friday, Kristalina Georgieva, the director of the International Monetary Fund, denied allegations that she pressured staff to manipulate a report to appease China when she was a top World Bank official, and said she cares deeply about the integrity of data and analytics, according to acquaintances at the meeting.
“I disagree with the implications for my role, and let me say it to you very simply, not true,” she said, according to a transcript of her comments.
A day earlier, an internal World Bank investigation concluded that Ms. Georgieva was part of a group of senior World Bank officials who put pressure on the team conducting the annual Doing Business survey to inflate China’s position in the 2018 report. The findings have raised questions about Ms Georgieva, who was the CEO of the World Bank at the time, and led to a review by the IMF’s Ethics Committee
Friday’s meeting, which took place largely virtually, was previously scheduled to prepare the IMF staff for the annual meeting held with the World Bank.
Ms Georgieva addressed the controversy at the start of the meeting, reiterating her public statement that she “fundamentally disagreed” with the report’s features and stressed that the investigation would not be a distraction. She did not litigate over the details of the allegations, but she said asking staff to check something was not the same as pressuring them to change data, methodology or an outcome.
“Neither in this case, nor before or after, have I pressured staff to manipulate data. I would ask the staff to please check, double check, triple check, but never change, never manipulate what the data tells us,” she said. “Why? Because I believe so strongly in the value of credible data and analytics that lead to policy recommendations for the benefit of our members. In the interest of the people.”
Ms. Georgieva expressed regret that the investigation had caused a stir, but insisted it would not be a distraction.
“It is my responsibility that this does not interfere with the incredibly important work we are doing,” she said. “So let’s focus on that work, and that’s what the focus of the discussion we’ll be having today is.”
According to the World Bank’s investigation, conducted by law firm WilmerHale at the request of the bank’s ethics committee, officials in 2017 were concerned about negotiations with members for a capital increase and were under pressure to take over China, which ranked 78th. , not to upset the list of countries that year and would drop in the 2018 report.
The investigation found that Ms. Georgieva was “directly involved” in efforts to improve China’s position. According to the report, Ms Georgieva at one point reprimanded the bank’s Chinese director for mismanaging the bank’s relationship with the country.
The World Bank said Thursday it would discontinue its annual Doing Business survey.
The Treasury Department, which acts as America’s liaison with the IMF and has significant voting rights, expressed concern about the allegations and said it was analyzing the findings of the investigation.