The executive board of the IMF says it needs more information before coming to a decision about Kristalina Georgieva’s future at the helm of the institution, after failing to reach an agreement on Friday following extensive talks about allegations questioning her ethics in her previous position at the World Bank.
In a statement released late on Friday, an IMF spokesperson said the board had advanced its “thorough, objective and timely review” of the situation, but had not yet concluded their investigation.
“While the board has made significant progress in its assessment, it agreed at today’s meeting to request more clarifying details with a view to very soon concluding its consideration of the matter,” the person said.
The inconclusive result comes just hours after Germany, the UK and Italy indicated they would join France in backing the embattled IMF head, according to officials briefed on the discussions. However, the US, the fund’s biggest shareholder, has yet to disclose its position.
The US Treasury declined to comment on Friday after the IMF board adjourned its meeting. Earlier this week the department had emphasised the need for a “thorough and fair accounting of all the facts”.
The IMF board had hoped to come to a decision this week ahead of its annual meetings in Washington with the World Bank, which begin on Monday. Many people warn the unresolved situation risks overshadowing the flagship events, at which Georgieva is set to lead several keynote sessions.
“I have answered all questions that have been put to me and I remain at the board’s disposal as it moves forward to concluding its discussions as soon as possible so that we can all focus on the important decisions our members care about at our annual meeting,” Georgieva said in a statement on Friday after the meeting concluded.
Georgieva is accused of manipulating data in China’s favour in the 2018 edition of the World Bank’s widely followed Doing Business annual report while she was the bank’s chief executive, a position she left for the IMF’s top job in October 2019. She has denied wrongdoing.
European leaders typically spearhead the selection process for the IMF’s chief, which one former senior staffer at the fund said may largely explain their support for Georgieva despite the controversy.
“It is a huge amount of egg on the face for the Europeans. Everyone will be saying, ‘why should they keep this exorbitant privilege they have’” to choose the managing director, the person said.
“The Europeans know that if Georgieva goes down, there will be calls to open [that process] up.”
Georgieva’s position was further complicated on Friday when Bloomberg reported that she had softened criticism of Brazil’s environmental policies in an annual IMF report on the country in July. Georgieva reportedly agreed to change the report after meeting Afonso Bevilaqua, Brazil’s representative to the IMF board.
Bevilaqua is also chair of the ethics committee’s inquiry into the allegations against Georgieva, according to an IMF staffer familiar with the process.
“The goal for the board and for all of us is that they be able to provide a clear path forward for this institution,” Geoffrey Okamoto, first deputy managing director of the IMF, told a town-hall meeting with the fund’s staff on Wednesday.
“We will need to take steps to rebuild our neutrality and integrity in the eyes of the public, and potentially in the eyes of some shareholders.”
Additional reporting by Guy Chazan in Berlin
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