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Statement by the Secretary-General, Angel Gurría, in reply to an article in The Economist of 20 April 2007

 

20-April-2007 -- A lead story in today’s edition of The Economist is an attack on the OECD and on me personally as Secretary-General. Drawing on a mixture of innuendo, gossip and partial truths, the European business editor of the Economist, aerospace and defence industry specialist Iain Carson, who is the main author of the article, paints a picture of “an organisation that seems to be lacking in modern rules and practices”.  He cites unnamed “OECD ambassadors from north European countries” as fearing that “the staid old body … may drift into dangerous waters.” 

Before dealing individually with the specifics of this attack, I should like to make a general point. As Secretary General of the OECD since June 2006, I have spoken out vigorously in favour of international efforts to fight the scourge of corruption in the global economy. I am equally determined to root out any hint of favouritism or corruption within the OECD Secretariat.

We are indeed in dangerous waters. Not only multilateral organisations but businesses and national governments all have a role to play in fighting corruption wherever it rears its head. The OECD’s prime role in this respect is to assist the 36 countries that are parties to the OECD anti-Bribery Convention in ensuring that each one of them fulfils their commitments. In recent months, a number of significant cases have been exposed to the public gaze and discussed by the OECD’s Working Group on Bribery. It is no surprise that this attack occurs at this time.

In this context, clearly, the OECD’s internal management practices must be exemplary. That is why I have initiated changes in management and hiring procedures to ensure that the OECD Secretariat follows best practices at all levels. In entrusting oversight of this process as Executive Director from 1 June 2007 to Patrick van Haute, a senior Belgian diplomat who is currently Belgium’s Ambassador to the OECD, I believe that I have chosen someone with the experience and judgement needed to make these changes work. All future appointments, similarly, will be designed to uphold the OECD’s reputation, not only as a purveyor, but also as an observer of best practices. 

Allow me now to deal with some of the factual points used by Mr. Carson to support the innuendo on which his article is based.

1. In paragraph two of his article, Mr. Carson refers to apparent shortcomings in the OECD’s “internal workings”.  The OECD is governed by rules that are determined by its members, and I am committed to their enforcement and continuous improvement. Mr. Carson cites a letter to me from the Canadian delegation, dated April 4 2007, but he neglects to cite my response. Both letters, which I provided to Mr. Carson, are contained in an annex to this statement.

2. The official residence of the Secretary-General, referred to in paragraph four of Mr. Carson’s article, is the property of the Organisation and as such needs regular maintenance. Until the works that have recently been completed, it had not been the object of serious maintenance for more than 20 years, with the result that it was in need of major refurbishment. The decision to undertake these works was made before my arrival at the OECD.

3. In paragraph six of his article, Mr. Carson refers to the withdrawal of a promise of the post of Executive Director made by my predecessor to the former head of his private office. Normal rules of confidentiality with regard to individual staff members preclude me from commenting on this specific case, other than to say that in withdrawing this job offer I acted in the best interests of the Organisation.

4. In paragraph eight of his article, Mr. Carson refers to other appointments, notably relating to my daughter Eva and to Mr. Ricardo López, the husband of the deputy chief of staff.

My daughter was indeed briefly employed in the OECD’s Education Directorate, at a taxable monthly salary of 1,342 EUR (the French minimum wage). Following advice that I received and in order to avoid controversy, I asked her to step down. As a result, she worked for only two weeks in this post. 

Mr. López, who has an MBA from North Eastern University in Boston, Mass., and who was formerly finance director for an agricultural cooperative in Mexico, was a short-listed candidate for a post in the OECD’s Development Centre. He has since been offered another professional post in the Development Centre, for which he is eminently qualified. A letter from the Director of the Development Centre to the Dean of the OECD Ambassadors relating to this appointment can be found in an appendix to this statement. The Organisation has a policy of trying to assist the spouses of staff members to find appropriate employment in Paris, and in particular those spouses who are of non-EU nationalities and who therefore have difficulty in obtaining French work permits

5. In paragraph nine of his article, Mr. Carson gives details of my basic pay and allowances, which are correct. These were agreed by OECD members in a resolution approved by Council on 29 May 2006. I will leave it to others to compare these with the remuneration packages offered to senior executives in other major organisations.

In the same paragraph, Mr. Carson implies – but does not specifically state -- that I sought reimbursement for a dinner with my wife. This is not the case. Mr. Carson does have the grace to state that the expenses relating to this invoice “were not processed”.

6. In paragraph 10 of his article, Mr. Carson refers to an invitation to attend the France-Mexico football match. I have no regrets about accepting this invitation other than the fact that Mexico lost 1-0 to France.

7. In paragraph 11 of his article, Mr. Carson refers to two events organised with OECD participation, in South Korea and Mexico. These were meetings of a very different nature. The meeting in Korea was organised by the Korean government to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Korea’s accession to the OECD and members of the OECD Secretariat were invited to attend. The meeting in Mexico was organised jointly with five other international organisations, and not by the Mexican government. The OECD paid its share of the cost of organisation. The principal purpose of the meeting was to provide advice, based on OECD work, to the incoming Mexican government and centred on major public policy reforms.