World Bank hiring again, to spend more on country offices

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim speaks with the staff members in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The financial institution announced that it will soon be hiring for its country offices. Photo by: Dominic Chavez / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Amid growing uncertainty among staff over how they will be affected by the World Bank’s internal reform process, the Washington, D.C.-based institution has decided to expand hiring for technical positions — mainly in country offices.

In an email sent to employees last week, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the bank’s managing director and chief operating officer, announced the World Bank will recruit 290 technical positions and release “funds held in contingency to add more than $20 million of variable budget to increase resources for country engagement.”

Of the 290 technical positions, 150 will be located in country offices, and Indrawati identified them as “the most pressing staffing needs” for the institution. In addition to the $20 million release, the email added that country offices will receive until the end of the year “approximately $16 million from their FY15 contingencies to fund new or expanded tasks.”

“With these funds our front-line staff, particularly our task teams, will have the necessary additional resources to serve our clients,” Indrawati wrote.

The announcement — which Devex confirmed with a World Bank spokesperson — appears to be a natural outgrowth of management surveys and previously announced plans to move more staff into the field. It also comes after an initial review by senior management of the World Bank’s new delivery model, and garnered mixed reactions from current and former employees.

Paul Cadario, a former senior manager at the bank, said the move is an attempt to address a lack of budgetary certainty resulting from President Jim Yong Kim’s reform agenda, and wrote on his Facebook page: “#WorldBank management has woken up and smelled the coffee.”

“It’s a signal that they have to get back to work,” Cadario told Devex.

One current staff member felt the announcement simply underscores mismanagement of the reforms.

“[It shows] a complete lack of professionalism and coherence,” the employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said in an email to Devex, adding that opening up 290 new technical positions is a reaction to staff complaints regarding the institution’s hiring freeze and administrative obstacles that prevented the renewal of important contracts.

The announcement, he asserted, “is an admission that the change process was misguided, unfocused and mismanaged” particularly by Bertrand Badre and Sean McGrath, chief financial officer and vice president for human resources, respectively. Both, the staff member pointed out, are external recruits and have been involved in the recent controversy for receiving “scarce skills” bonus payments at a time the World Bank is trying to save $400 million in costs and the threat of job cuts continues to loom over the horizon.

“The superficial/smoke and mirrors "reforms" of the change process they led not only did not constitute real change, but also hampered the capacity of the bank to deliver results for its client at a time where the bank can make a difference,” the employee said.

Other staff members had a more positive assessment of Indrawati’s announcement, describing it as the right move by management to re-engage and refocus employees on the World Bank’s overarching mission.

“I think it’s part of the solution,” Patrick Elat, a financial and private sector development consultant for Africa, told Devex. “But let’s wait and see how it’s going to work in the long term, because … we don’t just need technical expertise, we also need some analytical expertise.”

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About the author

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    Jeff Tyson

    Jeff is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, DC, he covers multilateral affairs, U.S. aid and international development trends. He has worked with human rights organizations in both Senegal and the United States, and prior to joining Devex worked as a production assistant at National Public Radio. He holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations and French from the University of Rochester.