Beleaguered IFAD chief seeks “less costly residence,” agency announces

Two BMWs from the presidential motor pool

ROME — Amid growing outrage over IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze’s wild spending on a sprawling villa on Rome’s posh via Appia Antica, IFAD acknowledged Sunday that its Executive Board had expressed concern over the bonanza and claimed that the flamboyant Nigerian head of the U.N. food agency now is seeking “a less costly residence.”

An IFAD statement, issued in response to revelations in the Italian Insider about Mr Nwanze’s “blowing millions” of Euros on princely personal expenses, claimed that “housing rentals in Rome are extraordinarily high, with rental rates ranging from 13,000 to 17,000 Euros per month for a house deemed suitable for a head of an international financial institution. The rent of the IFAD residence provided to IFAD’s previous President, Mr. Lennart Båge of Sweden, was in this range, as is the monthly rent of the current President’s residence.” The IFAD statement was surprising, senior U.N. sources said, because Mr Bage never paid more than 8,000 euros a month for his residence, while Mr Diouf pays more than twice that figure.

One senior U.N. source noted that Italy had been asking Mr Nwanze to cut back on his personal spending since February when the Italian ambassador made clear his opposition to the expenditure. “Nwanze’s story about looking for a ‘less costly residence’ now is a little too late,” the source commented.

The source added that “the statement they made that the rent for Bage’s residence was ‘in the same range’ is a clever bit of misinformation. Bage paid 8,000/month - as he was finishing his term the landlord wanted to double the rent (probably in order to get rid of him) … he never actually paid more than 8,000 - therefore, his house would have been in the same range as Nwanze’s only if he had stayed and paid what the landlord asked.”

IFAD-watchers noted that although the agency statement claimed “IFAD is committed to full transparency” IFAD still has not disclosed exactly how much Mr Nwanze’s acccommodation and its maintenance cost.

In the statement the embattled agency said that “after IFAD rented the property in June 2009 as the IFAD residence, the costs of maintenance and upkeep of the house and grounds were found to be much higher than expected.” The agency did not explain that discrepancy. 

“The Executive Board and its Audit Committee considered reports on the IFAD residence on several occasions in 2009 and 2010, with the Board asking for cost reduction measures and IFAD’s management undertaking to implement such measures.”

“Management has since taken concrete steps to address the issues raised by the Executive Board. Cost reductions amounting to close to a 20 percent savings have been made and a search for a less costly IFAD residence is underway. In addition, the President has decided to place a voluntary cap on total expenditures for the current residence, with the President assuming all costs above the cap.”

The statement went on to say that “with regards to security matters, the IFAD President does not have a security guard assigned to him as reported in the press. Security at the IFAD residence is provided for by IFAD’s standard security services and in conformity with the recommendations of the United Nations Department of Security Services for high-level UN officials.”

“IFAD is committed to full transparency, efficiency and effectiveness in all its activities and will continue to discharge its mandate – that of improving food security and reducing rural poverty in developing countries – with the utmost diligence,” said the IFAD statement.