Lagarde calls for 'more representative' IMF staff
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, frontrunner to become next managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called for the organisation to recruit a more diverse range of staff.
Lagarde was responding to questions from Twitter users on Thursday, on the eve of the closing date for candidacies for the post, which has been empty since former head Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested on sex assault charges.
"There should be appropriate and proportionate representation at staff level to express and respect both diversity and universality," she said, in response to a question from journalist Alicia Gonzalez about Latin American managers.
"Reform is under way to improve representativeness at governance and staff levels, it should continue to warrant legitimacy," Lagarde added.
Asked by a British local housing board chairman, William Shortall, what she could bring to the IMF, she said: "My ability to include, to build consensus, to mediate when needed, to give confidence, and to reach out to governments."
Lagarde has the support of most European governments to take over the IMF, but has encountered some resistance from some emerging economy countries which feel the time has come for Europe to lose its longstanding monopoly on the position.
Her candidacy has also been clouded by legal difficulties in France, where she is under investigation for allegedly exceeding her authority by cutting short a legal case involving a multi-million dollar payment to a tycoon.
In 2007 Lagarde ordered that a dispute between Bernard Tapie and a formerly state-owned bank be settled by private arbitration, and the businessman was awarded 385 million euros ($558 million) in damages and interest out of public funds.
Prosecutors argue she may have abused her position, and a court is due to rule imminently on whether she can face a formal investigation and eventual criminal charges that could lead to a five-year jail term.
In the latest episode in the long-running scandal, the French news website Mediapart reported on Friday that Lagarde had been aware that one of the members of the arbitration panel was an associate of Tapie's lawyer, but did nothing.
The site argued this apparent conflict of interest could leave the panel's ruling open to review, but Lagarde's ministry insisted the report contained no new information that had not previously been examined by investigators.
© 2011 AFP