Attali says spending was not his decision

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The Independent Online
JACQUES ATTALI, the president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, yesterday denied responsibility for the millions spent on smartening up its London premises, writes David Bowen.

Mr Attali said on BBC's Breakfast With Frost programme: 'It is not my decision. I would not interfere in that.' He also said his resignation was not under discussion.

'I am president of the bank for four years, elected for four years. I am proud to have had the idea of the bank and to launch it,' he said.

The EBRD has allegedly spent pounds 200m on itself since it was founded two years ago, compared with pounds 100m on loan aid to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The internal spending included pounds 750,000 on wall-to-wall marble in the entrance hall.

When Sir David Frost asked about the marble, Mr Attali said: 'That is not my decision. My decision was to establish a budget and to have a budget voted and agreed by the board. I would not interfere in those decisions. I thought we had better things to discuss.'

He said a lot of countries competed to have the bank's headquarters in their capitals. 'The British government agreed to give us an amount of money, pounds 40m, and this we have received.'

The bank could not have used the money allotted to establish the headquarters for assisting Eastern Europe, he added. 'It is a different kind of money. My role was to decide on the budget and establish clear procedures by which decisions were taken.'

He described the bank as a really good investment for London - one-third of the staff was British and 'we attract a lot of investment into the United Kingdom. It was a good decision for the British government to fight hard for the bank in London and to invest a lot of money in the headquarters.'

Mr Attali said he did not think he was the victim of an unfair witch-hunt: 'If things are not clear, it is our fault. The press is right to raise questions if things are not good.'