Washington: IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva on Thursday disputed an independent investigation which found that in her previous job at the World Bank, she pressed staff to alter a report to avoid angering China.
Based on the findings, the World Bank announced it was immediately discontinuing its Doing Business report after the investigation found irregularities in the 2018 and 2020 editions.
Georgieva, a Bulgarian national who took the helm of the International Monetary Fund in October 2019, rejected its conclusions regarding her role.
"I disagree fundamentally with the findings and interpretations of the Investigation of Data Irregularities as it relates to my role in the World Bank's Doing Business report of 2018," she said in a statement.
The allegations could damage her reputation, and provide grist for long-time US critics of the multilateral organizations and their treatment of China. "These are serious findings," the US Treasury said in a statement, noting it is "analyzing the report."
"Our primary responsibility is to uphold the integrity of international financial institutions."
Georgieva said she briefed the IMF's board on the situation. The board is expected to meet to discuss the issue but it is unclear when.
Justin Sandefur of the Center for Global Development, who has written extensively about the problems with the report's methodology, said: "We need to hear her side of the story, but it doesn't look great right now."
"For the head of the IMF to have been involved in data manipulation is a pretty damning allegation," he told AFP. "That does seem like a real hit on their credibility."
The flagship report ranks countries based on their business regulations and economic reforms, and has caused governments to jockey for a higher spot to attract investors.