The World Health Organisation vowed to take action on Thursday following allegations from current and former staff that its Western Pacific regional director exhibited racist, abusive and authoritarian behaviour.
Takeshi Kasai is accused of presiding over a “toxic atmosphere” at the WHO regional office in Manila, with a culture of “systemic bullying and public ridiculing”.
The staff, who wanted to remain anonymous “for fear of retaliation”, accused him of making “derogatory remarks to staff of certain nationalities”, in particular local Filipinos.
Kasai was also accused of sharing confidential vaccine data information with officials in his native Japan so that Tokyo could benefit in the diplomatic donation of doses.
He denied the allegations and said he would cooperate fully with any investigation. “I take the concerns raised about my management style and working culture in WHO’s Western Pacific Region very seriously,” he said.
The staff accused Kasai of “abusive and racist authoritarian leadership” and accused him of mismanaging the pandemic and wasteful spending of donor contributions, abusing his power to secure his re-election and nepotistic staff recruitment.
They requested “urgent intervention” by the board’s member states to address their concerns.
“WHO is aware of the allegations and is taking all appropriate steps to follow up on the matter,” the organisation’s global headquarters in Geneva told AFP, without elaborating.
Headquartered in Manila, the WHO’s Western Pacific region covers almost 1.9 billion people across 37 countries.
Appointed by the WHO executive board, Kasai has been in the post since February 2019. He was previously the region’s number two and has worked for the WHO for more than 15 years.
- AFP, with Reuters and additional editing by George Russell