The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), has come under intense scrutiny over allegations of violating the Bank’s code of ethics.
Whistleblowers within the Bank have accused the President, Akinwumi Adesina of going against internal rules of the Bank. They petitioned the Board of Governors – but the Governors rejected the allegations, ruling that the allegations can’t be substantiated.
Dr. Adesina himself has flatly denied all the charges.
But the US, which is a major shareholder of the Bank, has rejected the Board’s decision and demanded a full-scale investigation by an independent investigator.
A group of anonymous employees of the Bank describing themselves as “concerned staff members of the AfDB” wrote to the Board of Governors and detailed “cases of alleged breach” of conduct by Adesina.
They indicated that they had initially followed established policies within the Bank to express their concerns, but in early March they “came to the conclusion that the Ethics Committee was unable or unwilling to proceed with their preliminary examination of the complaints.”
The French daily Le Monde first reported the allegations which include “various cases of alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct: unethical conduct, private gain, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, adversely affecting confidence in the integrity of the Bank, and involvement in political activity.”
The staff added, “It looks as if a conscious effort is done by some staff members close to the President to sabotage all attempts by the Ethics Committee to perform its duties.”
In the more than a dozen pages long letter dated sometime in April 2020, the aggrieved staff also complained of “preferential treatment for Nigeria and Nigerians.”
They pointed out that while Nigeria owned a little more than 9 per cent of the shares in the AfDB, Nigerians “made up roughly 25 per cent of the newly recruited managerial functions” under a “massive recruitment drive that was launched due to the restructuring of President Adesina between 2016 and 2018.”
Among the new managers, the staff allege is a brother-in-law of Adesina who is also a childhood friend.
In his response, Adesina said, “I am 100 per cent confident that due process and transparency, based on facts and evidence, will indicate that these are all nothing more than spurious and unfounded allegations.”
The staff also raised concerns about awards that Adesina received in 2017 and 2019 of $250,000 and $500,000 from groups in the United States and South Korea.
“It is not clear if he received these awards as the President of the AfDB or as a private citizen,” but “dozens of people, Bank staff, executive directors,” and others including family members “attended the award ceremonies at the Bank’s costs.”
The letter queried further: “If these awards were private, why did the Bank support associated costs? If they were awarded to the President of the Group of the Bank were the awards returned to the Bank?”
The Bank’s Ethics Committee however, says it has found no evidence to support the allegations against Adesina.
According to Bloomberg the Committee noted in a document dated April 26, that after it has examined the allegations ‘point by point, the complaint was not based on any objective and solid fact.’ The document the news outlet says has been verified by Nialé Kaba, chair of the Bank’s Board of Governors.
But two weeks after the Ethics Committee found no evidence to support the allegations, the US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin has responded, rejecting plans by the Bank’s Board to end the investigation, and called for an independent probe into the allegations against Adesina.
In a May 22 letter addressed to Kaba, Mnuchin said the Treasury disagrees with findings by the Bank’s Ethics Committee that “totally exonerated” Adesina.
“We have deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process. Instead, we urge you to initiate an in-depth investigation of the allegations using the services of an independent outside investigator of high professional standing,” Mnuchin said.
60-year-old Adesina, a former Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria, was elected AfDB President on May 28, 2015 at a hotly contested election in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan and he assumed office on September 1, 2015.
He is due for re-election for a second term, scheduled for August 2020. He is the sole candidate.
The AfDB is Africa’s biggest multilateral lender. It has AAA rating from Fitch Ratings, Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings. The shareholders of the Bank are Africa’s 54 countries and 27 countries in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi