AfDB Board sets up panel to review allegations of misconduct against President Adesina

Dr. Akinwumi Adesina

The Bureau of the Boards of Governors of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has announced a panel to review allegations of misconduct against its President, Akinwumi Adesina.

In a communique issued Wednesday July 1, 2020, the Board says it has agreed on the Terms of Reference for the Independent Review at its meetings of June 18, 2020 and July 1, 2020 and selected three persons namely, Mrs. Mary Robinson, Mr. Hassan B. Jallow and Mr. Leonard F. McCarthy to constitute a High-Level Panel of Independent Experts to conduct the said Review. The panel will be chaired by Mrs. Robinson.

The Board describes the experts as “individuals with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and professional integrity.”

The panel, according to the communique, is expected to submit its report to the Bureau within a period of two to four weeks maximum.

Mrs. Robinson was the former President of the Republic of Ireland, Mr. Jallow is the Chief Justice of The Gambia and Mr. MacCarthy is President of LFMcCarthy Associates, Inc., an integrity risk management company based in Washington, D.C, USA.

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 a Bloomberg news report, 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.

Adesina is due for re-election at the Bank’s next Annual Meetings in a contest he is standing unopposed, for another five-year term.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

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