Despite being cleared of all allegations of impropriety and fraud by the ethics committee of the African Development Bank (AfDB), the bank’s president, Akinwumi Adesina, still has another big hurdle to cross in his bid for re-election into office.
The United States government has demanded that a fresh and in-depth investigation be conducted into the allegations against Mr Adesina using an independent investigator.
On May 5, the ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, said in its report that Mr Adesina was not guilty on all counts.
Mr Yano is a Japanese executive director charged with the responsibility of investigating allegations by some concerned employees against the official.
The committee described the allegations that he (Mr Adesina) violated the code of conduct of the institution as “spurious and unfounded”.
In its petition, the concerned staff accused Mr Adesina of 20 breaches of the bank’s code of conduct, including “unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, and involvement in political activities.”
The group, which noted their allegations were in line with AfDB’s whistle-blowing policy, said these activities adversely affected the confidence and integrity of the bank.
Jeune Afrique, which said in a report that it saw the board’s letter that exonerated Mr Adesina, quoted the chair of the board of governors, Niale Kaba, as saying the committee proposed “to adopt the conclusions of the investigation” after due consultations.
Regardless, the United States government expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process” and called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations.”
The U.S. became a member of the African Development Fund in 1976 and of the African Development Bank in 1983. Also, its bilateral cooperation with the bank has been strengthened through cooperation agreements.
First, in 2008, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with USAID to launch a five-year partnership in support of African small and medium-sized enterprises by accelerating investment. It also provides co-financing arrangements for a shared contribution of 40% for the Bank, 10% for USAID and 50% for other partnering banks.
Another MoU was concluded in May 2016 with the Millennium Challenge Corporation that provides for sharing information and data particularly in the power sector, with focus on mobilizing private investment.
In 2012, USAID contributed to the Migration and Development Initiative, a Multi-Donor Trust Fund aimed at improving knowledge on migrant remittances in Africa and providing support to reforms of the regulatory frameworks required to improve transfer conditions, among other mandates.
In a letter dated May 22, 2020 to Ms Kaba, the U.S. government, through the Secretary, Department of Treasury in Washington, D.C., faulted the decision of the committee to totally exonerate Mr Adesina of all allegations, saying it was not yet time to make such a declaration.
Excerpts of the letter signed by Steven Mnuchin is reproduced below:
“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.
“We emphasise that undertaking an independent evaluation of facts, at any stage, is not at odds with a presumption of innocence.
“The allegations set out in the whistleblowers’ complaints submitted on January 19, 2020 raised significant issues that all relevant governing bodies of the Bank must handle with the utmost care, using all tools available to them.
“Had the Ethics Committee undertaken a proper preliminary examination that was in line with the Board of Governors Resolution B/BG/2008/11, standard practices at other international financial institutions, and the Bank’s own rules and procedures, it would have reviewed available facts that could be gathered by external counsel and found in internal Bank records.
“We fear that wholesale dismissal of all allegations without appropriate investigation will tarnish the reputation of this institution as one that does not uphold high standards of ethics and governance.
“This is a serious risk when we need strong confidence in the AfDB to play an influential role in the current global economic and health crisis, and when many shareholders are seeking legislative support for payments under the recently-concluded General Capital Increase.
“Therefore, the United States cannot support dismissing the allegations at this stage. We believe the Board of Governors must demonstrate that this institution takes governance, anti-corruption, and transparency seriously.
“We thus request that you take steps to initiate an impartial, independent investigation into these allegations. Whatever the outcome, the AfDB will emerge stronger for having taken seriously its obligations to uphold good governance.
“The United States sincerely wishes the AfDB to remain a high-quality institution with the capability to address the needs of the African continent, particularly at this critical time.
“Considering the scope, seriousness, and detail of these allegations against the sole candidate for Bank leadership over the next five years, we believe that further inquiry is necessary to ensure the AfDB’s President has broad support, confidence, and a clear mandate from shareholders.”