The decision of the Bureau of Governors of the African Development Bank Group to authorise an independent review of the allegations against the president of the bank, Akinwumi Adesina, is a violation of the bank’s rule, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis of the bank’s Ethics Committee’s report and its Code of Conduct for its executive directors, including its president, has revealed.
Responding to a complaint received from a “Group of Concerned Staff Members” who accused Mr Adesina of misconducts, the bank’s ethics committee, after a series of meetings between February 27 and April 9, released an eight-page report of its preliminary investigation. The April 26 report exonerated Mr Adesina of the alleged misconducts and breaches.
The committee described the allegations that Mr Adesina violated the code of conduct of the institution as “spurious and unfounded”. It also concluded that the complaint made up of 16 allegations, was “not based on any objective and solid facts.”
By AfDB’s rule, the matter should have ended there.
However, under pressure from the United States, the bank’s Board of Governors approved an independent review of the Ethics Committee’s report.
The U.S. government representative on the board of the bank, Steven Dowd, has been accused of colluding with the whistle-blowers to discredit Mr Adesina,.
“The Bureau reiterates that it agrees that the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors performed its role on this matter in accordance with the applicable rule under Resolution B/BG/2008/11 of the Board of Governors.
“The Bureau also reiterates that the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors performed her role in accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee in accordance with the said Resolution.
“However, based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process.,” the board stated in a communique dated June 4, 2020.
A PREMIUM TIMES review of the resolution cited by the Board of Governors indicates that going by AfDB rules, the Ethics Committee should not have referred the matter to the board in the first place.
Our review also revealed that the Board of Governors should not have authorised an independent review of the report of the preliminary examination into the complaint as demanded by the U.S. government.
The secretary of the United States Department of Treasury, Steven Munchin, had in a May 24 letter to the Chairperson of the bank’s Board of Governors, Niala Kaba, disagreed with the findings of the Ethics Committee that exonerated Mr Adesina.
According to the letter, the U.S. government expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process” and called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations” using an independent investigator.
What the rule says
During its 43rd Annual Meeting of the bank on May 14, 2008, the AfDB’s Board of Governors adopted Resolution B/BG/2008/11, which made the Code of Conduct for Executive Directors of the African Development Bank and the African Development Fund applicable to the President of the Bank Group.
Article 3 Section 1 of Resolution B/BG/2008/11 empowers the Ethics Committee to “receive complaints and allegations relating to the violation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct by the President.” The resolution also stipulates that on receipt of such complaints and allegation, the ethics committee should “conduct preliminary examinations of such complaints”.
In fact, the Ethics Committee in the third item of the report of its preliminary investigation into the complaint against Mr Adesina reiterated this:
“Pursuant to Article 3 of Resolution No. B/BG/2008/11, the ECBD is empowered to conduct a preliminary examination of a complaint or allegation received by it to determine whether it is based on apparently solid justifications, with a view to submitting it to the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors under the following conditions:
“If the preliminary examination of the complaint or allegation shows that it is frivolous or not based on any objective and solid facts the Committee is empowered to dismiss it.
“If the preliminary examination of the complaint or allegations reveals facts that are capable of establishing violations of the Code of Conduct, the Committee is empowered to submit the complaint or allegation to the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors for further examination.”
However, after exonerating Mr Adesina and describing each of the 16 allegations against him as either “unsubstantiated”, “spurious” or “unfounded”, the Ethics Committee proceeded to refer the matter to the bank’s Board of Governors.
That is a clear violation of the regulation upon which the Ethics Committee claimed it acted. By the rules, the Committee should have taken no further action on the matter after it determined that the allegations were baseless and unfounded.
Article 4 of the resolution stated that the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors, in consultation with other members of the Bureau, has the final say whether or not a complaint against the President submitted to the board requires investigation “in relation to the violation by the president of any provision of the Code of Conduct”.
It stated that in taking this decision, the chairperson “may require the Ethics Committee and the person that made the complaint or allegation or any Department of the Bank, to provide additional information and clarifications, where necessary.”
“The Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors may, in appropriate cases, require the Ethics Committee to conduct more in-depth investigations.”
So, even if the Ethics Committee had determined after its preliminary investigation that Mr Adesina had questions to answer, what the chairperson of the board should have done was to return the allegations to the Ethics Committee for a more in-depth investigation and not to authorise an independent review.
Further, Article 5 of the resolution also stated that after the Ethics Committee concludes its investigation, it should “submit a report of its findings to the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of Governors to deal further with the complaint or allegation in conformity with the provisions of the Agreement Establishing the Bank.
“The report shall be accompanied by supporting documents,” it stated.
By its decision to authorise an independent review of the Ethics Committee’s report, the AfDB Board of Governors also violated Article 7 of Resolution B/BG/2008/11 which deals with “due process”.
According to the article, no investigation about an alleged violation by the President of the bank’s Code of Conduct can be conducted without giving the President “the chance to be heard or invited to present written evidence in defence of him/herself before the Bureau of the Board of Governors.”
First, the Ethics Committee admitted receiving responses from Mr Adesina’s lawyer and that the President himself later sent a response. But the committee however said neither of the correspondences was admitted.
“On 10 February 2020 and again on 10 March 2020 the ECBD received two letters from a lawyer who indicated that he was representing the President in this matter,” the Ethics Committee said in its report. “The Chairperson of the ECBD acknowledged receipt of the letters but the Committee did not act on them given that the Committee had not been informed by the President that a lawyer was acting on his behalf.
“On 8 April 2020, the President of the Bank Group transmitted his response to the complaint to the ECBD. Given that the Committee’s review was limited to conducting a preliminary examination, it did not deem it necessary to review the response from the President.”
The Ethics Committee, however, stated that Mr Adesina’s response was transmitted to the Bureau of the Board of Governors alongside other documents on the matter.
In its communique of June 4, the bank’s Board of Governors did not say if it reviewed the Ethics Committee report or if Mr Adesina was invited or his response considered before the decision to authorise an independent review of the Report of the Ethics Committee was taken.
According to the Board of Governors, the primary reason it authorised an independent review was “to carry every Governor along in resolving it”.
“However, based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process.
“The Independent Review shall be conducted by a neutral high calibre individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity within a short time period of not more than two to four weeks maximum, taking the Bank Group’s electoral calendar into account,” the communique read in part.
Terms of reference of the Ethics Committee
Not only did the AfDB’s Bureau of Board of Governors flouted Resolution B/BG/2008/11, it, alongside the Ethics Committee, also disregarded the terms of reference of the Ethics Committee in dispensing with matters relating to the Code of Conduct for executive directors as well as the president of the bank.
Number 17 of Section 3, of the terms of reference which deals with “Procedure”, under the subhead “Procedure for Allegations and Misconduct” stated that the committee should first determine if allegations brought before it were credible and appropriate for review. If it found this to be the case, “the Committee shall consider the allegation and conduct an investigation, as may be appropriate.”
However, if the allegation is found to be frivolous, “the Committee shall advise the concerned Board Official, accordingly, and shall cease to take any further action on the matter.”
But the Ethics Committee instead of taking no further action on the matter as stipulated by its terms of reference proceeded to transmit the outcome of its preliminary report to the Board of Governors.
The appointment of independent investigators
After the preliminary investigation, the terms of reference stated that if the Ethics Committee concluded that a member of the Board of Director or the President, in the case Mr Adesina, may have committed some infringement of the code of conduct, it would proceed to conduct a full investigation and must inform the official being investigated.
“The Board Official whose conduct is under review by the Committee shall, in all cases, be provided with timely notice of the allegations and shall have the opportunity to present his/her views to the Committee,” the resolution stated.
It is at the point that the committee is expected to submit a report to the Board of Governors, “stating whether the facts indicate that misconduct occurred, and the recommended measures to be taken by the Board.”
“The Board shall take a final decision based on the findings and recommendations of the Committee,” it added.
PREMIUM TIMES review of the terms of reference of the Ethics Committee also revealed that the Board of Governors’ appointment of independent investigators to review the report of the preliminary investigation of said allegations is an aberration as it is not contained in any of the provisions of the said rules.
In fact, according to the terms of reference, only the Ethics Committee is permitted to use the services of an independent investigator when he or she is required to assist the committee with “gathering facts and evidence on a matter before it”.
It is no where in the rules of the bank for an independent reviewer to be hired to conduct “an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors.”