By Dumisani Sigogo
Akinwumi Adesina, president of the Africa Development Bank (AfDB), has been exonerated of all whistleblower allegations by the independent review panel led by Mary Robinson, the former president of the Republic of Ireland. This clears the way for Adesina, who is the sole candidate to seek a second five-year term during the upcoming annual meetings of the bank scheduled for August 25-27.
In January 2020, sixteen allegations were made by some unnamed whistleblower employees at the bank accusing Adesina of corruption, abuse of office and favoritism in hiring of staff. In March, he underwent internal investigations over these claims and was cleared by the bank’s Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors, who described the allegations as “frivolous and without merit.”
The findings and rulings of the Ethics Committee were endorsed by the supreme Bureau of the Board of Governors in May, which also cleared Adesina of any wrongdoing.
But the United States, AfDB’s second-largest shareholder demanded a new independent probe and review of the internal investigations report.
In a letter from Steven Mnuchin, its treasury secretary, the US government said it was not happy with the findings that vindicated the Nigerian development economist and that the US had “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process”.
The Independent Review Panel was then set up by the Bureau of Governors of the Bank, following the protest by the United States, to review again the procedure despite that two organs of the Bank –had already exonerated Adesina of any ethical misconduct.
Last month Niale Kaba, chairperson of the bureau of the board of governors, said the bureau had agreed to allow an independent review of the ethics committee’s report “in the interest of due process and the need to bring every governor onboard in resolving it”.
“The panel concurs with the committee in its findings in respect of all the allegations against the president and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the committee,” a report from the panel said.
The high powered three-member Independent Review Panel included Robinson, who is also the Chairperson of the Elders group and former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Gambia, Hassan Jallow; and Leonard McCarthy, a former Director for the Office of Serious Economic Offences, and a former Head of the Directorate of Special Operations of South Africa who also served as the Vice President of Integrity for the World Bank for nine years.
Apart from revising the report of the ethics committee, the panel said it also reviewed each of the 16 allegations by the whistleblowers and Adesina’s evidence and answers to them.
“It has considered the President’s submissions on their face and finds them consistent with his innocence and to be persuasive,” stated the report.
Adesina, the 8th President of the AfDB has already received a lot of support from African countries towards his bid for a second term in office.
Adesina a highly-decorated, distinguished and globally-respected development technocrat is formerly Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. He was awarded the prestigious World Food Prize in 2017 and the Sunhak Peace Prize in 2019 for global leadership in agriculture and for good governance.
Global credit ratings agencies, Standard and Poors and Fitch both affirmed the ‘AAA’ rating of the Bank, with stable outlook for June and July.