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President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwunmi Adesina, has revealed more details on why the U.S. government may be deliberately pushing for a fresh probe of allegations of impropriety and fraud against him.

The United States’ insistence is despite the clean bill of health given to Mr Adesina by the board of directors of the bank.

Mr Adesina, in a memo seen by PREMIUM TIMES, said the move to get him out, perhaps at all costs, is linked to his re-election bid and not as a result of any fraudulent action on his part.

Background

On May 5, the ethics committee of the board of directors of the continental bank said in its report that Mr Adesina was not guilty of any of the 16 allegations contained in a petition brought before it by a “Group of Concerned Staff” of the Bank.

The committee headed by Takuji Yano, the institution’s Japanese Executive Director charged with the responsibility of investigating the allegations, described as “spurious and unfounded” claims that Mr Adesina violated the code of conduct of the Bank.

In its petition sent to the committee on January 19, 2020, the “concerned staff members” accused Mr Adesina of 16 breaches of the bank’s code of conduct, including “unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, and involvement in political activities.”

Copies of the petition were also sent to both the Director of the Integrity & Anti-Corruption office (PIAC) of the Bank, and the Chairperson of the Audit & Finance Committee (AUFI) in line with the Bank’s “Whistleblowing and Complaints Handling Policy”.

Between February 4 and April 9, 2020, the ethics committee held series of meetings to review documents and presentations as it conducted “preliminary examination” of the allegations against Mr Adesina to establish whether they were “based on any objective and solid facts” pursuant to Resolution No. B/BG/2008/11.

Resolution No. B/BG/2008/11 adopted at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Board of the Bank held on May 14, 2008 made the Code of Conduct for its Executive Directors and those of the African Development Fund (ADF) also applicable to the President of the Bank Group.

Apart from the petition, other documents reviewed during the series of meetings by the committee included the confidential memo submitted by Mr Adesina detailing his defence of the allegations against him.

U.S. agenda?

However, despite all the facts, which formed the basis of the committee’s submission to the board of governors after its preliminary examination, the U.S government still expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the Committee’s process”.

In its letter of May 22, 2020 to the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, the U.S. government, through the Secretary, Department of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, faulted the committee’s decision to “totally exonerate” Mr Adesina of all allegations.

Noting that it was not yet time to make such a declaration, Mr Mnuchin called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations against Mr 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. We emphasise that undertaking an independent evaluation of facts, at any stage, is not at odds with a presumption of innocence,” Mr Mnuchin wrote.

“The allegations set out in the whistleblower complaint submitted on January 19, 2020 raise significant issues that all relevant governing bodies of the Bank must handle with the utmost care, using all tools available to them,” he added.

But, a review of the confidential memo submitted by Mr Adesina to the committee on April 8 detailing a point-by-point response to all the 16 allegations, appears to have given an inkling into the possible reasons why the U.S government is insisting on a fresh and deeper probe into the matter.

Mr Adesina’s memo obtained by PREMIUM TIMES on Monday suggests the allegations by the “Group of Concerned Staff” may have political undertones linking his bid for re-election in the forthcoming AfDB Presidency elections in August.

‘Why I’m being victimised’

In the memo, Mr Adesina accused the petitioners of violating Section 6.7.2 of the Whistle Blowing Policy of the bank by breaching the confidentiality of the proceedings of the matter by making public disclosure of the matter beyond submission to the ethics committee.

He accused the petitioners of disclosing their allegations beyond the committee “by acting in concert with others outside the AfDB system”.

“The point about others acting in concert with the whistle-blowers is not speculation. A group of independent Bank staff members apparently wrote a “Disassociation Note” on March 9, 2020, in which they explained that they had been members of a group called “Group of Concerned Staff Members,” namely the whistle-blowers behind the Disclosure, but that they had been “manipulated by a group of non-regional Executive Directors behind Mr (Steven) Dowd, not for the good governance of the African Bank of Development, but to discredit the candidacy of the current President for his re-election,” Mr Adesina said in his memo to the committee.

“Certainly if the Disassociation Note is to be believed, and there is no reason not to believe it, the whistle-blowers’ complaint cannot be considered to be in good faith, because it was not designed to expose fraud, corruption or other misconduct. Instead it had another ulterior motive,” he added.

Mr Dowd is the U.S. government representative at the bank.

Mr Adesina in a statement Wednesday restated his innocence of the allegations.
U.S. in AfDB Group

The United States is one of the Group of seven nations holding 28 per cent investment grade equity in AfDB.

The others include Germany and Japan. About 41 per cent of their Group’s shareholding is held by non-regionals and multilateral development finance institutions.

The AfDB Group comprises three entities: the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Development Fund (ADF) and the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF).

The United States has been a member of the ADF since 1976 as well as the AfDB since 1983.

In 2008, the U.S. government, through a bilateral cooperation spelled out in the Memorandum of Understanding with the Bank signed with United State Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a five-year partnership.

The pact was in support of African small and medium-sized enterprises to accelerate investment in Africa.

The agreement also provided co-financing arrangements for a shared contribution of 40 per cent for the bank, 10 per cent for USAID and 50 per cent for other partnering banks.

Another Memorandum of Understanding was concluded in May 2016 with the Millennium Challenge Corporation that provides for sharing information and data, particularly in the power sector, focusing on mobilising private investment.

In addition to developing financial assistance, the U.S. government also provides support for productive investment and local development in the member countries of the AfDB.

Besides, USAID and the AfDB are cooperating on to establish a Multi-Donor Trust Fund for the agriculture sector, among others.

Under the arrangement, the USAID has committed about $11 million to the Multi-Donor Agriculture Fast Track Fund to facilitate project preparation in the agriculture sector in partnership of the African Legal Support Facility and the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa.

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