Meeting on the evening of 26 May, the Board of Governors Bureau, the body overseeing the AfDB’s Ethics Committee, approved the launch of an independent investigation into allegations of whistleblowers regarding the governance of Akinwumi Adesina, its president.
The decision of the bureau of the board of governors follows a request from the US administration, through Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who in a letter on 22 May had requested an independent analysis of the whistleblowers’ recriminations and allegations.
The US administration said it had reservations about the process that led the ethics committee on 5 May to reject the whistleblowers’ accusations, which were judged to be “unfounded”, “unsubstantiated” or “unsubstantiated”.
In the aftermath, the Ivorian Minister of Development, Kaba Nialé, considered that the conclusions of the ethics committee exonerated Akinwumi Adesina and proposed to the governors “to adopt the conclusions of the investigation by declaring the president completely exonerated of all allegations made against him”.
Kaba Nialé chairs the Bureau of the Board of Governors, whose membership rotates and includes two other representatives of the bank’s shareholders: Argentina and Namibia.
Under the Bank’s statutes, the Board of Governors is the only body with “the final authority to decide whether or not to act on any complaint or allegation of a breach by the President of the Bank of the provisions of the Code of Conduct”.
The Ivorian leader’s recommendation of a few weeks ago clearly did not win unanimity within this body.
Suspending elections three months before the polls
The decision of the Board of Governors, in the wake of the letter from the US administration, could reinforce, among Adesina’s supporters, the suspicion of an American desire to torpedo the AfDB boss’s chances of being reappointed to this position in the elections, which have been postponed until the end of August 2020.
A letter from the US law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP, sent in early February to the chairman of the ethics committee, warned the latter of the need for an independent investigation – which he proposed to “advise” – in accordance with “generally accepted best practices for the conduct of internal investigations in response to complaints from highly confidential whistleblowers”.
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In their letter, the firm’s lawyers recalled that they had previously exchanged views with Steven Dowd, the U.S. Executive Director at the AfDB, whose name has often been mentioned recently – without any formal evidence – as one of the architects of the slingshot against Akinwumi Adesina.
In a statement issued on Wednesday 27 May, the AfDB President said he was “convinced that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and systems of governance, as well as the rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have never violated the code of ethics of this extraordinary institution”.
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