#HandsAreOffAdesina – AfDB chief cleared of whistleblower allegations

The president of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, has been exonerated of wrongdoing by independent experts

A panel of independent experts on Tuesday (28 July) cleared Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), of charges of cronyism.

The panel had three members. Leonard McCarthy, the World Bank’s vice-president in charge of integrity, and Hassan Jallow, Gambia’s Chief Justice, collaborated on it, under the leadership of the former Irish president Mary Robinson.

This verdict brings closure to a seven-month-long controversy at AfDB, one of the world’s five largest multilateral development lenders, in a dispute that followed whistleblowers’ accusations against Adesina.

“No solid facts”

The AfDB whistleblowers accused Adesina of appointing relatives to strategic positions and awarding contracts to acquaintances.

The flamboyant 60-year-old banker, with his elegant, custom-made suits and ever-present bow ties, gained continent-wide renown when the AfDB secured US$115 billion (€105 billion) in funding pledges in October last year, securing its triple-A credit rating and doubling its capital at a stroke.

His quest for re-election in August as AfDB president, a position for which he is running uncontested, was threatened by the allegations now set aside.

Adesina had previously been exonerated by the bank’s internal ethics committee of 16 claims levelled against him by the unnamed whistleblowers. The ethics committee had said that the allegations rested “on no objective, solid facts”. It had also declared that the allegations were “frivolous and without merit”.

But on 22 May the US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, personally signed a letter questioning the outcome of the internal probe and called for the AfDB board to appoint an independent investigator to carry out further checks on the allegations.

The US is the bank’s second-largest shareholder after Nigeria.

Case dismissed

The calls for further investigation met with criticism from some current and previous heads of state of African nations who questioned the role of the United States in the bank’s governance.

In a letter to prominent fellow African personalities, Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo wrote: “If we do not rise up and defend the African Development Bank, this might mean the end of the African Development Bank, as its governance will be hijacked away from Africa.”

The independent panel set up to review the accusations has agreed with the AfDB’s internal ethics committee that the allegations against Adesina were “properly considered and dismissed”.

Akinwumi Adesina had always maintained that he was “innocent” of the accusations.

Nana Abena Boakye-Boateng

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International Business Times Devex
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