Ex-Irish President to Lead Review of Probe Into AfDB Chief

Former Irish President Mary Robinson will head a panel to review an African Development Bank ethics committee report that found no evidence of wrongdoing by the head of the multilateral lender.

The panel has four weeks to complete its work, the Abidjan-based bank said in an emailed statement dated July 1. Robinson will be assisted by former Gambian Attorney General Hassan Jallow and ex-South African Director of Public Prosecutions Leonard McCarthy, it said.

The review is the result of a compromise reached after bank shareholders including the U.S. and several other non-regional member nations called for an independent investigation following a report that cleared Akinwumi Adesina. It comes before Adesina, 60, seeks to extend his five-year term at the bank’s annual general meeting next month.

The ethics committee conducted the investigation after unidentified whistleblowers accused Adesina of handing contracts to acquaintances and appointing relatives to strategic positions. Adesina has repeatedly denied the allegations and said in a statement on May 27 that “fair, transparent and just processes” would confirm his innocence.

Robinson, who also served on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, is the chair of the Elders , a global body that advocates for gender equality. Jallow, who in 2013 was appointed as a judge of the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone and prosecutor of the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, has been chief justice for Gambia since 2017. McCarthy served as integrity vice president of the World Bank for nine years before leading an integrity risk management company based in Washington, the AfDB said.

The AfDB is Africa’s biggest multilateral bank. In March, the lender issued a $3 billion social bond to help African countries deal with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. The bank also launched a $10 billion crisis-response facility for African nations.

‘Appropriate Expertise’

Shareholders of the AfDB include 54 nations on the continent and 27 countries in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Asia. S&P Global Ratings last month affirmed its AAA assessment of the African Development Bank, a similar grading to those provided by Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service, with a stable outlook.

The selection of the panel appears to be aligned with the criteria of appointing “individuals with appropriate expertise and independence to ensure a fair examination,” said S&P analyst Alexander Ekbom. The firm’s assessment of AfDB is based on the lender’s strong risk-management culture, “which we believe extends to the appropriate rules and procedures to handle personnel and other ethics-related matters.”

U.S. criticism of the bank’s internal processes followed comments by World Bank President David Malpass in February that multilateral lenders including the AfDB tend to provide loans too quickly, and, in the process, add to African nations’ debt problems. The bank rebutted the statement, saying it undermines its governance systems, impugns its integrity and that there is no risk of “systemic debt distress” on the continent.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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