Reacting to the so-called « 16 allegations of whistleblowers » crisis which has paralyzed the African Development Bank for several weeks, five former vice-presidents published on Sunday, June 21, a letter calling for a « consensus ». Signatories of the open letter, Mauritanian Ousmane Kane, Chadian Bedoumra Kordje, Malian Birama Sidibé, Zimbabwean Sakala Zondo and South African Mandla Gantsho, express concern over the crisis between AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, and certain shareholders calling for an independent investigation.
Noting that 11 former African heads of state had called for caution and respect for the rules of the institution in a joint declaration of May 29, the former vice-presidents believe that an independent investigation is necessary, in the interest of the President of the African Development Bank, staff, shareholders and the institution itself.
Recalling that the AfDB had lost its triple A in the mid-1990s and that it took 10 years to find it, after a painful reform, the signatories of the letter welcome the statement by the President of the AfDB on 27 May in which he indicated that he was not opposed to an independent investigation. The former vice presidents also welcome the position of the board of governors’ group to act quickly for a prompt and independent consideration of the issue. The group ends its correspondence by calling on the governors, regional and non-regional, to act in concert to defend the reputation and credibility of the bank.
Here is the full letter signed by the five vice-presidents
The African Development Bank – A Call for Consensus
We are former Vice Presidents of the African Development Bank (AfDB). We have between us served the AfDB for decades and have a continuing interest in its success.
We are concerned by the widely publicized news of the dispute between the Bank’s President and some of its shareholders over the outcome of allegations made against the President by whistleblowers, and in particular over the question of whether there should be an independent enquiry into the whistleblowers’ allegations.
The creation of the African Development Bank was the work of African visionaries collaborating with others within the framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. It was a feat which required overcoming the doubts of many African countries as well as external sceptics. The opening of the Bank’s capital to non-regionals was a result of an extended debate. Its implementation enabled the Bank to acquire its AAA credit rating and to establish over time a track record that has made possible the access to the international capital markets that we celebrate today. The African Development Fund (ADF) has succeeded in mobilizing concessional resources mainly from non-regional member countries. For the 33 regional member countries eligible only for ADF financing, access to these resources are the primary benefit of membership. The Nigeria Trust Fund has also made a substantial contribution to regional member countries.
Non-regional members of the African Development Bank play a critical role in its financing and the financing of the African Development Fund. The current 60:40 voting power between regional and non-regional members is the result of decisions taken in the context of previous ADB general capital increases and ADF Replenishments. The double majority requirement in the election of the President reflects the recognition of the important role that both regional and non-regional members play. The recent successful conclusion of the Seventh General Capital Increase of the African Development Bank and the Fifteenth Replenishment of the African Development Fund was achieved with a number of commitments made to strengthen the governance of the institution.
Decision-making by consensus has been the practice of the Bank. The sooner the present situation is resolved the better. The trading of allegations and counterstatements in the media is not in the interest of the Bank and risks damaging its reputation and jeopardizing its future. The confidence of all stakeholders is necessary for the Bank’s success. Therefore, there is a need to proceed with what we perceive as a potential consensus.
We note that eleven former African leaders have signed a statement on 29 May 2020 calling for caution and highlighting the need for the Bank’s rules, procedures and governance structures to be respected. In their words: “Governance is all about respecting and abiding by rules, laws and established governing systems of organizations. In the case of the AfDB, while differences may exist among parties, the best way to address them is to first respect the rules, procedures and governance structures of the Bank. » We fully support this affirmation.
We believe it is in the interest of the Bank, its shareholders, President, and staff that an independent enquiry examines the allegations and the evidence and comes to clear conclusions which can inform the conduct of the Bank’s business in the future. Without such an enquiry, the current situation places the Bank, its President and its governing structures in an unfavorable light, with potentially adverse consequences for its credit rating and for its reputation in general. It is worth recalling that the AfDB lost its triple AAA rating in the mid-1990s following a governance crisis, and only regained it a decade or so later following rigorous adjustments and painful reforms.
We welcome the President’s statement of 27 May 2020 indicating that he is not opposed to an independent enquiry: As he said: “I am confident that fair, transparent and just processes that respect the rules, procedures and governance systems of the Bank and the rule of law, will ultimately prove that I have not violated the Code of Ethics of this extraordinary institution.” Such perspective will honor him and, in turn, bolster his prospects for a possible re-election.
We welcome the decision from the Board of Governors’ Bureau to act swiftly for an independent and credible review of the matter. It is important for Africa that its premier financial institution is above suspicion and is exemplary in its governance.
More generally, we believe that Africa’s political commitment to good governance is well established. Therefore, Africa must, in all its initiatives, compel the world’s respect in terms of transparency; ethics, and compliance with established rules. This is a requirement for optimal mobilization of its abundant internal resources (see the Report of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, headed by President Thabo Mbeki, the Former President of South Africa). It is also a necessary condition for a fruitful partnership with the rest of the world. We believe that these considerations pave the way for a high- level resolution to the current crisis prevailing in the African Development Bank. As such, we urge regional and non-regional Governors to seize this opportunity to demonstrate to the world their commitment to the success; the good reputation, and the credibility of the African Development Bank Group.
Former AfDB Vice Presidents:
BEDOUMRA Kordje Ousmane Kane
GANTHSO Mandla SAKALA Zondo
Directeur de publication de Financial Afrik. Dans la presse économique africaine depuis 17 ans, Adama Wade a eu à exercer au Maroc dans plusieurs rédactions. Il Capitaine au Long Cours de la Marine Marchande et titulaire d’un Master en Communication des Organisations, Adama Wade vit entre Nouakchott et Dakar.