An independent panel backed an African Development Bank probe that found no evidence of wrongdoing by its president, Akinwumi Adesina.
The finding enables Adesina, 60, to seek re-election next month as head of the continent’s biggest multilateral lender for another five years. It’s also a rebuff to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose rejection of the AfDB ethics committee’s original report led to the review.
The independent panel, led by former Irish President Mary Robinson, said it was “satisfied” with the ethics committee’s findings, according to a document seen by Bloomberg. The probe was initiated after unidentified whistleblowers accused Adesina of handing contracts to acquaintances and appointing relatives to strategic positions at the Abidjan-based lender.
“The panel concurs with the findings in respect of all the allegations against the president and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the committee,” it said in the document dated July 27.
The bank didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The AfDB is owned by 54 African nations and 27 other countries. The U.S. holds the largest stake after Nigeria, the home country of Adesina.
Adesina repeatedly denied the allegations and said in a May 27 statement that “fair, transparent and just processes” would confirm his innocence. The bank’s ethics committee had dismissed much of the complaints in an April 26 report on the basis that the whistleblowers did not provide evidence to back them.
“It appears to us to be an undue burden to expect the holder of high office in an international organization, to prove a negative, in the absence of sufficient grounds,” the panel wrote.
The panel was the product of a compromise reached between the bank’s shareholders — led by the U.S. and including several non-regional member states — who called for an independent review of the internal probe.
Robinson was assisted by former Gambian Attorney General Hassan Jallo and ex-South African Director of Public Prosecutions Leonard McCarthy.
In March, the AfDB 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. Last week, Fitch Ratings affirmed the bank’s AAA rating with a stable outlook.