The chances of Dr Akinwumi Adesina, Nigeria’s former Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, getting a second term as President of the African Development Bank are being currently threatened following allegations of corruption and favouritism levelled against him.
The allegations against Adesina including misconduct, arbitrary recruitment, private gain, impediment to efficiency, singlehandedly overruling decisions taken by directors, nepotism, political lobbying, use of bank resources for private gains, have since raised doubts over his integrity and depleted confidence among major stakeholders and partners of the bank especially the United States Government.
The allegations were raised by “whistle-blowers” within the organisation.
Adesina is the sole candidate for the bank’s Presidency to lead it through the next five years but with a fresh and independent probe of his administration being demanded by the United States, things may no longer go as expected for the Nigerian technocrat.
In a document seen by SaharaReporters, at least 16 of the ‘sins’ brought against Adesina were highlighted.
Among other things, Adesina accused to have broken the Code of Conduct for top executives of the AfDB.
As part of the expectations for top executives, the Code of Conduct states, “Observe the highest standards of ethical conduct.
“Refrain from participating in active politics in their home countries or elsewhere.
“Avoid any situation that poses a conflict,or the appearance of a conflict, between personal interest and the performance of official duties.
(a) using their position for private gain (b)giving unwarranted preferential treatment to any organisation or person (c)impeding the efficiency of the bank
(d) losing complete independence or impartiality of action
(e) affecting adversely the confidence of member countries or the public in the integrity of the bank.
United States Government Demands Fresh Probe Of African Development Bank’s President, Adesina
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“The following cases illustrate what we believe to be serious and repeated breaches of the Code of Conduct by the President.
“These give staff members the impression of a President who is above the law in an institution where rules and regulations apply in function of the President’s interests, as attested by the recent staff survey.
“A President should be leading by example. We observe that the checks and balances provided by the Board of Directors no longer seem to be adequate.
“The following cases are listed in no particular order, and state how we think the Code of Conduct might have been breached. In some of these cases, the conflicts of interest may be hard to prove, but we wish to recall that the Code of Conduct calls for the avoidance not only of actual conflicts of interest, but also of the appearance of such a conflict.
“1. Non-respect of internal rules and regulations in recruitment (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency, political activity, private gain).
“Since 2015, the President has taken his responsibility of Chief of the Staff to heart, playing a very active role in the recruitment of all managerial positions, acting as the de facto HR Manager. According to our information, for all PL2 positions (manager) and above, the President validates the short list of candidates to be interviewed and the list of candidates selected after the interviews.
“He is known to have excluded top-rated candidates from shortlists and to have canceled shortlists drawn up by independent recruitment panels. As recently put by the General Counsel in a legal opinion, presumably to justify these practices, “… the President is better placed than any ad hoc interview panel to know which prospective candidates for employment by the bank would be best suited in assisting him/her in delivering that vision (which he has been elected to deliver). He/She can recruit the person concerned without passing through an interview panel or any other formal process”.
“This personal involvement in the recruitment process may explain the long delays in recruiting for these three positions and the turnover of HR directors at the bank. This is a source of waste of resources and loss of efficiency. One cannot but wonder if the many vacant managerial positions (division manager, country manager, director or vice-president) and the lack of succession planning are not a strategy to reward countries for the support to the President’s reelection.
“2. Appointment of Mrs. Chinelo Anohu-Amazu (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, adversely affecting confidence in the integrity of the
Bank). A Nigerian citizen, Mrs Anohu-Amazu was appointed on September 1, 2019 to the position of Senior Director in charge of the African Investment Forum (AIF). She was awarded the grade of Senior Director which places her at the same salary level as Vice Presidents without having the same responsibility level. She was previously DG and CEO of the National Pension Commission in Nigeria from 2014 to 2017.
“According to a May 10, 2019 SaharaReporters article, Mrs Anohu-Amazu was dismissed in 2017 by President Buhari following allegations of abuse, allegations, for which the Nigerian House of Representatives launched an official investigation in 2019. President Adesina could not have ignored this situation when he hired her. The position of AIF Director became vacant when the incumbent, Mrs Stella Kilonzo resigned on the 30 of June 2019, among other reasons, because she refused to hire Mrs Anohu-Amazu as a consultant at the request of the President for a fee considerably higher than the applicable standards. Interestingly enough, this position stayed vacant for less than two months when, for example, the position of Director for Integrity and Anti-corruption, also under the direct recruiting authority of the President, remained vacant for 18 months between 2017 and 2018.
“3. Appointment and promotions of Mr. Martin Fregene (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment). A Nigerian-born, Mr Fregene is alleged to be the President’s brother-in-law (through their wives). He joined the bank in September 2015 as Adviser in the Office of the President, after having already served in his office when he was Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria. In 2017, it is reported that, at the President’s request, he was appointed lead expert to Mrs. Blanke, VP Agriculture, and then promoted Adviser, both regular positions, both times without competition. Mr Fregene was later promoted again in 2018 to the position of Director of the Agriculture and Agro-industry Department with effect from the 1st of January 2018 when Mr. Ojukwu, the incumbent, was still in place (he retired on the 31st of January). While no succession planning is in place for functions as important as VPs and DGs, it is worth noting that in this case, not only was the succession planned, but it included an overlap of one month. Consequently, the bank ended up with two Directors of Agriculture and paid two salaries for the same position during the month of January 2018. This appointment did not respect the Recruitment Manual which requires a 24-months minimum time in grade before an internal candidate can apply to another position. It is unclear if, if confirmed, the familial affiliation was disclosed during the recruitment process or if it played a role in the promotions.
“4. Mismanagement of the TAAT programme (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, adversely affecting confidence in the integrity of the Bank). T AAT, Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation, is a USD 120m programme designed to speed up the adoption of agricultural technologies through CGIAR agricultural research institutes.
The first phase of the programme, a USD 40m ADF-14 grant to IITA in Nigeria was reluctantly approved by the Board of Directors in 2017, only after the President personally used all of his political weight to defend the transaction and lift the Board’s doubts. One has to remember that the President worked for IITA and AfricaRice, and both institutions were to benefit from the grant. The mastermind behind the project, Mr. Fregene, is also an IITA alumni and the task manager, Mr Mude, is an alumni of ILRI, another institution financed by the programme. In 2018, IITA, the implementing agency, proceeded to purchase through direct procurement USD 5.46m worth of pesticides from a multinational company, while the grant contract specifically prohibited such procurement method. Fortunately, the fiduciary controls of the bank stopped the process but Mr. Fregene went ahead and personally negotiated the price directly with the supplier and asked for the shipment of the pesticides. When confronted by senior management, he tried to launch a competitive bidding process to cover up the direct purchase. The fiduciary controls of the Bank worked once again and the payment of the supplier’s invoice was blocked for non-compliance with Bank rules. When informed, the President himself requested the payment to be released to the supplier. It is unclear if the on-going investigation was launched at the request of the President or not. One cannot but wonder why Mr. Fregene felt confident enough (1) to proceed with the negotiation and contracting of such a large contract against all applicable rules without even being the implementing agency, (2) to lie to Opscom, one the highest ranked committees of the Bank, about the status of the contract or (3) to entrust the management of the programme to another CGIAR alumni, against all good practices?
“5. Appointments and promotions of Mrs. Maria Mulundi (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency,preferential treatment,private gain). A Kenyan national, Mrs Mulundi, has long lasting professional ties with the President, as she was already working for him when he was the Minister of Agriculture of Nigeria. She first joined the bank as a consultant, Adviser to the
President, in his advanced team from June to end of August 2015 before he assumed duty. She was then promoted Senior adviser to the President in 2016 and again appointed – without competition – Director of Cabinet, Office of the President in April 2017, a regular Bank position according to the Staff Rules. According to our information, upon instruction of the President, for this appointment, her annual salary was increased from about UA 150,000 to UA 199,000 corresponding to an unusual increase of more than 32.7%, in clear breach of Rule 43.01 of the Staff Rules. This increase was justified by claiming that this appointment was a new recruitment rather than a promotion. Over the summer of 2018, she fell into disgrace and was appointed by the President as Director in charge of Special Duties, Engagement with Civil Society and Community Based Organizations and sent back to the Eastern Region (her home country) and then to the Southern region. There, Mrs. Mulundi continues to receive a salary of UA 199,000 and enjoys all related benefits. It is worth mentioning that there is already a Director for Gender, Women and Civil Society and it is unclear ifMrs.MULINDIreportstoherornot. Her function does not exist in the current organisational chart and almost no trace of actual work can be found. According to our information, the “special duty” she was tasked by the President is to take care of his wife, Grace Adesina, currently under treatment in South Africa.
“6. Direct contracting and appointment of Mr. Victor Oladokun (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency, private gain, preferential treatment). A childhood friend of the President, as attested by a publicly available photograph, Mr Oladokun’s company 3D Global Consult was awarded by the President, in early 2017 a consultancy contract for an amount of $326,000 through direct contracting, thereby making full use of the possibility to waive procedures for the procurement of consulting services granted to the President by PD 02/2012. This contract has been flagged by internal audit, as being potentially subject to a conflict of interest. It is unclear if this red flag has led to any investigation nor if it was verified if this contract was awarded in thanks for Mr. Oladokun’s alleged services performed during the President’s election campaign. Mr Oladokun was then appointed in September 2017 as Director of Communications and reports directly to the President. It is unclear if Mr. Oladokun’s close association with the President was disclosed during the contracting or the recruitment process.
“7. Contracting of Mr. Kapil Kapoor (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency,
preferential treatment). The former Director General for the Southern Region, Mr Kapoor retired on 31 of August 2019. He was then immediately recruited by the President as a consultant and was kept in office in Pretoria with a very comfortable monthly fee of USD 23,000. Mr Kapoor, who is no longer a staff member, continues to enjoy the advantages of the position of Director General. And he does so in utter disregard for the presence of a Deputy Director General in Pretoria.
“8. Appointment of Mr. Emmanuel Ezinwa (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, adversely affecting confidence in the integrity of the Bank). A national of Nigeria, Mr Ezinwa was found guilty of sexually harassing a colleague during his probation period. On the basis of this staff misconduct, the HR Director refused to confirm his contract at the end of the probation period. According to our sources, the President requested that Mr. Ezinwa’s contract be confirmed, which in turn contributed to the resignation in 2019 of the HR Director, Mrs. Frauke HARNISCHFEGER, merely 6 months after she took office. The sexual harassment was left unpunished.
“9. Preferential treatment for Nigeria and Nigerians (unethical conduct, impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment). Under President Adesina, Nigeria was promoted to an almost full-fledged region. No longer part of the West-African General Directorate, under the new organizational chart introduced by the President, the Nigeria Country Directorate now stands by itself and the Country Director reports directly to the VP. Admittedly, Nigeria is AfDB’s largest shareholder with over 9%, but it’s not clear if this justifies a preferential treatment. Nigerians have also been particularly well treated in the massive recruitment drive that was launched due to the restructuring of President Adesina between 2016 and 2018. When roughly 9% of new recruits were Nigerians (or dual nationals of Nigerian origin) – in line with Nigerian shareholding –, they made up roughly 25% of the newly recruited managerial functions. It is not clear if this preferential treatment was justified by a previous under-representation.
“10. Awards received by the President and costs borne by the Bank (unethical conduct, private gain, impediment to efficiency). In 2017 and 2019, Mr. Adesina received two major awards: the World Food Prize (USD 250,000) and the Sunhak Peace Prize (USD 500,000). Other less significant prizes were also awarded. It is not clear if he received these awards as the President of the AfDB or as a private citizen. Dozens of people, bank staff, executive Directors, former Head of State, entertainers or family members attended the award ceremonies at the bank’s costs (one in Des Moines, Iowa, the other in Seoul, Korea). If these awards were private, why did the bank support associated costs? If they were awarded to the President of the group of the bank were the awards returned to the bank?