Promoting Accountability and Transparency in Development Projects
Maputo, Mozambique – 12 May 2008 - Promoting accountability in the implementation of the projects financed by the African Development Bank (ADB) Group has become a priority issue for the continent’s premier development finance institution. It is on this basis that the Bank Group established the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) in 2006.
The IRM is among the many initiatives the AfDB has put in place to ensure that its interventions in its Regional Member Countries (RMCs) achieve tangible results and impact positively on local communities as ultimate beneficiaries of its financed projects. The purpose of the IRM is to provide people who are or likely to be adversely affected by a project financed by the Bank Group with the possibility to lodge their complaints to the Bank in case they suffer harm due to the violation of the Bank’s applicable policies and procedures in that project.
The IRM serves as an accountability instrument that responds to the complaints of people in relation to the Bank Group’s finance projects by investigating the underlying problems to ensuring compliance with the applicable Bank’s policies and procedures. It operates under a set of transparent procedures, especially those governing information disclosure of all proceedings and decisions resulting from either of the IRM two main functions: problem-solving (mediation) exercises or compliance reviews.
Another important feature of the mechanism is the ability of its compliance review panels to make recommendations to the Bank Group’s Boards of Directors and senior management with regard to projects under review. Such recommendations could include remedies for specific project problems and/or propositions to improve the Bank Group policies and procedures. Furthermore, the Director of Compliance Review Mechanism Unit (CRMU), which manages the IRM, in consultations with the three members of the IRM roster of experts, can make recommendations in the IRM Annual Report on policies and procedural issues based on the experiences gained from problem-solving exercises and compliance reviews. The current three eminent experts of the IRM roster are – Messrs Madiodio Niasse (Chairperson), Daniel Bradlow and Mrs. Maartje van Putten.
The compliance review procedures are simple and transparent. Within 14 days of receipt of a request, the CRMU Director is bound to conduct a preliminary review to determine whether the request falls within the mandate of the IRM and whether it contains credible allegation of a harm arising from a Bank-financed project. If that is the case, the CRMU is obliged to register the request and promptly inform the requestors, the President of the Bank Group and the Boards of Directors of the registration. The Bank Group’s management, for its part, is also bound to provide evidence that it has either complied or intends to comply with Bank Group relevant policies and procedures within 21 days following the registration of the request.
Within 30 days of the receipt of the ADB Group management’s response, the CRMU Director drafts and presents the request eligibility report in which it can either recommend a mediation process or a compliance review. The purpose of the mediation exercise is to restore effective dialogue between the requestors and any interested party with a view to resolving the issue or issues underlying the request. The CRMU shall submit a problem-solving report to interested parties, the Bank Group’s President and the Boards of Directors. The objective of the compliance review on the other hand is to investigate whether or not the Bank has complied with its policies and to verify whether the non-compliance has caused direct harm to the requesters.
Compliance Review Case
The CRMU received the first request for a compliance review on 16 May 2007 which concerns the Bujagali Hydropower Project and its related transmission line project carried out in Uganda. The request was submitted by local NGOs and individuals who requested the Bank Group to conduct a review of the compliance with the applicable Bank policies and procedures, among others, the hydrological risks, the projects’ economics including affordability and alternative analyses, consultations with affected peoples on resettlement and compensation, and cultural and spiritual issues. Mr. Per Eldar Sovik, the Director of CRMU, considered that the request met the requirements for a compliance review. When management provided its response, the director and the principal compliance officer conducted a mission to Uganda in July 2007. They confirmed prima facie evidence of potential harm, and made a recommendation to undertake a compliance review, which was authorized by the Boards of Directors on 7 September 2007.
Furthermore, the IRM and the World Bank’s Inspection Panel (IPN), who received a similar request for inspection of the Bujagali Hydropower project, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which covers: the terms for the sharing of information and the use of specialist consultants based on a mutual understanding that the CRMU and IPN will each carry out its own independent assessment of possible violation of policies and procedures of their respective organizations. Subsequently, the IPN and IRM Bujagali Review Panel accompanied by specialists in key issues raised in the request undertook an in-depth fact-finding mission in Uganda during November - December 2007. In addition, the IRM Bujagali Review Panel has conducted desk research and interviews with staff at the Bank Group’s Temporary Relocation Agency in Tunis, complementing materials for the preparation of its final report which is well underway.
The CRMU also organizes outreach activities in order to raise awareness of the IRM among people, local communities, NGOs and the civil society of their rights to express their grievances to the Bank Group in relation to any of the Bank-financed projects. The outreach activities include workshops and seminars, exchange of information through IRM website www.afdb.org/irm and the dissemination of the IRM brochures published in English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Kiswahili. The seminars give the IRM an opportunity to deliberate with different groups specialized among others on human rights, environmental protection, resettlement, and good governance, on the ADB Group priorities to promote its accountability.