African Development Bank rolls out new Whistleblowing Policy

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New policy brings retaliation by contractors, consultants and suppliers under the Bank’s sanctions regime

The African Development Bank Group has launched a six-month campaign to sensitize its internal and external stakeholders on its new Whistleblowing Policy, approved by the Boards of Directors in January this year.

The Whistleblowing Policy 2023 builds on a 2007 policy, which at the time was widely considered as progressive and reflective of the value the Bank Group places on the contribution of whistleblowers to its anti-corruption processes, and its zero tolerance of any retaliation against them.

The new policy sets additional standards, by bringing the Bank’s Boards members and elected officials under the disciplinary scope of the policy where they are found to have threatened or participated in retaliation against any internal or external party reporting fraud and corruption in Bank operations, or assisting in audits, investigations and disciplinary processes.

Enhancing its ability to protect external whistleblowers, the new policy classifies retaliation by external parties within the context of AfDB-financed operations as Obstructive Practices, which are subject to debarment under the Bank’s sanctions system.

The new policy ensures that the Bank will continue to protect natural persons or entities:

  • who make disclosures of fraud or corruption in good faith,
  • who refuse to violate the law by making public disclosures,
  • who challenge national or international illegality, as well as abuse of authority, mismanagement, gross waste, or substantial health or safety threats,
  • who are mistakenly identified as whistleblowers,
  • including AfDB staff and consultants, private citizens, development partners, non-governmental organisations, professional bodies, government officials and officials of other international financial institutions, and
  • employees of vendors and contractors participating in AfDB-financed projects, by making the guarantees of whistleblower rights by employers, a contract condition.

The new Whistleblower Policy also ensures due process guarantees by:

  • providing interim relief to persons impacted by retaliation pending the final determination of their grievances,
  • protecting the rights of whistleblowers to seek recourse against decisions made by the Bank,
  • protecting the anonymity of whistleblowers by maintaining confidentiality in its processes, and
  • protecting the rights of whistleblowers to be notified of the status of their submissions.

The Bank’s Boards of Directors have further committed to reviewing the new policy in 2028, after five years of implementation, taking into consideration implementation reports and feedback from stakeholders.

In 2007, a review of the Bank’s whistleblowing policy by the United States-based Government Accountability Project (GAP) indicated that the African Development Bank was the first multilateral development bank to substantially comply with the whistleblower transparency reforms authored by senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Lugar (R-In.) and approved in an October 2005 U.S. appropriations law. GAP described the 2007 policy, as setting “a new standard for protecting staff members and others from retaliation when they report fraud or corruption [and]… guaranteeing employment for vindicated whistleblowers who suffer retaliation.”

Whistleblowing Policy 2023 Sensitization Campaign to last six months

Speaking at the launch of the Whistleblowing Policy sensitization campaign at the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan on Tuesday 25 April, Paula Santos-Da Costa, Director of the Office of Integrity and Anti-Corruption, stated: “the campaign will be implemented over a six-month period in the Bank’s headquarters, regional and country offices and in Regional Member Countries.”

Santos-Da Costa, the Bank’s designated chief whistleblower protection officer, said the campaign will be carried out through a variety of activities including, installation of information desks, dissemination of information, education and communication materials such as fact sheets and FAQs. The campaign will also engage beneficiary communities hosting Bank-financed projects, civil society organisations, relevant professional bodies, contractors and government officials involved in project implementation.

The director further stated that an internal guideline has been developed and issued to “ensure the strategic and efficient implementation of the Whistleblowing Policy 2023”.

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