2009 – 2010 Review of the IRM’s Policy

In 2009, the African Development Bank (AfDB) undertook its first review of its accountability mechanism, the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM).  On 16 June, 2010, the AfDB released the final version of its updated IRM operating rules and procedures.

Our impact:

  • When determining whether to send a complaint to problem solving or to compliance review, the mechanism would take into account the stated preference of the complainants;
  • The revised policy included language allowing for more flexibility in how complaints are received (they must be in writing, but now they can be sent by mail, email, fax or hand delivery, not just certified mail as was the case before);
  • The revised policy explicitly stated the IRM’s commitment to outreach and accessibility;
  • The director of the mechanism’s Compliance Review and Mediation Unit (CRMU) would no longer serve on the Compliance Review Panel, avoiding potential conflicts of interest;
  • The revised policy explicitly provided a deadline for management to respond to compliance review reports;
  • The board was given more leverage in appointing the director of the CRMU, increasing the mechanism’s independence from AfDB management; and
  • The revised policy included additional procedural requirements for removal of the director of the CRMU, increasing the mechanism’s independence.

Problems that remained with the AfDB IRM policy included:

  • Not allowing for oral complaints (decreasing accessibility);
  • Allowing the director sole discretion to grant requests for confidentiality “as warranted” (decreasing independence of the mechanism and effectiveness for complainants);
  • Requiring that complaints be filed by two or more individuals; complaints by one individual would not be accepted (decreasing accessibility);
  • Requiring approval by the president/boards on decisions regarding when to transition a complaint from problem solving to compliance review (decreasing independence of the CRMU);
  • The CRMU director’s post-employment ban from working at the AfDB was decreased to three years (lessening the independence, credibility, and professionalism of the mechanism); and
  • Failing to adopt a two-year post-employment ban for CRMU staff.

How the Review Process Worked

The AfDB hired an independent consultant to undertake a review of the IRM and develop a report to guide the policy review process. In September 2009, the consultant prepared a draft review report with recommendations for improvements to the mechanism.

In October 2009, Accountability Counsel responded to the draft review report with a letter to the AfDB containing suggestions for the review of the IRM.

Accountability Counsel’s letter received sign-on from the Center for International Environmental Law, International Rivers, International Accountability Project, and Prof. David Hunter of American University, Washington College of Law.