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A former ADB consultant is in Madrid with a list of grievances against the bank including fraud and a failure to protect whistleblowers, both of which the bank denies.

David Elliot worked for the ADB in Afghanistan and claims that while there he was asked by an ADB official to falsify reports for donors, and that when he refused to do so, his contract was terminated. He further claims that funds from the UK’s Department for International Development intended for projects with the Aga Khan Foundation were never dispersed, including a mobile health clinic in the country’s north with one of the highest mortality rates in the world.

Arguably of broader import is the implications about the ADB’s treatment of whistleblowers. Mr Elliot claims that, after reporting impropriety in Afghanistan, he was blacklisted on a database of consultants, stopping him from receiving further work from the ADB and other agencies. He was named as the whistleblower in an audit on the Afghanistan projects for the ADB by PricewaterhouseCoopers and AF Ferguson & Co, a move he believes potentially endangered him; he also claims he was defamed by that first audit which, without seeking evidence from him, discredited most of his allegations, only for the audit to be redrafted in March of this year accepting that most of the allegations were actually correct at the time they were made.

Mr Elliot also claims to have damaging email correspondence between Clare Wee, director of the OAGI’s Integrity Division, and Ali Azimi, the man who terminated Mr Elliot’s contract in Afghanistan, in which she told him “I would not worry about the investigation” before it had taken place.

“The talk of integrity is just that: talk,” Mr Elliot said. “ADB policy says that when a whistleblower comes forward the ADB is supposed to encourage and protect them. They have done the opposite. For two years they have tried to get me to shut up, and public tried to embarrass me. That is not integrity.”

The ADB accepts that many of Mr Elliot’s claims about operational problems are correct (although it points out he was in charge of two of the technical assistance mandates in question), although they have since been redressed. “The supervisor did not do his job properly,” says Juan Miranda, the Director General of the ADB’s central and west Asia department. He adds that “we didn’t supervise the supervisor properly,” and notes that the supervisor has since resigned and the whole composition of the ADB office in Kabul, including the country head, has changed.

But he insists the audit found no evidence of fraud; he says Mr Elliot was “categorically not” blacklisted, and even worked for the ADB again after the first consultancy (he now works for USAID);and he disputes any breach of confidentiality because Mr Elliot had previously gone public with his criticisms before the audit took place. Mr Miranda suggests the language Ms Wee used in her email was designed to be calming. “We don’t want files to be burned… we wanted to calm people down, do the independent audit and publish.”

At the heart of the dispute is the mobile clinic. Mr Miranda says the ADB never committed funds to it, or at least not within his areas of responsibility. “We’re not there. It’s not part of these TAs. We don’t know what he’s talking about.” In fact, the annual report of the Poverty Reduction Cooperation Fund directly refers to a mobile clinic in Wakhan developed with the Aga Khan Foundation.

Mr Elliot sees the failure of this clinic to receive funds in blunt terms. “The simple story is the ADB stole money from donors, lied about what they did with it and people are dead as a result. “

Chris Wright
Chris Wright
Chris is a journalist specialising in business and financial journalism across Asia, Australia and the Middle East. He is Asia editor for Euromoney magazine and has written for publications including the Financial Times, Institutional Investor, Forbes, Asiamoney, the Australian Financial Review, Discovery Channel Magazine, Qantas: The Australian Way and BRW. He is the author of No More Worlds to Conquer, published by HarperCollins.

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