→ Visit the Accountability Mechanism website
The Accountability Mechanism
of the Asian Development Bank
On this page you will find:
– a brief history
– an overview of some key mandate and procedure points of the current version of the Accountability Mechanism:
1- The entry point: the Complaints Receiving Officer
– Who can submit a complaint?
– Are there some kinds of complaints which are excluded?
– How must complaints be submitted?
2- Choice of the procedure and articulation between the SPF and the CPR procedures
3- The Special Project Facilitator (problem-solving) procedure
– Purpose of the SPF procedure
– The SPF in short
– Who can seek a problem-solving exercise and about what?
– Overview of the procedure, outcome, and monitoring
– Use of lessons learnt
4- The Compliance Review Panel procedure
– Purpose of the procedure
– The CRP in short
– Who can seek a compliance review and about what?
– Rules which violation you can complain about
– Overview of the procedure and outcome
– direct links to the relevant ADB website pages
« The objectives of the Accountability Mechanism will be to provide an independent and effective forum for people adversely affected by ADB-assisted projects to voice their concerns and seek solutions to their problems, and to request compliance review of the alleged noncompliance by ADB with its operational policies and procedures that may have caused, or is likely to cause, them direct and material harm. » (*)
In December 1995, following the example of the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, the Asian Development Bank’s Board of Directors created an Inspection Function « to provide a forum for project beneficiaries to appeal to an independent body relating to ADB’s compliance with its operational policies and procedures in ADB-assisted [public] projects. » (1) Between 1995 and 2000, only 2 requests were filed and both were declared ineligible. Access to the Inspection Function was indeed very difficult. (2) In addition, the first full inspection process on the Samut Prakarn Wastewater Management Project (Thailand, inspection from April 2001 to March 2002) showed that the « inspection process and procedures were lengthy, confusing, and complex for most stakeholders both inside and outside ADB. The first full inspection also raised concerns about independence, credibility, transparency and information dissemination, and effectiveness of the Inspection Function. » (3)
At ADB’s donors request and in the light of the Samut Prakarn findings, a significant review was conducted between 2001 and 2003, resulting in the adoption of a revised mechanism, called the ‘Accountability Mechanism’. The 2003 Accountability Mechanism introduces 3 major changes: (4)
– in addition to public projects, ADB-assisted private projects can now be assessed by the Accountability Mechanism; (5)
– the mechanism is split into 2 complementary functions, a consultation function entrusted to a Special Project Facilitator (SPF) and a compliance control function entrusted to the Compliance Review Panel (CRP); complainants must undergo the consultation phase before being eligible to submit a complaint before the CRP; (6)
– access to the Accountability Mechanism is widened: access to the SPF is irrespective of any allegation of noncompliance by ADB of its operational policies and procedures; complaints must be submitted in writing but they can be submitted in any of the official or national languages of ADB’s developing member countries. (7)
After extensive consultations with external experts, internal authorities and the public, (8) a new version of the Accountability Mechanism policy was adopted and made effective on 24 May 2012. (9)
The main novelties are:
– the creation of a single entry point to access both the SPF and CRP: the Complaints Receiving Officer (CRO)
– direct access to the compliance function: requesters no longer need to undergo a consultation phase if they don’t want to and believe that the direct and material harm alleged is the result of ADB’s failure to follow its operational policies and procedures in the course of formulating, processing, or implementing an ADB-assisted project
– the Compliance Review Panel makes findings but no longer issues recommendations. Management is responsible for defining remedial measures, based on the CRP’s findings. The CRP keeps its monitoring function.
• The CRO in short
The CRO comes from outside the ADB. It is a full-time position.
The CRO receives all complaints, whether they call for the SPF, the CRP or both and register them. He or she provides information to complainants. The CRO forward complaints to the OSPF [Office of the SPF] or CRP based on the choice of complainants. (§§ 121 and 124)
Within 2 days of receiving the complaint, it is filed with the CRO. The CRO informs the Special Project Facilitator, the Compliance Review Panel chair, and the Operations Department about the complaint, with a copy of the complaint letter. The CRO registers the complaint on the Accountability Mechanism website.
Within 2 days of receiving the complaint: the CRO acknowledges receipt of the complaint and sends an information packet to the complainants. Complainants who have clearly chosen for either problem solving or compliance review are given 21 calendar days to change their choice and to notify the CRO. If the choice is not clear, the CRO requests complainants to clarify their choice.
Within 5 days after the 21-day deadline for complainants to change their choice, the CRO forwards the complaint for handling to the SPF, the CRP Chair or other departments or offices (if the complaint falls outside the Accountability Mechanism mandate).
Within 3 days of the CRO’s decision, the SPF, the CRP Chair, the operations department or any other relevant department or office may object if they feel that the CRO has misinterpreted the complainants’ choice of function. If there are no objections to the CRO decision the CRO will forward the complaint to the relevant party to be handled. The CRO will return the complaint to the complainants with a request to clarify the choice of function if the choice was unclear; or an objection is raised by the SPF, CRP chair, operations department, or other relevant department or office. The complainants must clarify their choice within 60 calendar days of the CRO’s request for clarification.
Within 2 days of forwarding the complaint to the relevant party, or failure of the complainants to clarify their choice the CRO informs the complainants and their representative(s), if any, which party will handle the complaint and the contact person(s). If the complainants did not clarify their choice within 60 calendar days, the CRO informs them that the Accountability Mechanism process has ended.
• Who can submit a complaint?
You can submit a complaint if:
– you belong to any group of two or more people in a borrowing country where the ADB-assisted project is located, or in a member country adjacent to the borrowing country, who are directly, materially, and adversely affected;
– or, you are a local representative of affected people;
– or, in exceptional cases, you are a non-local representative of such affected persons, where local representation cannot be found and the SPF or CRP agrees.
If a complaint is made through a representative, it must clearly identify the project-affected people on whose behalf the complaint is made and provide evidence of the authority to represent such people.
The identity of complainants will be kept confidential if requested, but anonymous complaints are not accepted. (§§ 138 and 150)
• Are there some kinds of complaints which are excluded?
First, please note that the Accountability Mechanism policy does not « require complainants’ good faith efforts to solve problems with project-level grievance redress mechanisms as a precondition for their access to the Accountability Mechanism. However, complainants [are] encouraged to first address their problems with the project-level grievance redress mechanisms to facilitate prompt problem solving on the ground. » (§ 144) It is important to note that though complainants are not required to use the project-level grievance mechanism, they are required to have made good faith efforts to address the matter with the operations department concerned before filing a request. (§§ 142 ii) and 148).
Please also note that conditions to access the SPF a bit different than those to access the CRP (see below.)
Paras. 142 and 143 read that:
« Complaints will be excluded if they are
(i) about actions that are not related to ADB’s action or omission in the course of formulating, processing, or implementing ADB-assisted projects;
(ii) about matters that complainants have not made good faith efforts to address with the operations department concerned;
(iii) about matters already considered by the SPF, unless the complainants have new evidence previously not available to them and unless the subsequent complaint can be readily consolidated with the earlier complaint; [this exclusion only applies if you seek a problem-solving exercise]
(iv) about an ADB-assisted project for which 2 or more years have passed since the loan or grant closing date; [footnote 41 specifies that: « For programmatic operations, such as multitranche financing facilities, additional financing, and policy-based lending, the cutoff will be tranche- (or its equivalent) based. For projects whose loan or grant closing dates are kept open after project completion for purposes such as capitalizing interest payments and liquidation, the cutoff date will be 2 years after the project completion date. »]
(v) frivolous, malicious, trivial, or generated to gain competitive advantage;
(vi) about decisions made by ADB, the borrower or executing agency, or the private sector client on the procurement of goods and services, including consulting services;
(vii) about allegations of fraud or corruption in ADB-assisted projects or by ADB staff; [if your complaint relates to fraud or corruption, contact the ADB’s Office of Anticorruption and Integrity (OAI)]
(viii) about the adequacy or suitability of ADB’s existing policies and procedures;
(ix) within the jurisdiction of ADB’s Appeals Committee [this Appeals Committee examines complaints about ADB having incorrectly denied requests for information] or ADB’s Administrative Tribunal, or relate to ADB personnel matters; and/or
(x) about ADB’s non-operational housekeeping matters, such as finance and administration. »
In addition, the SPF also excludes matters being dealt with or already dealt with by the CRP (including those that have completed the compliance review process), except those complaints considered ineligible for compliance review by the CRP (§143).
If you are seeking a compliance review, in addition to the above exclusion list there are other exclusion criteria (§146):
(i) complaints relating to actions that are the responsibility of other parties, such as a borrower, executing agency, or potential borrower, unless the conduct of these other parties is directly relevant to an assessment of ADB’s compliance with its operational policies and procedures; [this means that if you are affected or likely to be affected by the behaviour of the borrower, the executing agency of the potential borrower, your request cannot solely point at the borrower or executing agency; your claim must state that the harm caused by the borrower was permitted by the fact ADB did not do what it should have done to make sure the borrower meets the Bank’s conditions and/or did not supervise diligently enough the project to make sure it was implemented in compliance with the Bank’s policies and that the borrower complies with its commitments under the agreement signed with the Bank]
(ii) complaints that do not involve ADB’s noncompliance with its operational policies and procedures;
(iii) complaints being dealt with by the SPF up to the completion of step 3 under the problem solving function (paras. 164–173); [that is, if the request hasn’t been directly dealt with under the CR procedure, when the SPF has concluded that one or the other party or both do(es) not want to participate in the problem-solving exercise, or when the SPF actions have resulted in an agreement between the parties but the requester thinks there have been serious violations of applicable policies]
(iv) complaints relating to the laws, policies, and regulations of the DMC [Developing Member Country] government concerned unless they directly relate to ADB’s compliance with its operational policies and procedures; [ADB has an obligation to check whether the borrower complies with applicable law, either national or international] and/or
(v) complaints about matters already considered by the CRP, unless the complainants have new evidence previously not available to them and unless the subsequent complaint can be readily consolidated with the earlier complaint.
• How must complaints be submitted?
The Accountability Mechanism works in English but complaints will be accepted in any of the official or national languages of ADB’s developing member countries if the complainant is unable to provide an English translation.
You’ll find a sample complaint letter and a complaint form at <http://www.adb.org/site/accountability-mechanism/complaints-receiving-officer/how-file-complaint> (given that the only alternative language version of the ADB website is in Chinese -which we don’t read-, we assume that either these sample complaint letter and complaint form are only available in English, or only in English and Chinese)
You can send your complaint to the CRO:
Complaints Receiving Officer, Accountability Mechanism
Asian Development Bank Headquarters
6 ADB Avenue, Mandaluyong City 1550, Metro Manila,
Phone: (+632) 632 4444
Fax: (+632) 636 2086
Complaints are also accepted by any ADB office such as a resident mission, regional office or representative office, which will forward them unopened to the CRO.
Para. 153 of the Accountability Mechanism Policy 2012 states that:
– complainants decide and indicate whether they want to access the problem solving or compliance review function;
– they can exit the SPF procedure and file for compliance review; the reverse is not true: complainants cannot switch from compliance review to problem solving during the compliance review process, or request problem solving upon the completion of a compliance review;
– complainants can also request compliance review upon the completion of step 3 of the problem solving process (that is, when the SPF has concluded that one or the other party or both do(es) not want to participate in the problem-solving exercise or when the SPF actions have resulted in an agreement between the parties) if they have serious concerns on compliance issues;
– complainants can exit or disengage from either the problem solving or compliance review function at any time, which will terminate the process.
– complainants can provide additional information or evidence on the complaint during the problem solving or compliance review processes.
– the OSPF and CRP determine independently whether the complaint meets their respective eligibility criteria. They fully share information and analysis with each other on the complaint.
• Purpose of the SPF procedure
The SPF assists « people directly, materially, and adversely affected by specific problems caused by ADB-assisted projects through informal, flexible, and consensus-based methods with the consent and participation of all parties concerned. (…) The SPF may suggest various specific approaches to resolve problems, such as convening meetings, organizing and facilitating consultation processes, or engaging in a fact-finding review of the situation. The problem solving function will be outcome-driven. It will not focus on the identification and allocation of blame, but on finding ways to address the problems of the project-affected people. » (§ 126)
• The SPF in short
Appointed by the President after consultation with the Board, the SPF will report directly to the President. The SPF must not have worked in any ADB operations departments for at least 5 years before the appointment. The SPF term is 3 years and may be renewable for another 2 years. (§§ 108-109)
• Who can seek a problem-solving exercise and about what?
Any group of two or more people (or their representatives) who believe they have been or will be directly, materially, and adversely affected by an ADB-assisted project can use the problem solving function regardless of whether ADB operational policies and procedures have been complied with.
Access to the problem-solving function is limited to ADB-related issues concerning ADB-assisted projects. (§ 141)
• Overview of the procedure, outcome, and monitoring
The procedure is described in Paras. 162 to 176 of the Accountability Mechanism Policy. The problem solving process itself is expected to take about 180 days from the registration of the complaint to an agreement on the remedial actions. It works in 5 steps:
(c) Asian Development Bank
• Use of lessons learnt
The OSPF is responsible for « collat[ing] and integrat[ing] internal and external experiences with problem solving to be fed back into ADB’s operations, including the formulation, processing, or implementation of projects; (viii) provid[ing] generic support and advice to operations departments in their problem prevention and problem solving activities, but not for specific cases under problem solving by the operations departments. » (§ 128 vii) and viii))
• Purpose of the CRP procedure
« The CRP will be a fact-finding body on behalf of the Board. The CRP will investigate alleged noncompliance by ADB with its operational policies and procedures in any ADB-assisted project in the course of the formulation, processing, or implementation of the project that directly, materially, and adversely affects local people. A compliance review will not investigate the borrowing country, the executing agency, or the private sector client. (…) The compliance review will not provide judicial-type remedies, such as injunctions or monetary damages. Relative to a request for problem solving with the SPF, a request for compliance review is not an appeal to a higher authority. » (§ 130)
• The CPR in short
The CRP has 3 members. The CRP chair is full time and the two other CRP members are called when required. CRP members are appointed by the Board upon the recommendation of the BCRC [Board Compliance Review Committee] in consultation with the President. The CRP members have a 5-year, non-renewable term. 2 CRP members come from regional member countries, with at least 1 from a developing member country. The third panel member comes from a non-regional member country. After serving on the CRP, panel members are barred from any future employment at ADB (§§ 111-113).
• Who can seek a compliance review and about what?
Any group of two or more people (or their representatives) who believe they have been or will be directly, materially, and adversely affected by an ADB-assisted project and whose direct and material harm is allegedly the result of ADB’s failure to follow its operational policies and procedures in the course of formulating, processing, or implementing an ADB-assisted project.
• Rules which violation you can complain about
Under § 145, compliance is assessed with regard to « ADB’s operational policies and procedures as they relate to formulating, processing, or implementing an ADB-assisted project. The applicable operational policies and procedures (…) depend on whether the complaint concerns a proposed or an ongoing project. A « proposed project » refers to a project being prepared that has not been approved by the Board or the President (as delegated by the Board). An « ongoing project » refers to a project that has been approved by the Board or the President (as delegated by the Board). For a proposed project, the time frames refer to the policies and procedures that were in effect when the complaint was filed with the CRP. For an ongoing project, these refer to policies and procedures that were in effect at the time of the Board’s or President’s approval of the project, unless otherwise specified in the relevant project, procedural, or policy documents. »
Para. 146 adds that the Board decides « whether a policy is an operational policy subject to compliance« . This statement is complemented by a note 42 that specifies that « Whether a policy is subject to the Accountability Mechanism is generally indicated in the policy when it is submitted to the Board for its consideration. The ADB Operations Manual clearly indicates whether a specific section is subject to compliance review. » Para. 146 explicitly states that ADB’s operational policies and procedures subject to compliance review do « not include guidelines and/or similar documents or statements. »
→ See the Operations Manual of the ADB
Bank Policies (BPs) include broad statements that guide the action of the ADB on different issues (poverty reduction, gender issues etc.) Most of them are complemented with Operational Procedures (OPs) which detail how/when the Banks applies the BPs. Based on our the IGMs’ project exploration of compliance review cases, and using the names of the policies as they are at the present date, the most often invoked BPs) and OPs are: OM Section F1/BP & OM Section F1/OP – Safeguard Policy Statement (2013) which includes Safeguard Requirements 1: Environment, (ii) Safeguard Requirements 2: Involuntary resettlement, (iii) Safeguard Requirements 3: Indigenous Peoples, and (iv) Safeguard Requirements 4: Special requirements for different finance modalities; BP on Poverty Reduction (2004); OM Section C3/BP & OM Section C3/OP – Incorporation of Social Dimensions into ADB Operations (2010); OM Section C1/BP – Poverty Reduction (2004); OM Section C4/BP & OM Section C4/OP – Governance (2010).
In addition, Para. 149. specifies that « The CRP will not consider the policies and procedures of other institutions except to the extent that ADB’s policies and procedures have explicit reference to those of the other institutions. » There is no differentiation between the policies and procedures that can be subject to a compliance review depending on whether the concerned ADB-assisted project is a sovereign or a private sector project.
• Overview of the procedure and outcome
Unsurprisingly, this procedure is significantly longer than the SPF’s when the request has been considered eligible and the Board has given the green light for a compliance review.
The full cycle of a compliance review has 10 steps, including a monitoring final stage, and is described in Paras. 177-194.
Management to respond within 21 days
|Step 1: Requesting Management response
• The Compliance Review Panel carries out the initial assessment of the complaint and determines whether it falls within its mandate.
|Within 21 days of receiving Management’s response
||Step 2: Determining eligibility
• The Compliance Review Panel reviews the complaint, Management’s response, and other relevant documents, and determines the eligibility of the complaint.
Note : The Compliance Review Panel forwards the complaint to the operations department if complainants did not make prior good faith efforts to resolve the issues with the operations department.
|Step 3: Board authorization of compliance review
• The Compliance Review Panel submits its eligibility report through the Board Compliance Review Committee to the Board.
Within 10 days from receipt of Board authorization
The time required for compliance review depends on the project’s nature, complexity, and scope, and the alleged noncompliance
|Step 4: Conducting compliance review
• The Compliance Review Panel prepares, and the Board Compliance Review Committee clears, the terms of reference for the compliance review.
Upon completion of compliance review
|Step 5: Compliance Review Panel’s draft report
• The Compliance Review Panel issues a draft report of its findings to the complainants, borrower, and Management for comments and responses.
Note : Comments and responses to be given within 45 days of issue of the draft report.
|Step 6: Compliance Review Panel’s final report
• The Compliance Review Panel revises the report as it finds warranted.
|Step 7: Board consideration of the Compliance Review Panel report
• Within 21 calendar days of receiving the Compliance Review Panel final report, the Board considers the Compliance Review Panel report.
|Step 8: Management’s remedial actions
• About 60 days after Board consideration of the Compliance Review Panel report: if the Compliance Review Panel report concludes that ADB’s noncompliance caused direct and material harm, Management proposes remedial actions.
Within 21 calendar days of receiving Management’s report
|Step 9: Board decision
• The Board decides on Management’s proposed remedial actions.
Generally not longer than 3 years
|Step 10: Monitoring and conclusion
• The Compliance Review Panel monitors the implementation of remedial actions and prepares annual monitoring reports (or at such other times as specified by the Board).
Table based on ADB – The Compliance Review Process
At Step 4 (investigation), note that the concerned state can decline site visits: « Site visits should be a routine and noncontroversial aspect of the Accountability Mechanism. (…) Site visits will take place in consultation with the borrowing country and after obtaining the borrowing country’s consent for both sovereign and nonsovereign operations. ADB expects borrowing countries to cooperate and allow site visits to take place. » (§ 198) This restriction was left untouched by the 2012 review of the Accountability Mechanism Policy despite heavy criticism. (§§ 48-51) If the site visit is refused, the CRP nevertheless pursue its compliance review and it does not prevent it to issue its report. (§ 201)
The CRP is responsible for monitoring the implementation of any remedial actions approved by the Board. It reports to the Board on the implementation of Board decisions related to remedial measures, including its determination on the progress in bringing the project into compliance. (§ 192) The monitoring time frame is project-specific, but is generally not supposed to exceed 3 years. The final monitoring report also concludes the compliance review process. (§ 193) Monitoring can consist in consultations with the complainants, the borrower, the Board member concerned, the Management, the staff; in a review of documents; and in site visits. (§ 194)
ADB Operations Manual (contains ADB policies and procedures)
Main page of the ADB Accountability Mechanism
Main page of the Accountability Policy 2012 review process
Main page of the CRO
Main page of the SPF
Main page of the CRP
Notes (*) Accountability Mechanism Policy 2012, § 103, <http://www.adb.org/documents/accountability-mechanism-policy-2012?ref=site/accountability-mechanism/publications> (1) ADB, Review of the Inspection Function: Establishment of a New ADB Accountability Mechanism, May 2003, p. iii, <http://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/pub/2003/ADB_accountability_mechanism.pdf> (2) "Requests must be submitted in writing in English and must describe the following: (i) how ADB has failed to follow applicable operational policies and procedures in connection with the project; (ii) how the requester has been or is likely to be directly and materially harmed by ADB's act or omission, and what rights or interests of the group have been or are likely to be adversely affected; and (iii) a description of the steps taken by the requester to bring the complaint to ADB's attention, ADB's response, and a statement of why ADB's response was inadequate.": Ibid. (meaning same reference as in the previous note), § 13. (3) Ibid., § 4. (4) On the 2003 version, you might want to read: Daniel D. Bradlow, "Private Complainants and International Organizations: A Comparative Study of the Independent Inspection Mechanisms in International Financial Institutions", Georgetown Journal of International Law, 2005, vol.36, especially pp. 425-432; and Kenji Fukuda, "Critical Analysis of the New Accountability Mechanism of the Asian Development Bank", in Dorothy Guerrero (ed.), A Handbook on the Asian Development Bank. The ADB and Its Operations in Asia and the Pacific Region, 2003, Essen: Asienstiftung, pp. 31-38, also published on the internet as "Will We Finally See Accountability at the ADB? Critical Analysis of the New Accountability Mechanism of the Asian Development Bank", November 2003, <http://www.mekongwatch.org/activity/policy/adb-acc_analysis.html> (5) Ibid., §§ 43-46. (6) Ibid., §§ 38-42. (7) Ibid., §§ 69 and 106. (8) Documents related to this consultation process can be accessed from this page: <http://www.adb.org/site/accountability-mechanism/policy-review> (9) Accountability Mechanism Policy 2012, available in 12 languages on this page: <http://www.adb.org/documents/accountability-mechanism-policy-2012?ref=site/accountability-mechanism/publications>