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About the ADB Accountability Mechanism

What is the ADB Accountability Mechanism?
The Mechanism is an avenue for private individuals to file claims against ADB to address their grievances in ADB operations in both public and private sector in project formulation, processing or implementation. It replaces ADB's Inspection Function, approved in 1999, which focused on compliance review of ADB's operational policies and procedures in the formulation, processing or implementation of ADB operations only for the public sector. The Mechanism now provides a dual approach: consultation phase (problem-solving) followed by compliance review phase (investigation). In special cases, any member of ADB Board of Directors can ask for a compliance review on an ongoing project. Know more about the ADB Accountability Mechanism.
When is the Mechanism operational?
The ADB Board of Directors approved the Mechanism in May 2003. It became effective and operational in December 2003.
What kinds of projects are covered by ADB operations in both public and private sector?
These operations include investment projects, programs, guarantees, equity investments, and technical assistance grants (called "projects" as a generic term) in both public and private sectors. For public sector operations, the Mechanism continues to apply to projects that were already considered under the previous inspection function. For private sector projects, the Mechanism applies to projects with concept clearance from 29 May 2003 (the date the ADB Board of Directors approved the Mechanism).
Does the Mechanism cover a project that is cofinanced by institutions other than ADB?
The Mechanism also covers a project cofinanced by other institutions if the project is administered by ADB in the course of project formulation, processing or implementation.

About the Consultation Phase and Compliance Review Phase

What is the consultation phase?
It focuses on problem-solving. It assists people who are adversely affected by ADB-assisted projects to find solutions to their problems through consensus-based methods with the participation of all concerned parties, including the complainant, government, executing agency, private project sponsor (in the case of a private sector project), and ADB. ADB's Special Project Facilitator carries out this phase. The SPF is independent of operations departments which designs and implements projects.
What is the compliance review phase?
It investigates claims of material harm by project-affected people to determine whether ADB violated its operational policies and procedures in project formulation, processing or implementation. The Compliance Review Panel carries out this phase. The Panel is independent of ADB Management. Read more on the policy of the compliance review phase.
What is the Compliance Review Panel?
The Compliance Review Panel is an independent 3-member body appointed by the ADB Board of Directors. The Panel reports to the Board of Directors on all activities except for specific activities when it reports to a Board committee - the Board Compliance Review Committee.
What is the Board Compliance Review Committee?
It is one of the standing committees of the ADB Board of Directors consisting of 6 Board members: 4 regional Board members (at least 3 of whom must be from borrowing countries) and 2 nonregional Board members. It has 2 oversight functions: (i) to clear the Compliance Review Panel's proposed terms of reference and time frame on conducting each compliance review authorized by the Board before they are released by the Panel; and (ii) to review the Panel's draft reports on monitoring implementation of any remedial actions approved by the Board as a result of compliance review before they are finalized.

About Filing a Request for Compliance Review

Who can file a request for compliance review?
A single private individual cannot file a request for compliance review as there has to be a group of 2 or more people. The following can file a request:
  • any group of two or more people (such as an organization, association, society, or other grouping of individuals) in a borrowing country where an ADB-assisted project is located or in a member country adjacent to the borrowing country
  • a local representative of the affected group
  • a nonlocal representative, in exceptional cases where local representation cannot be found and the Compliance Review Panel agrees
  • in special cases, any one or more members of the Board after raising their concerns first with ADB Management, involving allegations of serious violations of ADB's operational policies and procedures relating to an ongoing ADB-assisted project.
What is the scope of compliance review?
The scope of compliance review is ADB's operational policies and procedures as they relate to the formulation, processing, or implementation of an ADB-assisted project. It excludes matters relating to procurement of goods and services, including consulting services, and non-operational matters, such as finance and administration. ADB's operational policies and procedures are included in the Operations Manual, which can be accessed at the ADB website and this, the CRP website.
How can claimants file a request for compliance review?
Claimants need to file a complaint with ADB's Special Project Facilitator first, before they can file a request for compliance review. Claimants can file a request if
  • their complaint is found ineligible by the Special Project Facilitator
  • they are not satisfied with the consultation process, or
  • the consultation process is at an advanced stage and there are concerns on compliance issues.
Is there a sample request that requesters can use?
Yes, a sample letter can be accessed through this website. The sample letter serves as a guide and is not mandatory for use. There is no need to specifically cite violations of ADB's operational policies and procedures, though the requester is free to cite them if known.
What matters cannot be considered for compliance review?
The Compliance Review Panel cannot accept requests:
  • that are not related to ADB's actions or omissions in the course of the formulation, processing, or implementation of ADB-assisted projects;
  • about decisions made by ADB, the borrower, the executing agency, or the private project sponsor, relating to procurement of goods and services, including consulting services;
  • about allegations of fraud or corruption in ADB-assisted projects and by ADB staff;
  • about an ADB-assisted project for which a project completion report has been issued;

    Note: A project completion report is issued by ADB within 1-2 years after the project is physically completed and in operation. In the case of private sector projects for which a project completion report is not issued, the cut-off date is 2 years after the project is physically completed and in operation; or, where physical completion is waived or is not relevant (e.g., financial intermediation projects), 1 year after the date of the final disbursement or termination of ADB's involvement in the project, whichever occurs earlier.
  • relating to matters already considered under the previous inspection function or by CRP unless there is significant new evidence presented that was not known at the time of the original complaint or unless the subsequent complaint can be readily consolidated with the earlier complaint;
  • about the adequacy or suitability of ADB's existing policies and procedures;
  • that are frivolous, malicious, trivial, or generated to gain competitive advantage;
  • within the jurisdiction of ADB's Appeals Committee or ADB's Administrative Tribunal or relating to ADB personnel matters;
  • 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;
  • matters that otherwise do not involve an action or omission by ADB's failure to follow its operational policies and procedures;
  • relating to the laws, policies, and regulations of the executing agency or DMC government concerned unless they directly relate to ADB's compliance with its operational policies and procedures;
  • relating to a private sector project that received concept clearance before 29 May 2003 ; and/or
  • complaints that have not first been filed with the Special Project Facilitator.
How long will it take for a request to be addressed?
It will take at least 128 calendar days from step 1 (when the request is filed) to step 9 (when the ADB Board of Directors decides on the Compliance Review Panel's final report) of the compliance review process. The flowchart on the compliance review process can be accessed at the CRP website www. compliance.adb.org. This period does not cover the duration of the Panel's review (the period is not time-bound as it depends on the nature of the investigation) and translation if documents are not in English.
What happens when a request for compliance review is filed?
The Compliance Review Panel will first consider whether the request is eligible. If it is eligible, it will make a recommendation to the ADB Board of Directors to authorize a compliance review. When the Board authorizes a compliance review, the Compliance Review Panel will conduct an independent investigation and make recommendations to the Board to ensure project compliance.
Is the requester involved in the investigation carried out by the Compliance Review Panel?
Yes, the requester has important inputs in the compliance review process. The requester's inputs are solicited by the Panel in the Panel's terms of reference and time frame, and on the Panel's draft report of its findings and recommendations. The requester's inputs are also sought when the Panel monitors implementation of any remedial actions approved by the ADB Board of Directors resulting from a compliance review.

Specific Concerns of Project Affected People

Affected Persons ("APs") were removed from the project area without compensation. What can they do? How can they bring this issue to the ADB Accountability Mechanism?
If APs have already tried to settle their complaint with ADB's operations department and ADB's local resident mission, APs can send a complaint letter to the resident mission in the country concerned (in this case, ADB's Indonesia Resident Mission), and they will forward the complaint letter either to the Special Project Facilitator ("SPF") or the Office of the Compliance Review Panel ("OCRP"), depending on whether the APs are trying to settle the problem or they are requesting the Compliance Review Panel ("CRP") to investigate ADB's compliance with policies and procedures.

It should be noted that ADB follows the following steps for complaints submitted by APs:

  • Problems must first be resolved through discussions with the concerned ADB Operations Department administering the project, including the resident mission.
  • If no solution is reached with the Operations Department, APs can refer their complaint to the Accountability Mechanism ("AM"), where there are two phases that must be followed: a consultation (or problem-solving) phase and compliance review phase. Any complaint must first be sent to the SPF and must go through a consultation or mediation process.
  • Under the Consultation Phase, the SPF will try to reach solutions based on consensus among all project stakeholders i.e., APs, project executing agency, borrower, ADB and any co-financiers. At the end of the consultation phase, the SPF will propose a "course of action", agreed by all parties, to facilitate the resolution of the complaint. SPF will also monitor the implementation and compliance of the course of action.
  • If a solution cannot be reached between all parties, or the APs are not satisfied with the consultation process, the APs can request a review by the CRP to investigate any alleged non-compliance by ADB with its operational policies and procedures in formulating, processing, and/or implementing the project. It should be noted, however, that a compliance review may not necessarily result in a solution for the APs: CRP will focus on ADB and its behavior, particularly on the question of whether ADB has complied with its operational policies and procedures to identify any act or omission that has caused, or may cause harm to the APs. Thus, a compliance review may not necessarily, resolve the complaint of the APs. The compliance review is meant to contribute to the improvement of ADB's development effectiveness and the quality of its projects.
Where can APs get information on ADB projects? How will they know if a project component is financed by ADB or by other international financiers?
ADB maintains a website at ww.adb.org where information on ADB-financed projects is posted: For specific information on a particular project i.e., project cost, components, co-financiers, financing arrangements, implementation progress, and so on, ADB posts a Project Information Document (PID) in respect of all ongoing projects.
The Citarum Coalition NGO in Indonesia has monitored the Integrated Water Resources Management Project since 2008 and in November 2008 they had sent an email complaint about treatment of, and lack of consultation with APs to the ADB President, Managers, SPF, and BAPPENAS but, to date, they have not received any reply. Can an email be considered a complaint? What approach should they use to file a complaint?
SPF and OCRP both have electronic mailboxes and we check these regularly. For example, if a complaint letter is received by OCRP, we will respond quickly to guide APs, whether or not the complaint is appropriate for the CRP. OCRP will also provide copies of its response to the SPF, ADB Management and the concerned Operations Department.

In the case mentioned, the complaint should go to the ADB Resident Mission first. If it cannot be resolved through discussion, it may then be referred to the SPF and, eventually and if compliance is an issue, it may be referred to the CRP.

Is it possible for OSPF/CRP to visit the project site so the APs can file their complaint?
No, OSPF and CRP cannot visit a project site until a complaint for that project is formally submitted by APs or their representatives and properly received by the SPF, or the CRP, as the case may be. If the CRP visited a project site prior to a formal request for compliance review being filed, the CRP could be accused bias and lack of impartiality due to its prior involvement with the APs. This would adversely affect the credibility of any independent investigation.
Can the Accountability Mechanism have any long-term impact to help solve the problems of the APs?
The Consultation Phase is expected to bring together all parties involved in the project to discuss how to solve the problem. The SPF is responsible to lead the problem-solving or mediation among stakeholders to find satisfactory solutions for problems associated with ADB-assisted projects.
How are religious issues covered, if at all, under the Accountability Mechanism? If a religious issue becomes a "political issue", how would it be treated under the Mechanism?
ADB is prohibited from becoming involved in political issues and must confine its role to developmental and economic considerations only. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the Accountability Mechanism would have to deal with any political issues. There is no prohibition related to religious issues. It is, however, debatable when a religious, development or economic issue becomes a political issue and, hence, beyond ADB's mandate.

The Accountability Mechanism does exclude any complaints related to the adequacy or suitability of any ADB policy (as distinct from allegations of non-compliance), and also excludes complaints relating to policies of the host DMC. If a complaint falls into one of these categories, it would need to be handled outside the coverage of the Accountability Mechanism (say, by approaches to ADB's Board or Management).

How can the Accountability Mechanism help APs who may not be aware that they are being adversely affected by an ADB project?
Representatives of APs, provided they are properly appointed, may represent the interests of APs to help file a complaint or a request for compliance review under the Accountability Mechanism. A representative may be an NGO, an association, or a civil society organisation, provided they are authorized in writing by the APs. Such representatives can be resident either in the borrowing country or in another developing member country adjacent to the borrowing country.
Can a project cause non material or inchoate harm?
Inchoate harm is harm that may not have a direct, material impact on the physical or financial wellbeing of APs, but it may still cause adverse consequences for them. In determining material harm, the SPF and CRP will conduct a detailed assessment and investigation and determine whether there is, or may be adverse harm.

If harm has been caused, but it is de minimis or not material, then the Accountability Mechanism would probably decline to investigate the matter further.

If a complaint is filed by only two persons, is this sufficient to qualify under the Accountability Mechanism?
Yes. There must be two APs as a necessary, but sufficient condition to trigger a complaint or a request for compliance review and to be accepted by the SPF or the CRP, as the case may be.
The APs raised problems to the project authorities but they were told that, since there was only two complainants, they did not represent the whole project area and that they would need to gather and present more information to warrant a complaint.
This is incorrect. Any group of two or more APs may file a complaint or a request for compliance review under the Accountability Mechanism. The APs, however, must be within the "catchment area" of the project; and they must have made positive efforts to resolve their problems with ADB's operations department, including the resident mission.
Two APs were present during the seminar and would like to file a complaint. Can their presence be considered as constituting the filing of a complaint?
No. A complaint must be done formally and in writing, addressed in the first instance to the SPF. A complaint or request for compliance review letter can be in the language of the host country, and must follow the procedures laid down under the Accountability Mechanism i.e., complaints are sent to the SPF, while requests for compliance review are filed with the Secretary, CRP. The complaint letter (or request for compliance review) must be posted on the website of the SPF (or CRP) and is always attached to the SPF report to the ADB President (or CRP's report to the ADB Board of Directors).

Templates or sample forms are available through the respective websites.

How far is the CRP expected to influence ADB?
In every compliance review case, the CRP makes recommendations to the Board for remedial actions to bring the project back into compliance. If approved by the Board, the recommended action must be implemented by ADB Management, and the CRP monitors the implementation of these actions for a period of up to five years (or more, in some cases).

It is also expected that, over time, the Accountability Mechanism will have a positive impact on ADB's development effectiveness and the quality of ADB projects.

ADB's new safeguard statement will take effect in January 2010. Therefore, after January 2010, which policy will apply for the purposes of compliance – the old safeguard policy or the new safeguard policy statement?
Ultimately, the Board decides which operational policies and procedures apply in any given case; and the CRP then determines whether ADB has complied or not.

For any proposed project, say, after January 2010, the new safeguard policy statement will apply for the purposes of assessing ADB's compliance.

For any ongoing projects, even after January 2010, the Accountability Mechanism states that the policies and procedures in force at the time of Board approval will apply for compliance purposes; however, if the allegation relates to non-compliance during implementation of the ongoing project, then the policies and procedures in place at the time of the alleged act or omission will apply for compliance purposes.

OSPF has received 24 cases over the past few years, while during the same period, the CRP has only received four cases. Why have there been fewer requests for compliance review?
There may be many reasons for such a limited number of requests for compliance review:
  1. No demand for compliance review from APs
  2. APs may have no interest in ADB's accountability, only solution to claims
  3. Cost
  4. Ignorance about the CRP or the existence of a right to request compliance review
  5. CRP procedures are too complex or opaque
  6. The dual system (consultation followed by compliance review) dissuades applicants
  7. Lack of resources or assistance to help manage complaints or requests

But, clearly the reasons for the limited number of requests ought to be reviewed under the proposed Accountability Mechanism review, which will perhaps take place in 2010.

Comments related to a Review of the Accountability Mechanism.

  • The Mechanism is opaque and, therefore, very difficult to be accessed by APs.
  • The Mechanism is not responsive to victims of the direct or sudden impact from an ADB-financed project.
  • The Mechanism is not responsive to impact that may generally affect livelihoods in the project's "catchment area".
  • Members of organizations/associations representative of APs ought to be part of any panel or group that is commissioned by ADB to conduct the review.
  • ADB’s involvement in a project, no matter how small, can still influence the government, thus, there is no excuse for ADB not to be concerned with any matters that may have an impact on APs.
Affected persons ("APs") are usually poor and, because of that overwhelming fact, it is likely to be very difficult for APs to file a complaint or request compliance review. Hence, they feel powerless. As such, it is unlikely that they will ever file a complaint or request a compliance review. How does the Mechanism address this?
Though the poor may feel powerless, all APs have the right to file a complaint or a request for compliance review under the Accountability Mechanism. If they find it difficult to file a complaint themselves, they can authorize other persons or NGOs willing to represent them, to do so on their behalf. In fact, when any AP or representative files a complaint or request for compliance review, that process is the exercise of a right to hold ADB accountable and may deliver some power to the filing party.

It should be noted, however, that there are examples where APs have filed complaints on their own, without representation, by making use of the resources available to them e.g., gathering information or evidence from the websites. The requesting parties seeking a compliance review in the PRC: Fuzhou Environmental Improvement Project have handled the case on their own, to date.

When the CRP assesses compliance on safeguard matters, such as resettlement or environment, does it also look at the monitoring tools used by ADB?
Yes, as long as those monitoring tools are part of the requirements under ADB's operating policies and procedures.

Specific Concerns of Private Sector Group

How does ADB assist a company required to comply with safeguard issues but does not have the institutional capabilities or is just not simply ready to address such safeguards? Is there any ADB assistance for these companies? What does ADB do to increase their institutional capacity on safeguard compliance?
ADB can deploy grant financing or technical assistance to finance programs designed to strengthen the institutional capacity of the executing agencies in implementing ADB-financed projects. This will apply to the framework for private sector investment in a given country and may well cover safeguard compliance.

In ADB's private sector operations, ADB is aware that safeguard compliance in previous years were not, perhaps, given a high priority; however this has now evolved into being one of extremely important issues that attends ADB financing and this, in effect, has encouraged private sector sponsors to improve their operating procedures to take into account ADB requirements. In addition, ADB carries out due diligence as to the capabilities and institutional capacities of each of its private sector project sponsors and this serves as incentive for them to have, or commit to developing strong institutional capacity. This, in turn, increases the creditworthiness of the firm.

If a complaint is filed and not resolved by the Private Sector Operations Department, does it automatically escalate to the Accountability Mechanism?
No. A formal letter must first be lodged by the APs to the Special Project Facilitator (SPF). Experience suggests that most operations department have a strong incentive to sort out the issues and resolve problems before they reach the Accountability Mechanism.
So, overall, what is the importance of the Accountability Mechanism, as far as private sector project sponsors are concerned?
Private sector sponsors should be aware that, in addition to all of the other requirements stipulated by ADB in providing a non-sovereign guaranteed loan or making an equity investment or providing a guarantee, ADB also has a system – the Accountability Mechanism – that provides any APs under any ADB-financed project with the right to bring a complaint about material adverse harm or, subsequently, to request the CRP to investigate whether ADB has complied with its operational policies and procedures and, if not, whether that non-compliance has caused any material adverse harm.

If a complaint or compliance request is triggered, this may have an impact on the financial risk, timing or reputational risk associated with the project.