AUW Investigation III
Acting VC dismissed from ADBDavid Bergman
The acting vice-chancellor of the Chittagong-based Asian University for Women was dismissed from his previous job as a senior lawyer at the Asian Development Bank for ‘misappropriating’ funds, placing the international donor’s ‘reputation at risk’ and for creating ‘conflicts of interest.’
The findings against Kamal Ahmad who is also a trustee of the university and chief executive and president of its US-based support foundation, are set out in an August 2007 ruling of the bank’s administrative tribunal.
The Asian Development Bank’s three-man tribunal – which is an external mechanism to review personnel decisions by the management of the bank – found that Kamal, who had worked at the bank since 2003 in its
Office of the General Counsel using a different first name, Muktadir – had undertaken ‘a series of prohibited actions’ which were described in the ruling as ‘deliberate.’
It also found that at one point in making his defence to the tribunal, Kamal ‘did not tell the truth.’
However, it is clear from the tribunal ruling that none of Kamal’s ‘prohibited’ conduct while employed at ADB was for personal gains, but was instead directed to benefit the Asian University of Women which was at an early stage of development, and for which he was working voluntarily.
After being dismissed from the ADB, Kamal immediately went to work for the university’s US support foundation.
His biography on the university web site fails to make any mention of his two-year employment at the ADB.
Kamal did not provide New Age with any specific response to the ADB’s tribunal findings and suggested instead in an e-mail that the paper should contact his immediate supervisors at his former employer’s general counsel office.
New Age asked both Professor Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, the chairperson of the university’s newly established board of trustees, and Jack Meyer, the chairman of the university’s US-based support foundation, to comment on the appropriateness of Kamal’s appointments within the university but they failed to respond.
The disclosure of the tribunal’s ruling comes at a time when wider questions, as reported by New Age on Sunday and Monday, are being asked about the governance of the university and in particular Kamal’s own role in its management, though there is no suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind on his part.
Kamal, a student of the University of Michigan law school and of Harvard College, who has also worked at two US law firms, is currently in negotiations with the World Bank for a $30 million grant for the university.
The university, which aims to provide a world-class, standard liberal arts university education for Asian women, was formally established in 2006 through the parliamentary enactment in Bangladesh of a special legal charter.
The allegations against Kamal at the ADB, set out in the publicly available 28-page ruling, primarily concern his failure to separate out his work as a paid employee of the international donor agency from his then pro bono role as the vice-chairman of the US-based Asian University of Women’s support foundation which at that time was trying to raise money to establish the university.
When Kamal started working in the Manila office of the bank in 2003, he was told that any work he did for the university support foundation should be done outside his ‘regular ADB office hours.’
However, two years into his employment at the bank, an investigation by the Asian Development Bank’s Integrity Division concluded in September 2005 that Kamal had ‘an established pattern and practice of deliberate misconduct on behalf of AUWSF’ and he was charged with misconduct on six counts.
After consideration of two detailed written responses by Kamal, the ADB president decided in November ‘to impose the disciplinary measure of summary dismissal.’
Kamal then filed an appeal in February 2006 and following its rejection, he brought an application to the administrative tribunal.
The three man tribunal comprising Arnold M Zack, a former president of the US National Academy of Arbitrators, Yuji Iwasawa, a Japanese professor of international law who sits on the United Nations Human Rights Committee, and Claude Wantiez, a Belgian labour lawyer with 35 years of experience, looked at each of the charges made against Kamal for which he had been held responsible.
It first looked at Kamal’s failure to disclose to the ADB that he had tried to obtain funds from the bank for the AUW support foundation, at the same time that he had already arranged to leave his current job and work full-time for the foundation.
It dismissed his claims that ‘none of my exchanges about devoting full-time to the AUWSF project ever rose to the level of seriousness’ by pointing to various e-mails he wrote to the foundation board members, including one in which he said, ‘I am planning to resign from my job at the end of the year and return to the US to work full-time on the AUW project.’
The tribunal concluded that ‘the conflict of interest was evident, all the more because [Kamal Ahmed], as a lawyer, should have been more sensitive to such a situation.’
The second charge the three men considered was Kamal’s decision to disclose to AUW support foundation directors, without authorisation, an ADB draft letter that was to be signed by the president of the bank concerning the possible funding of the AUW.
The ruling says that while Kamal did ‘not dispute’ his conduct, his response to the tribunal ‘shows once again the deliberate confusion by [Kamal] asserting that he was acting as an ADB staff member while in reality he was functioning on behalf of the AUWSF board.’
Also not disputed by Kamal was his inappropriate disclosure on two occasions to an employee of the AUW support foundation of an ADB-owned legal database password and his misuse, again for the purposes of the foundation, of ADB’s diplomatic pouch service.
The tribunal then considered the charge that Kamal worked extensively on AUW matters during ADB working hours.
The ruling set out that in a four-month period at the ADB, he had sent or received 5,900 e-mails relating to the university; in a nine-month period, he had made 437 outgoing international phone calls relating to personal or AUWSF matters; in a seven-month period, he made or received more than 350 calls to his home ‘where an AUWSF administrative assistant was working’; and that finally in a four-month period, he had directed an ADB staff consultant to undertake 87 hours of research for AUW.
The tribunal summed up the consequences and damage to the bank from all this conduct by saying: ‘Through his systematic work on AUWSF matters during office hours well beyond the expectation of any casual or occasional use [Kamal] misappropriated the salary paid by his employer. He also misappropriated ADB funds by misusing its telephone lines for personal matters and by utilising hours of work by ADB staff members for the benefit of his personal interests.’
The tribunal also argued that Kamal had placed ADB’s ‘reputation at risk by using the diplomatic pouch in contravention of the bank’s agreement with member country governments.’
The tribunal finally upheld Kamal’s dismissal concluding that ‘there was certainly no “clear disproportion” between the offence and the penalty.’
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