Brussels/Kampala – The European Ombudsman will investigate a complaint against the European Investment Bank for maladministration in the Bujagali hydro project in Uganda. The Ombudsman’s decision to investigate the case is a blame for the EIB which failed to adequately address the initial complaint filed three years ago by four NGOs.

“The ombudsman investigation proves that the EIB’s own accountability mechanism is an empty box. It took them almost three years to investigate our complaint and during that time the bank kept disbursing the loan to the project promoter. Unacceptable for an EU institution accountable to the public”, says Caterina Amicucci from Counter Balance.

“We welcome the European Ombudsman’s decision to investigate the case and encourage him to go to the bottom of this. It is the last hope for local Ugandan communities impacted by the project to get a sincere answer to their questions. They are the first victims of the lack of accountability by the Bank”, sates Robert Kugonza from NAPE an environmental NGO from Uganda.

The EIB Complaints Mechanism published its report on August 30 2012, 2 years and 10 months after NAPE, CLAI, Sherpa and Counter Balance filed their complaint. According to its own procedures an investigation by the Complaints Mechanism is to be concluded within six months.

“The report is very weak and did not adequately tackle the issues we put forward in our complaint. Findings are often unfounded or inconsistent. To investigate the impact of climate change on the water level of Lake Victoria or to asses the project’s development impact for example, the EIB relied mostly on its own document and studies. Elsewhere the report states that the EIB is compliant with its applicable policies while at the same time it acknowledged it is failing to fully address negative environmental and social impacts of the project”, says Amicucci.

According to the complainants the EIB failed to meet EU development objectives, they didn’t assess the environmental impact of the project, affected communities were not correctly compensated and mitigation measures were not ensured. To date the Bujagali project is finalised, yet some of the affected communities’ complaints are still pending.

The history of this complaint clearly calls into question the effectiveness and the independence of EIB’s own grievance mechanisms and the accountability of the Bank. “EIB bankers don’t like their work to be questioned by the citizens. It took the Complaint Office three years to release the final document, this can only mean the complaints office was boycotted internally. We are confident that the Ombudsman’s investigation, which will include an inspection of the files and internal correspondence of the bank, will bring clarity on how our complaint was really managed”, concludes Amicucci.

Download the conclusions report of the EIB Complaints Office below.

2012 Conclusions Report Bujagali title page

Conclusions report of the EIB Complaints Office