…As His Dodgy Antics Over $2.25bn Bond Sinks Him More
After the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP)’s attempt to use the Council of State to impress on the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to soften its stance on the sale of the $2.25billion bond to Franklin Templeton failed, the government has resorted to the unbelievable.
It is public knowledge now that the Attorney General’s Department, whose boss, the Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, had persistently said that she had no knowledge about the bond sale, was the same department which has been used as mouthpiece for the beleaguered Finance Minister.
And Deputy AG, Godfred Yeboah Dame, had been so fastidious in his reply to CHRAJ, on behalf of the Finance Minister, lacing his response to CHRAJ with past case precedents, that Ghanaians are now at a loss as to how the same AG’s Department, which professed ignorance of the bond sale, could all of a sudden become so knowledgeable about the same bond sale.
According to Mr. Dame, the petition by Brogya Genfi, a former Ashanti Regional youth organizer of the NDC, invoking CHRAJ’s Conflict of Interest Jurisdiction should be dismissed for its frivolity.
However, the passionate answer of Mr. Dame has left many wondering if he works in the same AG’s Department with Gloria Akuffo, who has consistently said that Ken Ofori-Atta the Finance Minister, had sold the bond without recourse to her.
In fact, after making the revelation on radio, the AG had gone on to affirm her ignorance, stating in a reply to a private citizen, Lawyer Kwadjogah Adawudu, who had written to the AG’s Department seeking answers about the bond sale that she did not have a scintilla of information on the bond sale.
The sudden turnaround in which Gloria Akuffo’s Deputy, Godfred Dame, is now the one replying CHRAJ on behalf of the Finance Minister, professing deep knowledge about the bond sale has left wonderment in the air.
As the surprise hangs, it appears that the Deputy AG had attempted to bamboozle the Commissioner of CHRAJ. For one thing, Godfred Dame tells CHRAJ that the commission has no jurisdiction over aspects of the case.
On allegation that the 7 and 15 year bonds were not on the issuance calendar, Dame writes: “We submit that this allegation raised in the petition does not impinge on conflict of interest. Respectfully, the propriety or otherwise of the issue of 7 year and 15 year Bonds when same is allegedly not on the issuance calendar, does not fall within the jurisdiction of this Commission.”
The reply also sought to take advantage of a purported letter that former Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, had written to publish government’s bond issuance calendar before leaving office.
“As a solution to the inordinate budget deficit and in furtherance of government’s debt refinancing strategy, the Ministry of Finance in a letter dated 5th January, 2017 signed by the erstwhile Minister for Finance, Seth Terkper published the government’s issuance calendar for first quarter, January – March, 2017. This calendar bearing reference number mof/dmd.firu/cal/q1/2017/1 was prepared in accordance with the provision of the quarter one Expenditure in Advance of Appropriation in accordance with Article 180 of the Constitution.”
The clever attempt was to try and create the impression that because Seth Terkper had published that issuance calendar, Ken Ofori-Atta could not be deemed to have been crooked in the $2.25billion bond issuance that his business partner’s company bought 95% of.
However, in that same Godfred Dame reply, something interesting was revealed.
“This second quarter issuance included 7-year and 15-year bonds. In accordance with the calendar, the 5 & 10-Year Bonds of April were reopening existing 5-Year and 10-Year Bonds.”
Then in response to allegation by Brogya Genfi that the 7 year and 15- year Bonds were not on the issuance calendar, the Finance Ministry’s response pointed out that Seth Terkper’s arrangement had made it possible for Ken Ofori-Atta to sell out of the issuance calendar.
“… we say that paragraph 6 of respondent’s Exhibit 1 – letter signed by former Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, clearly indicates that medium-term instruments may be reopened to create liquidity and benchmark securities. 7 year and 15 year Bonds fall into the classification of medium term Bonds.”
In other words, even though Seth Terkper had authored the format for the bond issuance calendar, it was Ken Ofori-Atta who had taken the initiative to reopen the 7 and 15 year bonds.
The admission poignantly highlights the strangeness of FT alone acquiring a whopping 95% of the bonds issued by Ken Ofori-Atta, when Trevor Trefgarne, who is a director of FT is concurrently the Chairman of Board of Enterprise Group, a company co-owned by the Finance Minister.
And Ken Ofori-Atta asks CHRAJ to disregard the conflict of interest allegation against him simply because FT is a corporate personality, separate from his business partner, Trevor Trefgarne.
“The investor in the Bonds, Franklin Templeton Investment Limited is a corporate person, and not an individual. Neither the Ministry of Finance nor the Minister for Finance respondent hereto, has any interest in the said corporate body. Respondent has, at no point in time, held any shares or directorship in the company Franklin Templeton.
“The transaction in issue, as abundantly demonstrated above, was conducted by Transaction Advisers licensed by Bank of Ghana to carry out the function, not the Ministry of Finance or the Minister for Finance. It is correct to say that at no point during the transaction did either the Ministry of Finance or the respondent deal with any investor including Franklin Templeton Investment Limited,” Ken Ofori-Atta’s reply to CHRAJ had underscored.
Even so, he had gone on to reveal interesting intimate knowledge about Trevor Trefgarne’s involvement with FT.
“Trevor G. Trefgarne is not a shareholder in Franklin Templeton Investment Limited, the company which acquired some of the Bonds in question.
“It is claimed that Mr. Trefgarne is a director in Franklin Templeton Investment Limited. Assuming without admitting that this were true, the purchase of Bonds by Franklin Templeton Investment Limited does not result in any benefit to Mr. Trevor Trefgarne.”
The minister also attempts to leverage the fact that this is not FT’s first time of buying bonds from Ghana even as he carefully dodged the magnitude of the 95% bond purchase by the company affiliated to his business partner.
“Prior to 2017, Franklin Templeton had acquired Bonds issued under the same Bank of Ghana Guidelines. If Mr. Trevor G. Trefgarne is indeed a director of Franklin Templeton, he must have been a director when all of those Bonds were acquired. He had no personal benefit from those purchases, and no such benefit has been proven or established by the complainant in respect of the Bond issue in question.
“Enterprise Group Limited played absolutely no role in the transaction in issue. There could thus not have been any benefit to Enterprise Group Limited from this transaction.
“ t is claimed that Enterprise Group Limited is owned by Databank Limited, a company in which the Minister for Finance owns shares. However, the records will show that neither Databank Limited nor Enterprise Group Limited acquired any of the Bonds in question. There could not have been any benefit to either of these companies. The reference to Enterprise Group Limited and Databank Limited is bizarre, irrelevant and purely motivated by an uncanny desire to mislead the nation.
“Whoever the directors of Enterprise Group Limited may be or may not be has no bearing on the issuance and purchase of the Bonds in question. Neither Enterprise Group Limited nor its directors played any role in the transaction and did not in any way benefit from it.
“It is amply clear that the assertion of a “relational interest” between the Minister for Finance and the said Trevor Trefgarne is an imaginary one. The complainant, knowing that there is no basis to assert “conflict of interest,” now conjures a facile, baseless and contrived notion of a “relational interest” between the Minister for Finance and the said Trevor G. Trefgarne. Whatever contrivance the complainant comes up with, he is simply unable to show that the respondent had any interest in the transaction that required disclosure. The respondent had absolutely no interest in the transaction in issue to disclose. The transaction was an open market transaction carried out in accordance with Bank of Ghana Guidelines, and not designed to benefit any particular investor in anyway.”
The vapid explanation of the relationship between the Finance Minister and Trevor Trefgarne has left Ken Ofori-Atta more smelly with suspicion in the sale of the bond. The letter from the AG who has suddenly seen the light also ran away from the Public Borrowing Guidelines of the country, which among others stipulates that the issuance of such a bond to an offshore company should have obtained cabinet approval. Cabinet was only formed some four days ago, a little over a month after the sale of the bond.
In spite of the response, Parliament, which had been ignored in the sale of the bond, has ordered the Finance Minister to appear before it to explain himself.
In April this year, the Finance Ministry issued a statement announcing the sale of a 7 year and 15 year bonds. It said a respected global player had taken significant stake in the 15 year bond.
Soon the media dug up that the respected global player in question was Franklin Templeton and that the US company had bought 95% of the bonds. That revelation was soon followed by further revelations that Trevor G. Trefgarne, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Enterprise Group, a company owned by the Finance Minister, was also a director of FT.
Amidst a national surprise, Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, announced that she had not been informed about the bond sale and was therefore totally unaware of the whole deal
The revelation led to questions, with the Minority NDC demanding a Parliamentary Enquiry and then going on to file a petition with the Securities and Exchanges Commission of the US.
Around the same time, Yaw Brogya Gyenfi, a private citizen, had also invoked the conflict of Interest jurisdiction of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice to investigate possible conflict of interest in the bond sale.
After CHRAJ had written to the Finance Minister to respond, the Minister had requested a 15 day extension to enable him respond after a 10 day ultimatum had been exhausted.
As the days dragged on, Lawyer Victor Kwadjogah Adawudu, a private citizen, had written to the AG seeking full disclosure on the deal but the AG had written back informing him that the Department had no information on the deal.
It is in the eventual reply that the Deputy AG, Godfred Dame, whose boss the AG says she is unaware of any detail about the sale has replied CHRAJ on behalf of the Finance Minister.
It is worth noting that along the line, a secret meeting that the Council of State had attempted to convene with the opposition to get it to withdraw its petition to the US SEC, proved abortive after the meeting was leaked.