Minority Slams Finance Minister’s Explanations On $2.25bn Bond

… Wants Him Back In Parliament

The Minority caucus in Parliament has turned down information provided by the Minister of Finance, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta, covering the controversial $2.25bn bond issued to Frank Templeton, a US-based financial investment company.

According to the Minority, the information provided to the august House was inaccurate per the request in their half-hour motion and that he should go and come back with convincing complete documents as to how the bond was issued and the participants in the bond bid.

The Minority said this when the Minister of Finance appeared before parliament yesterday to answer  the  half-hour motion moved by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, which demanded an explanation on the controversial $2.25billion bond issued in April, this year

The Minority motion  sought a detailed information including the full complement of documentation related to issuance, participation, utilisation of the proceeds and currency in which it was issued.

However, in his rather unusual blue suit and red tie, markedly different from the traditional white attire he has come to be identified with, Ken Ofori-Atta took over the House with an overview of what he said was a debt-ridden economy inherited by the Akufo-Addo government which steps had to be taken to save from collapse.

He said, as part of the debt profiling strategy announced in the budget in March 2017, the government on April 3, 2017 issued two bonds and opened two other bonds both cedi-denominated.

Quoting a report by Reuters, the Finance Minister said the $2.25 billion bond was the biggest ever to have been issued and was a huge success for a country reeling under heavy economic challenges.

According to him, the ministry “had no direct dealings with investors” in the process of issuing the bond.

“All prospective bidders bid through their primary dealers, who in turn submitted the investor’s bids through the Central Securities Depository platform. The joint transaction advisers then collate these bids to build up a book on which the bonds are issued,” Mr. Ofori-Atta added.

“At no time during the book building process did the Ministry of Finance negotiate with any investor in any way, and it will indeed be quite difficult to manipulate the process when the three financial institutions are governed strictly by the Bank of Ghana’s rules and regulations.”

“It may be tempting to say that the apparent attempt to manufacture some form of integrity deficit is generally borne out of a lack of understanding of the actual process.”

In his view, the $2.25 billion bond issued by the government two months ago was done transparently without breaching any rules, adding that attempts by the Minority to attack the process was borne out of its lack of understanding of the issuance process.

But Hon. James Klutse Avedzi, Deputy Minority Leader, told The Republic in an interview, that the Finance Minister deceived parliament with the kind of information brought to the House in response to the Minority’s motion.

According to him, the Minority made a demand in their motion, specially, for full complement of documentation related to issuance, participation, utilisation of the proceeds and currency in which it was issued but such was never disclosed.

He argued that, the minister in his own admission that the bond has soared up, the nation’s foreign reserves have rather exposed him about the secrecy around the deal that the minority complained about, adding that the minister’s denial that the bond was never issued in dollar currency, but rather in cedis, could be true per his own statement in parliament.

“In the minister’s own statement on the floor of parliament, he said it categorically that, the bond was issued in local currency, thus the cedi, but in the same time he said it has increased our foreign reserves, so if indeed it was in local currency, how possible it is that it could soar up our foreign reserves which is in dollars? So in this scenario you will realise that the minister was simply lying to parliament,” Hon. Avedzi stated.

The Deputy Minority Leader averred that, what the minority in parliament demanded was only for the minister to furnish the House with the relevant documents, not the theoretical statement the minister  provided, stating they will  force Ken Ofori-Atta to speak the truth for the people of Ghana could not be short-changed for a single investor without due process.

Hon. Avedzi further argued that, per the book runners of the bond, it was opened at 8:00am and closed at 5:00pm, which made it impossible for an investor domiciled in the USA to fly into the country, which is about 9hours flying distance to participate in a domestic bond.

He said, per the information provided to parliament by the minister, the Minority deems it empty and that there are more questions which the minister must answer for the interest of the country.

He insisted: “There is breaches of integrity and conflict of interest in the entire transaction and in the mean time we as Minority will tackle that aspect as we still wait for investigations by Securities and Exchange Commission ( SEC ) and CHRAJ.”

Hon. Isaac Adong, a member of the Finance Committee of Parliament and Member of Parliament for Bolgatanga Central, said what the Finance Minister provided to Parliament was simply an overview of how bonds are run and not the real issues the Minority demanded.

In his view, the  Akufo-Addo government has committed an illegality in contracting the $2.25 billion bond, and that the Minority needs the full complement documents and not the propaganda theories presented by the minister.

Earlier, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, had insisted that the minister, who was on the floor of Parliament, ought to furnish the House with all the necessary documentation before he was allowed to present the statement.

But the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, in a rebuttal, stated the half-hour motion moved by the Minority last week demanded that the minister makes his statement and then provide any documentation as may be necessary.

After more than 15 minutes of haggling between the two leaders of the House over the format of the minister’s answer to the House, the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Oquaye, ruled that the minister must give a statement first and then table any other relevant document to the House afterwards.

The minority stance on the bond is premised on the fact that that there a conflict of interest situation in the issuance of the bond because one Trevor G. Trefgarne, who represented Franklyn Templeton, the company that bought 95 per cent of the bond issued in April, was a director of Enterprise Insurance.

Enterprise Insurance also had the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta as a director and holding over 39 per cent interest.

But in the response on the floor, the minister said there were no breaches in integrity during the transaction, insisting that any such allegation of integrity deficit is borne out of lack of understanding of the transaction.

He said the bad mouth, empty allegations surrounding the bond issue could rather have an adverse impact on investor confidence in the economy.

According to him, the Akufo-Addo government inherited from the Mahama administration an economic paradigm of “borrow more and tax more” which worsened Ghana’s precarious economic challenges.

He said the new government had to think outside the box and execute a new debt management strategy that will arrest the sliding economic fortunes.

The new strategy, he noted, was to re-profile the country’s debt by issuing bonds that will not increase the country’s debt burden.

He was surprised at the attempts by the Minority to scandalise the strategy, using the $2.25billion bond issue as fodder.

In their attempt, the minister said the Minority claimed all the bond was sold to one person, Franklyn Templeton, but was quick to draw their attention to the fact that Franklyn Templeton was not a human being, but an institution which has over the years bought several bonds issued under the Mahama administration.

He also dismissed claims the bond was issued in secrecy, insisting all partners, including the book runners – Barclays, Stanbic Bank and SAS – managed the process, maintaining that thebook runners, were engaged by the previous government for similar bond issues.

He dismissed claims of impropriety anchored on the fact that a foreign firm, Franklyn Templeton, alone took up 95 percent of the bond.

In equalising the political debate, Mr. Ofori-Atta said 90% of a 10-year bond issued in November 2016 by the previous government was taken up by foreign firms and that the transaction under him was no different.

He said there was no doubt that the current managers of the economy have a wide network of friends and institutions across the world, maintaining this network will be explored for the benefit of the economy, without fear or favour.

 

 

Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/ Felix Engsalige Nyaaba

The Republic News Online

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