…Finance Minister, others caught in shady ops
The first 100 days of the Akufo-Addo government have been seriously scandal-prone, with the marauding thuggery of one of the party’s numerous goon squads, Delta Force, dominating headlines, while the government’s borrowing to the tune of $4billion tucked away quietly in the backdrop.
As recent revelations by the Member of Parliament for Bolga Central, Isaac Adongo, that the regime is additionally chasing various loans to the tune of $14billion on the blind side of Ghanaians made headlines, a clear hint that this administration is obscurantist was in the air.
Now on the blindside of Ghanaians again, the Akufo-Addo government has issued a $2.25billion bond, this time, in a fashion that clearly reeks of corruption, with conflict of interest on the part of major actors of government imprinted all over.
Details are still sketchy, but the dirty files are emerging, with the names of Gloria Akuffo, Akufo-Addo’s Attorney General; Ken Ofori- Atta, Finance Minister and one Hon. Trevor G. Trefgarne, Chairman of Enterprise Group Limited, playing out so far.
Of course, with Enterprise Group, owners of Enterprise Insurance Company (EIC), involved in the details, the list of personages in such a deal would not be complete without the name of Keli Gadzekpo, Group CEO of Enterprise Group.
Mr. Gadzekpo and Ken Ofori-Atta appear in this unfolding scandal as usual suspects, with the very public Obotan scandal and Prudential Bank borrowing in the name of the ruling NPP as a past references.
On April 3, this year, the Public Relations unit of the Ministry of Finance issued a statement that announced that the ministry had successfully issued a 15 and 7 year bonds, with the same coupon rate of 19.75%.
In total, the two bonds had yielded $1.13billion. Additionally, the statement announced that the ministry had raised $1.12billion through a 5 and 10 year bonds via, “a tap arrangement.”
Even though the sale of the $2.25billion bonds by President Akufo-Addo’s cousin of a Finance Minister is the single biggest daily transaction in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa, indications are that it did not go through Parliament.
The Finance Ministry’s statement, strangely, did not also state the names of the individuals or companies which had participated in its purchase of the bonds, except to say that, “the issuance attracted a number of global portfolio investors including a very substantial investment in the 15 year bond by a very well respected global financial investor.”
In a report that has since gone viral on social media, international news Agency, Reuters, which has mockingly referred to the bond issuance by Akufo-Addo’s Finance Minister as, “a jumbo debt action” reveals that “well respected global financial investor” is a Board member of US-based Franklin Templeton.
According to Reuters, the revelation had been made by a senior government official who had spoken on condition of anonymity. Based in the US, Franklin Templeton is a global investment management organization with very serious international cachet.
Reuters reported that Franklin Templeton’s bond Fund Manager, with a larger than life personality, Dr. Michael Hasenstab, had taken dominant position in the bonds issued by President Akufo-Addo’s cousin and Finance Minister.
The total percentage of the bonds bought by the company is not yet known. However, Franklin Templeton’s dominant participation in the purchase of the bonds is interesting because of one Hon. Trevor G. Trefgarne.
While Hon. Trefgarne is reported as having been listed in a December 31st, 2016 unedited semi-annual report of Franklin Templeton as one of the company’s five Board of Directors, a compilation of his credentials, in the same report, also named him as the Chairman of Enterprise Group Limited based in Ghana.
Indeed on the website of the Enterprise Group, Trevor G. Trefgarne’s picture is affixed and labeled as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Enterprise Group.
The interesting catch is that this Board of Directors chaired by Mr. Trefgarne includes Keli Gadzekpo, Group Chief Executive of Enterprise Group and Dr. Angela Ofori-Atta, who doubles as a Director of Enterprise Insurance, a subsidiary of the Enterprise Group.
Dr. Angela Ofori Atta is the wife of the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori- Atta!
Noteworthily, Akufo-Addo’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo, is listed along Dr. Angela Ofori-Atta as non Executive members of Enterprise Group.
Selfsame Gloria Akuffo is a former employee of the Enterprise Group, having worked as a Director of Enterprise Life, a subsidiary of Enterprise Group.
As the writing on the wall indicates that Enterprise Group has bought a domineering amount of the bond that was all but secretly issued by the Finance Ministry, it is noteworthy that the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, partnered with the Group Chief Executive of Enterprise Group, Keli Gadzekpo, to found Data Bank in 1990.
The whole development inspires a throwback to 2003, when Ken Ofori-Atta acted together with Keli Gadzekpo and one lawyer Ekow Awoonor, of Awoonor Law Consultancy, to allegedly leverage their connections in the Kufuor regime to skim the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) of $2.44million.
A damning report by the Auditor General at the time had indicated that Ken Ofori-Atta and a gang of collaborators, including George Ottoo, then Director of Enterprise Group Limited, had acted under pretext of developing highbrow upmarket residential buildings at the swanky Osu area for middle class executives to take the money from SSNIT.
Advertised as the “Obotan Garden of Eden” housing project, Mr. Ofori-Atta, who was then CEO of Data bank, and his collaborators, enticed SSNIT into forking out the 2.44 million dollars for the project, to represent 55% stake in the investment, only to find out later that, Obotan Development Limited, the company which was supposed to be originator of the project and provider of part of the counterpart funding, was a ghost company.
Following the release of the report, the Kufuor regime had attempted to sweep it under the carpet, but public pressure eventually forced it to cause the Serious Fraud Office at the time, (now Economic and Organized Crimes Office) to investigate the scandal.
The SFO had eventually recommended the prosecution of Ken Ofori- Atta, Enterprise Insurance and a host of others, but President Akufo-Addo, who was then the Kufuor regime’s Attorney General, did not prosecute his cousin and his collaborators.
Eventually, after Mr. Ofori-Atta and other people involved in the deal, who had initially decided to not comment on the issue upon media enquiry, could breathe easy, Mr. Ofori-Atta, emerged later in 2014 to tell national broadsheet, Daily Graphic, that SSNIT’s money had been paid back to it, after the project had failed to even take off.
In the commentaries that arose, questions about an off shore account from which money had been used to buy shares in the Obotan scandal emerged but those questions have remained unanswered.
Fast-forward to 2017 and at his vetting as Finance Minister designate before the Appointments Committee of Parliament. Hon Alhassan Suhiyini, MP for Tamale North, would be hounded by the Chairman of the Committee, Joe Osei Wusu, upon an attempt to get Ken Ofori- Atta to clarify his role in the Obotan scandal and the role of his offshore account in the whole saga.
The same Ken Ofori-Atta who is now Ghana’s Finance Minister, was discovered in 2015 to have acted together with Keli Gadzekpo, Group Chief Executive of Enterprise Group, to secretly borrow Ghc2million in the name of the ruling New Patriotic Party, which was then in opposition, from the Prudential Bank.
Upon the outbreak of the scandal, details suggested that Ken Ofori- Atta had forged the letterheads of the NPP to borrow the money. Chairman of the NPP at the time, Paul Afoko, who was to be suspended, later complained that the money had been borrowed on the blind side of the party’s executive and, therefore, had taken a strong stance that the party would not pay back the dubious loan.
His General Secretary, Kwabena Agyepong, had concurred with the Chairman.
The two were soon removed from office and replaced with acting Chairman, Freddy Blay and Acting General Secretary, John Boadu.
As the 2.25billion dollar bond issue by Ken Ofori-Atta raises eyebrows and indicates that the devil himself is in the detail, glaring questions have bordered largely on conflict of interest.
However, some questions have also come to border on prudence and the ruling NPP’s double standards.
Unlike this questionable US$2.25 billion bond, all bonds that the Mahama regime had issued had not been shrouded in any secrecy, with Seth Terkper, Mahama’s Finance Minister, issuing the last 10- year bond that was eventually sold at the Movenpic Hotel in Accra.
Mr. Terkper had been bashed without measure by the NPP which was then in opposition when he had initially attempted to sell the bond at a coupon rate of 11.5%.
Following the flak, however, Mr. Tekper eventually managed to sell it at 9%, which the NPP still said was too high.
Seth Terkper’s bond had been totally transparent with a road show that heralded it for about three months. However, the same NPP which lambasted him for issuing the bond at a coupon rate of 9% has issued this bond at a coupon rate of 19.75%.
What’s more, the issuance seems to have been shrouded in total secrecy with indications that it did not even go through Parliament. In the whole murky deal, however, the most scandalous issue about it is that Enterprise Group, whose co-owner Keli Gadzekpo, is also co owner of Data Bank with the Finance Minister, appears to have bought domineering amount of the shares.
The upper echelon employees of Enterprise Group include the wife of the Finance Minister, Dr. Angela Ofori-Atta, with current Attorney General, Gloria Akuffo, known to have at least worked in the same company in the past.
Meanwhile President Akufo-Addo and his NPP, who shouted from the rooftops that the predecessor NDC government was borrowing too much have already, borrowed 4billion in just the first hundred days.
The breakdown includes a whopping Ghc1.7billion that was borrowed from the domestic market in January alone. In the government’s first budget reading in February, the Finance Minister announced that the government had already borrowed US$2.25billion.
The Herald, a private newspaper based in Accra, has also reported that in May, this year, the government is planning to borrow $4billion more.
Already the MP for Bolga Central, Isaac Adongo, has sounded the knell on an ongoing chase after various loans totaling $14 billion with a 15 year repayment time frame by the Akufo-Addo government.