…Over Ofori-Atta’s $2.25bn Bond Scandal
As cornered Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, buys more time to postpone what appears to be his inevitable indictment over the Franklin Templeton dirty deal, pressure is mounting against the Akufo-Addo government’s clear attempt at obscurantism.
Yesterday, the People’s Forum, a pressure group, wrote to the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, (BoG) requesting a full disclosure on the $2.25billion bond sale, which is still shrouded in secrecy.
In a letter dated 20th May, 2017 and addressed to the Governor of the BoG, the pressure group requested detailed information about the transaction to sell the bonds and how the proceeds have been applied so far.
“In line with our constitutional right to information guaranteed by the Article 21 (1F) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the PEOPLE’S FORUM respectfully requests for… full disclosure regarding the $2.25 billion bonds issued by the Government of Ghana.”
The letter which had been signed by Clement Amole, Executive Director of the Forum, asked for six specific disclosures related to the bond sale, carrying the hope that the BoG itself would be willing to furnish the public with more.
“Please confirm the date and time the proceeds of the said bonds were received in the Government’s designated account at the Bank of Ghana; how much are the total disbursements from the proceeds to date?
“Kindly furnish us with the list of projects and activities for which the bond proceeds were disbursed and upon whose authority (or signatory) the requests for disbursements were made.
“Please confirm how much of the total proceeds from the bonds remain undisbursed as of 20 May 2017; please confirm whether or not the bond will pay interest to investors semiannually or annually.
“How much was spent on the bond issuance as fees or expenses for transaction advisors and other associated costs?” the letter asked.
The request letter had underscored that the People’s Forum was only requesting the information in the interest of the public.
The request by the People’s Forum comes on the heels of the Finance Minister’s recent fidgety request for a 15-day extension from the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), to enable him to respond to queries about the shady sale of $2.25 billion bonds to FT.
CHRAJ on May 5, 2017 had requested the minister to, within 10 days, comment on whether or not he had contravened provisions of the 1992 Constitution in the public offer of the $2.25 billion bond.
CHRAJ’s titled, “Allegation of contravention or non-compliance with Article 284 of the 1992 Constitution by Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta – A public officer: Request for comments,” was based on a petition by Former Ashanti regional Youth Organizer of the opposition NDC, Yaw Brogya Genfi.
In his complaint to CHRAJ titled, “Petition to investigate conflict of interest in the recent US$2.25 billion bond issued by the government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance,” Mr. Genfi had alleged that the minister had placed himself in a conflict of interest position, and thus, in breach of constitutional provisions. Following the near secretive sale of the bond in April, it emerged that the Minister’s business partner, Trevor Trefgarne, was a director of FT.
The Finance Minister’s request for more time has attracted scorn from the public, with observers asking why it has to take the Finance Minister 25 whole days just to answer whether he thinks he has embroiled himself in a conflict of interest situation or not.
Since filing the petition, Brogya Genfi has also gone on to hint that he has come by more evidence that would bury the minister in the entanglements of conflict of interest and that he, Mr. Genfi, is eagerly looking forward to spilling his guts to investigators.
The People’s Forum’s request to the BoG is the 3rd demand for answers from the Akufo-Addo regime by private citizens, as Lawyer Victor Kojogah Adawudu, had earlier written to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to demand authentic information on the secretive bond sale.
In his letter, which had been filed along with Ghc1,000 for facilitation of the compilation of information, Lawyer Adawudu had explained that he had been constrained to demand the disclosure because of the scantiness of information on the bond sale in the public domain.
“I am exercising my legal and constitutional right and the Attorney General is the principal legal advisor to the government. If you look at the Right to Information Bill, it is the Minister of Justice and Attorney General who is responsible if information is wanted,” Lawyer Adawudu had later explained in a media interview.
“If you look at the information I am seeking, it is a very extensive question and I ask that data should also be added. The information that we are getting cannot just be said to be the authentic information that is why I am asking for the authentic information from the government.”
Interestingly, the AG who was supposed to have advised on the bond sale has said she was not aware of the sale until the issue was reported by the media.
In April, this year, the Finance Ministry suddenly announced the sale of a 7 and 15 year bonds in a statement, revealing that a respected global player had taken a substantial position in the 15 year bond.
Without naming the ‘respected global player’ it had taken the media to discover that that global player was Franklin Templeton and that it had bought 95% of the bonds that were supposed to be domestic, but had paid in dollars.
Soon it was discovered that one of the directors of FT, Trevor G. Trefgarne, is also a business partner of the Finance Minister and the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Finance Minister’s company, Enterprise Insurance.
The Minority NDC has since petitioned the US Securities and Exchanges Commission after a demand for Parliamentary Enquiry was not acted on, while Yaw Brogya Genfi and Lawyer Victor Adawudu have invoked the Conflict of Interest Jurisdiction of CHRAJ and petitioned the AG respectively.
The People’s Forum’s petition to the BoG for full disclosure is the latest pressure against the Akufo-Addo government’s seeming attempt to be obscurantist about the bond sale to FT.