General News of 2013-12-03

Pratt blasts Ayariga over Merchant Bank

The Managing Editor of the Insight newspaper, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, has criticised aspects of Information Minister Mr Mahama Ayariga’s response to reports that the Presidency prevented Merchant Bank from retrieving a loan it gave to Engineers and Planners – a mining firmed owned by President John Mahama’s brother, Ibrahim Mahama.

While denying Monday that the president prevented Merchant Bank from recovering its debt, Mr Ayariga told Accra-based Joy FM that he was certain that Engineers and Planners would repay the loan.

The remark did not go down well with Mr Pratt, who condemned the minister for, according to him, acting as a spokesman for Engineers and Planners.

He told Accra-based Peace FM Tuesday that Mr Ayariga's expression of confidence in the ability of Engineers and Planners to repay the loan created the impression that he was a communicator for the mining firm, and not the government.

He said such "petty mistakes" on the part of government communicators contribute to "the muddying of the waters”.

Mr Pratt underscored the need for government communicators to distinguish between government business and private business, stressing that failure to do so would drag the government into “unnecessary controversy”.

The Insight Editor also emphasised the need for Engineers and Planners to pay its debt to struggling Merchant Bank.

He said the debt formed 19.5 per cent of all Merchant Bank debt and wondered which organisations or individuals were responsible for the remaining 81.5 per cent of the debt.

Mr Pratt said it is imperative that Merchant Bank retrieves all the monies owed it, if it is to remain viable.

He said failure to retrieve those monies could lead to the collapse of the bank – a development he said would be catastrophic for Ghana’s banking sector.

The Bank of Ghana (BoG) recently approved a deal for Fortis Private Equity Fund to pay GH¢90 million for a 90 per cent stake in Merchant Bank.

However, the legality of the deal is the subject of an ongoing court case initiated Mr Andrew Awuni, the Executive Director of the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy (CFA).