General News of 2013-12-07

E&P petitioned presidency out of desperation – Kweku Baako

Malik Kweku Baako, Editor in Chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, says he is privy to incontrovertible information which suggests that Engineers and Planners (E&P) petitioned the presidency over their $38 million debt out of desperation.

Speaking on Joy FM’s Newsfile Saturday, Kweku Baako indicated that the E&P felt dejected at the time after all the possible avenues it could go for succour had rejected them.

He recounted an incident where the then Governor of Bank of Ghana, now Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur walked a “top guy” at Engineers and Planners out of his office.

The Merchant Bank in pursuing the E&P after defaulting in paying the $38 million loan, threatened to institute legal action against the company. The lawyer for E&P, Mr. Tony Lithur, subsequently petitioned the then President through the National Security Advisor dated 4 July 2012 and was received at the office of the President on 13 of July, 2012. He accused Merchant Bank Board chairman, Marian Barnor “bent on destroying the E&P”.

The Board in response to the president described Engineers and Planners' debt as constituting 30 percent of its 50 percent non-performing loan portfolio and was explicit on the bank’s determination to collect their money.

But former Member of Parliament for Okaikoi South, Nana Akomea questioned why the company petitioned the presidency. He said the company in its distress should have first petitioned the board of SSNIT, the majority shareholder with 90%, and if they did not get the needed remedy, they could have moved to the regulator, Bank of Ghana to intervene on their behalf.

In his opinion, the presidency should have referred the case to the regulator and should not have granted them hearing, this he described as a “classic and horrible failure” on the part of government, amounting to "conflict of interest".

But Malik Kweku Baako seems to appreciate more what the managers of E&P were going through hence their decision to resort to the presidency to step into the matter.

He admitted that the petition to the presidency was “misdirected”, stressing it would have been better if they had not petitioned the presidency.

In all things, Mr Baako doubted that the presidency intervened to stop the bank from recovering their loan from E&P, neither was the bank ordered to guarantee for the company to contract a loan from the Africa Export Import Bank.

"Where is the intervention which went in favour of E&P, when the bank is still standing by their demand for the $38 million and its resolve not to guarantee for E&P," he asked.

He said the mere fact that the presidency granted audience to Engineers and Planners cannot be misconstrued as acting to stop anything.

“As we speak, the Merchant Bank is still standing where it stood, before all these so-called interventions.”

Mr Kweku Baako stated: “The explanation I get, the sense I get from the E&P, and of course their lawyer I have not spoken to, but I have spoken to people who are close to E&P, who tell me their story. It appears that, that was a desperate move – the petitioning of the president in the face of all the challenges they have had with the SSNIT Board, Merchant Bank board, and indeed the Bank of Ghana.

“And I am aware that a top guy of E&P was walked out of the then Bank of Ghana Governor’s office of...the current Vice President [Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur]."