Business News of 2014-01-08

Majority and Minority tango over Fortiz

The Minority in Parliament has described as “dangerous” and “unfortunate” the ruling by the Speaker of Parliament on the motion filed by Mr Dominic Nitiwul, NPP Bimbila, which requested Parliament to investigate the offer and acquisition of Merchant Bank by Fortiz Equity Fund Ltd and other related matters.

It has, however, vowed to continue the “struggle” against the controversial sale of the bank in spite of the setback.

“It is not finished. This is just the beginning,” said Mr Nitiwul at a press conference after proceedings in the House had been brought to an end on Monday.

He said the ruling was a dangerous precedent which sought to prevent Parliament from investigating future deals which were before the courts.

“What the Speaker has sought to do is that if Parliament, in future, seeks to investigate a case, all one has to do is to send the case to court and that will disable Parliament,” he said.

In his opinion, the Majority had taken a position on the issue and was not ready to allow investigations, but was quick to add that the development would not deter the Minority from continuing its agenda to ensure that the deal remained aboveboard.

“This case has nothing to do with politics. All we seek to do is to protect the interest of Ghanaians,” he said.

Mr Nitiwul said articles 100 and 41 (f) of the 1992 Constitution mandated Members of Parliament (MPs) to act the way the Minority had sought to do in respect of the deal.

He called for investigations into the backgrounds of Mr Mawuli Hedo whom, he claimed, owned 51 per cent shares in Fortiz and also owned First Bank Financial Services and Angelina Hedo, wife of Mawuli, who, according to him, owned 29 per cent shares in Fortiz, as well as Doris Buame.

Angelina Hedo, he claimed, worked at the chambers of Tony Lithur, counsel for Merchant Bank, as a partner ,and suggested that it was Lithur who, knowing the dire straits into which the bank had fallen, advised Hedo to buy the bank.

The entire deal, he said, smacked of “insider trading.”

The Minority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, said it was a surprise that the Speaker, Mr Doe Adjaho, now knew that when a case was pending before the court, it needed to be dealt with conclusively before Parliament could comment on it.

He disclosed that when Mr Adjaho was Chairman of the Appointments Committee of Parliament, an issue came up concerning the then member for Kumbungu, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni, and the New Patriotic Party in Parliament drew his attention to that fact that the said issue was in court and, therefore, the member’s consideration for appointment needed to be put on hold until the case was determined but Mr Adjaho ignored them.

When Mr Adjaho was Deputy Speaker, he added, the controversy about the creation of new constituencies arose and the matter was sent to the courts for determination.

However, when Mr Adjaho presided over one of the sittings of the House and he was advised to suspend discussions on the issue until the court had determined the matter, he ignored it.

“It is interesting to know that he now knows that when a case is before court, it should not be discussed,” he said.

Majority in support of Adjaho

As expected, the majority was of the view that the deal was aboveboard.

Addressing a press conference earlier, the Leader of the Majority, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, said the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) did not flout any regulation in the Fortiz deal, and added that there was full transparency in the transaction.

The interest of Ghana was better served, “other than throwing more workers’ contribution to a leaking bank.”

The decision to go for Fortiz, according to him, was on the basis of value for money and value for time, considering the rapid rate of decline and the potential loss of a major investment.