Business News of Wed, 7 Jun 201710

Bond saga: Ofori-Atta’s explanations unsatisfactory – Minority

A former Deputy Minister of Finance and the Member of Parliament for Ajumako Enyan Essiam, Cassiel Ato Forson, has indicated that explanations offered by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta regarding the issuance of the $2.25billion domestic bond are not convincing.

Ghana’s parliament invited the Finance Minister to the floor of the house to answer questions relating to the bond after the Minority accused Mr Ofori-Atta of conflict of interest and other wrongdoings in the transaction, for which they have petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States to probe the matter.

They said Franklin Templeton Investment Limited, which acquired about 95 per cent of the domestic bond, has a direct relationship with Enterprise Group – a company Mr Ofori-Atta has an interest in.

Accordingly, Mr Ofori-Atta appeared before the House on Wednesday June 7 and explained matters relating to the transaction.

In his explanation, he said the Ministry of Finance “had no direct dealings with investors” in the process of issuing the bond.

He added: “All prospective bidders bid through their primary dealers, who in turn submitted the investor’s bids through the Central Securities Depository platform. The joint transaction advisers then collate these bids to build up a book on which the bonds are issued.

“At no time during the book building process did the Ministry of Finance negotiate with any investor in any way, and it will indeed be quite difficult to manipulate the process when the three financial institutions are governed strictly by the Bank of Ghana’s rules and regulations.”

He insisted: “There were no breaches of integrity either on government’s part or on the joint book runner’s part.

“It may be tempting to say that the apparent attempt to manufacture some form of integrity deficit is generally borne out of a lack of understanding of the actual process.”

However, responding on the floor of parliament minutes after the minister’s submission, Mr Forson said: “Mr Speaker, we asked for certain documentations. As we speak, we don’t have who the participants are. Per the documents that we have received to date, we don’t have the participants. We asked for the participants to be given to us. Mr Speaker, it is important because we will be able to find out the holdings of the participants.”

He added: “Mr Speaker we also asked for the currency in which this transaction was settled. The finance minister in his statement to this house was clear that this was settled in Ghana cedis. We were in this house at the Public Accounts Committee when the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, together with one of his Directors, to be precise Mr Opata, said to this House that this transaction was settled in US dollars.”

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