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Incredulous Bawumia’s poisoned chalice to poor students

Tue, 24 May 2016 Source: Eric Ametor-Quarmyne

ON Thursday 5th May 2016, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia the running mate of the Flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party(NPP) met with students of Accra Polytechnic, a campaign trip disguised as a lecture on youth unemployment.

Dr. Bawumia’s pronouncements on a USD250million financial transaction undertaken by the Government have generated a lot of public discourse and a rare response from the Finance Minister, Hon. Seth Terkper, a gentleman’s gentleman who hardly dabbles in such public discourse bothering on political propaganda.

To get a good appreciation of the issues that have generated such a huge opprobrium, it is important to revisit the disturbing issues raised by Dr. Bawumia:

a. That the Government of Ghana has diverted an amount of USD250million from the Bank of Ghana into a private bank in the name of Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund from the proceeds of the 2015 Eurobond.

b. That the transaction was a scheme hatched by the Government to siphon public money to finance the National Democratic Congress’ 2016 electioneering campaign.

c. That the USD250million as transferred was a violation of the country’s foreign exchange laws.

d. That the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund is not operational.

e. That the Government had gone back to the same private bank to burrow the same money at a much higher interest rate.(for me, this was the most insulting of all the allegations)

It is imperative that we must thoroughly examine these allegations of Dr. Bawumia’s in order to determine their truthfulness or falsehood. Was the crediting of the account of the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund (GIIF) with USD250million from Ghana’s 2014 euro bond proceeds a scheme hatched by the government to steal public money?

This was the single most disturbing allegation that must concern all Ghanaians and indeed Ghana’s international financial partners including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank and all of Ghana’s bilateral partners across the world.

In the year 2014, (and not 2015 as Bawumia had alleged) the Government of Ghana through the Ministry of Finance went to Parliament to seek approval to burrow an amount of USD1,000,000,000 (One Billion United States Dollars) from the international capital market. The Government in its presentation to Parliament made it clear that it intended to use an amount of USD250million of the proceeds of the bond as seed capital to finance the setting up of the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund (GIIF).

When the Eurobond was contracted in 2014, the GIIF was in the process of being set up. The Government therefore dutifully deposited the amount of USD250million in Ghana Government’s account at the Bank of Ghana, awaiting the full establishment of the GIIF. It was this money which was released to the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund (GIIF), now established and operational, which has since become the subject matter of Dr. Bawumia’s unfounded accusations.

Below are the details of the prospectus that the Minister of Finance presented to seek the approval of Parliament for the issuance of the Eurobond in 2014.

1. GHANA INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT FUND USD 250MILLION

2. SHORT TERM DOMESTIC DEBT REFINANCING USD 200MILLION

3. CAPITAL EXPENDITURE PROJECTS USD 250MILLION

4. COUNTERPART FUNDING USD 288.71MILLION

5. DISCOUNT AND TRANSACTION COST USD 11.29MILLION

6. TOTAL USD 1,000,000,000

The law setting up the GIIF, Act 877 was passed by Parliament and assented to by President John Dramani Mahama on 15th August, 2015. Subsequently the Board of Directors of the GIIF was fully constituted with a Chairman appointed and a Chief Executive in the person a Mr. Steve Nartey also appointed. The Fund is operational.

Article 6(1) of Act 877, the law which set up the GIIF states, “Moneys for the Fund shall vest in the Board and shall be paid into a Bank account opened for the purpose by the Board with the approval of the Minister”. The Minister in this instance being the Minister of Finance.

In direct reference to the USD250million, it formed part of the sources of moneys for the fund as detailed in section 5(j) – “Any other moneys that the Minister with the approval of Parliament determines to be paid into the Fund”. The USD250million being approved by Parliament in 2014 as part of that year’s Eurobond disbursement plan, and earmarked as seed capital for the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund(GIIF).

There should not be and there must not be the least misunderstanding whatsoever in this matter. Wherein lay the thievery in this very transparent and legitimate transaction as alleged by Bawumia, if not for political mischief making?

What makes Bawumia’s position on this matter poisonous is the fact that state funds are managed according to strict laws in this country. The financial administration law, Act 654 of 2003 (passed during the NPP era 2001-2009), is the governing law for transactions regarding public funds.

There is also the Financial Administration manual in addition to the Auditor General’s oversight of public institutions and their management of public funds. So also is the oversight of Parliament through its Public Accounts Committee. All these make it difficult for public officials to recklessly misappropriate public funds at will.

Yet, Dr. Bawumia falsely tells students and our youth that the Minister of Finance has stolen public money and put it away in a private bank for personal gain. This is the highest height of recklessness. A horrendous conduct of a person seeking the second highest political office in Ghana today, as Vice President of this Republic.

Another falsehood peddled by Bawumia to the poor students and the youth was that the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund is not operational at this very moment, and wondered into what account the money was transferred. Now, that statement was another palpable lie told to the students designed in the main to portray the Honourable Minister of Finance as a fraud.

The plain truth is that the Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund is functional and has a bank account domiciled at the United Bank for Africa(UBA), at their head office branch in Accra. If it was not for mischief purposes and an inordinate desire to pollute the minds of students and the youth most of who unfortunately may have little or no knowledge in public financial administration, a person of the level of Bawumia, a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana would never have dreamt of doing what he did to our poor students. It was a very shameful act completely unbecoming of a former Deputy Governor of Ghana’s central bank, the Bank of Ghana.

Short of revealing the complete details of the GIIF’s call account at the UBA, suffice it say that since the money was transferred into GIIF’s call account on 31st December, 2015, it has accrued a handsome interest of GH¢22,891,426.24 as at 3rd May, 2016.

Yet again, an insulting statement to have come from Bawumia on the night was that the government after depositing the USD250million at the UBA, had gone back to the same bank(UBA) to burrow that same money at a much higher interest rate of over 20%. A complete lie.

That was a nauseating insult to the intelligence of the Minister of Finance and indeed all those who have a modicum of knowledge in banking as a profession, and intended to denigrate the government as a whole. The financial Administration law, Act 654 is very very clear on what kind of investment public moneys should be used for and what they should not be used for in the securities market.

It states clearly in section 21(1), that, “The Minister may cause public moneys to be invested on behalf of the Government in the purchase of securities for such periods and on such terms as the Minister thinks fit, except that public moneys may not be invested in government securities.”

Documentary evidence exists at UBA to show that the USD250million was placed as a call account by the GIIF at its head office branch. Such a fund cannot be used and indeed had not been used to purchase treasury bills as Bawumia had falsely alleged. If the UBA desires to buy treasury bills from Bank of Ghana, it must first isolate GIIF’s funds, before attempting such a transaction in order to avoid over exposing itself, in case GIIF suddenly makes a call for its money. It is therefore clear that Bawumia’s assertion that the government had gone back to the same bank(UBA) to buy treasury bills(using the same USD250million) at a much higher rate than the rate of the 2014 bond is a completely manufactured lie.

How a person who had been the Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana could stoop so low to manipulate the minds of our youth who have very little knowledge of money market operations and the ‘nitti grittiest’ of the use of public funds in such transactions must be of utmost concern to all well-meaning Ghanaians.

Bawumia comes across as a poisoned chalice fo our youth, particularly those in tertiary institutions, who have become his primary focus and target in his well rehearsed diabolical plot to poison their minds against the NDC Government in order to secure their votes in the coming 2016 elections.

In this diabolical Bawumia enterprise, he has completely no regard for the future well-being of our children. Whether they end in prison or not, it will suffice that they vote for him and the NPP so as to become the Vice President of Ghana.

None of Bawumia’s deliberately fabricated falsehoods and lies are as dangerous as the corruption of the minds and morals of our youth, and this is something parents of all political persuasions and the rest of society must rise up against. This must be particularly so because unlike in the past, students in our Universities and other tertiary institutions these days are very young people, mostly in their teens who have little or no working experience.

Since 2014, beginning from Central University, Dr. Bawumia has been engaging students in our Universities and other tertiary institutions on political campaigns disguised as lectures and talks to students. While this ordinarily should not be of any concern, and should not arouse the ire of anyone, on almost all occasions that Dr. Bawumia had engaged students he had deliberately fed them with fabricated falsehoods, plain lies and sometimes point blank insult of Government officials particularly the Finance Minister who has become his chewing stick.

I will demonstrate this with specific examples:

CENTRAL UNIVERSITY :

In his lecture dubbed “WILL THE ANCHOR HOLD”, delivered to students and faculty at the Central University on 25th March, 2015, Dr. Bawumia deliberately misstated facts relating to Ghana’s financial dealings with the African Development Bank, when he told the students that Ghana had become so bankrupt that it could not honour the payment of its debts to the African Development Bank(ADB) and that Ghana had been black listed and would not be eligible for further financial assistance from the Bank. Please see below for the exact words he used.

“Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, it would also interest you to know that Ghana has recently been sanctioned by the African Development Bank(AfDB) for non-payment of debt obligations due. This sanction means that signature of new AfDB loan agreements, disbursements on all AfDB ongoing projects and the granting of any new loans have been suspended until the situation is rectified. The sanctions were effective in January 2015. In this regard, Ghana regrettably joins an exclusive list of nations currently under AfDB sanctions. The other countries are Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Djibouti.”

Hardly had he finished delivering the lecture than the ADB issued a public statement denying what Dr. Bawumia had told the students and faculty of Central University. Bawumia had fed fat on a miss-correspondence from the ADB which was corrected much earlier, over three months before he went on his lying campaign.

What was most unfortunate about that incident was the fact that Bawumia had been an officer of the ADB as its Resident Representative in Zimbabwe not too long ago and therefore could easily have cross-checked any information from his colleagues to ascertain its veracity before going public. He did not. Lack of honesty or candor or a deliberate effort to malign his peers at the Finance Ministry or all of the foregoing?

UNIVERSITY OF DEVELOPMENT STUDIES :

Much earlier in November, 2015, Dr. Bawumia undertook a similar exercise at the Wa campus of the University of Development Studies(UDS) in the Upper West Region, where he lectured students on Ghana’s national debt. He told the assembled students that Ghana’s total debt was USD37billion and that the Government had nothing to show for it.

When the Bank of Ghana came out to announce that Ghana’s total debt was around US$25billion, Dr. Bawumia short back to say that he had developed formula for calculating national debts. Up to today, Bawumia has failed to publish his formula which would make $25billion to become $37billion.

These are not laughing matters because they affect the understanding of students on matters of economics for which he is credited with some knowledge. Bawumia has had the good fortune of working at the Bank of Ghana as a Deputy Governor before he was lured away by the NPP in 2008 to become the running mate to the party’s flagbearer.

That is why students and others in the world of finance and banking would be tempted to listen to him when he makes such pronouncements. And that is the most important reason why it is incumbent upon Dr. Bawumia to be truthful and honest and not to deliberately pollute the minds of our youth with falsehood.

These instances of falsehood peddled to students have shown how dangerous Dr. Bawumia is to the molding of the moral values and character of our youth who are the leaders who would take up the leadership of our country in the near future.

A cursory monitoring of the pronouncements of Dr. Bawumia would demonstrate clearly that he and his master, Nana Akufo-Addo, the flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party in the coming elections have embarked on a lying mission on the campaign trail with the vain hope of winning votes through their lies.

Two instances would clearly demonstrate this trend. Nana Akufo-Addo’s lies about the Government printing dairies at a cost of USD10million which turned out to be a lie, and Bawumia’s allegations that there are over 76,000 Togolese on Ghana’s electoral register which he has failed woefully to substantiate with a non-existent Tolgolese electoral register.

Luckily any time they engage in such falsehood and calumny, it offered the NDC government a fine opportunity to let Ghanaians know the truth and the many good works it has done in this short time for the development of the country.

My utmost concern is the likelihood that these falsehoods may have adverse effect on the character and understanding of our children towards governance and consequences on their lives. As a nation, we all have the responsibility to call a halt to politics of lies and falsehood before it does irreparable damage to our students and youth.

Columnist: Eric Ametor-Quarmyne