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NDC chases Ofori-Atta over $2.25bn bond

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The Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) in Parliament has called for the immediate resignation of Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta following supposed adverse findings made against him by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) in the issuance of the $2.5 billion bond in March, 2017.

The minority has therefore given President Akufo-Addo 14 working days to either compel the minister to resign or fire him, else it would be forced to invoke a motion of censorship in accordance with Article 82 of the 1992 Constitution, to remove him from office.

The NDC minority, led by its leader, Haruna Iddrisu, made the call at a press conference in parliament yesterday.

Article 82 states that parliament, by a resolution supported by votes not less than two-thirds of all members, shall pass a vote of censure on a minister of state while Clause 5 under Article 82 says that where a vote of censure is passed against a minister under this Article, the president may, unless the minister resigns his office, revoke his appointment as a minister.

According to the minority, CHRAJ indicted the minister over conflict of interest in the issuance of the bond, as well as refusal to follow the law in its issuance.

“CHRAJ, in its summary of key findings at pages 133 and 134 of its report, noted several breaches of constitutional and statutory laws as well as regulations and official guidelines governing the issuance of bonds,” the minority noted.

CHRAJ Clears Minister

The NDC had also taken the matter to the international arena where it got no positive response and it’s now clutching to CHRAJ report which had exonerated the minister of any conflict of interest in the issuance o the bond.

After five months of investigations, CHRAJ concluded that “On the basis of the evidence available to the Commission, it has come to the conclusion and therefore holds that the allegations by the complainant that the respondent has contravened Article 284 of the 1992 Constitution by putting himself in a conflict of interest situation in relation to the issuance of the 5-year, 7-year, 10-year and 15-year bonds, have not been substantiated.”

CHRAJ declared that “there was also no evidence before the Commission that there was a personal benefit to the Respondent or his private businesses and other relations.”

It said evidence available to the Commission did not support the complainant’s allegations that the initial pricing guidelines of the Bond were issued around 5:37 pm on March 30, 2017, by e-mail, which was after normal working hours; or that the transaction was opened at 9:00 a.m. on March 31, 2017; or that the public announcement of the transaction was sent by e-mail at approximately 9:09 am on March 31, 2017, which meant that the transaction was opened before the announcement was made to the public; and also that the issuance summary was issued on March 31, 2017, at about 4:20 pm. by e-mail indicating that the Bond transaction had been closed and announcement made to the public.”

However, the minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu, who addressed the press conference, said that CHRAJ indicted the minister for not complying with Section 56(1) of the Public Financial Management Act 2016 (Act 921) and that the position of CHRAJ was that prospectus and processes used in 2016 should not have been used to support the new categories of bonds.

Mr Iddrisu said CHRAJ vindicated the minority’s position on the issuance of the $2.5 billion bond and confirmed that the terms and conditions of all government borrowings shall be laid before parliament, and shall not come into operation unless the terms and conditions are approved by a resolution of parliament in accordance Article 181 of the Constitution.

The minority leader also indicated that CHRAJ found out that the finance minister’s extensive interests in the securities market through shareholding in several companies that operate within the sector – some of which were contacted by the Bookrunners on this particular bond – always raises the potential for conflict of interest.

According to him, CHRAJ also found out that Mr Ofori-Atta failed to declare all his assets before assuming office; and concealed his interests in a number of financial institutions on his assets declaration forms filed after his appointment.

“According to the CHRAJ report on page 120, documents from the Registrar-General’s Department show clearly that Hon Ken Ofori-Atta was a shareholder in Data Bank Financial Services Limited, Data Bank Brokerage Limited and Data Bank Financial Holding Limited,” Mr Iddrisu stated, stressing that the finance minister, however, failed to state on his assets declaration forms that he had shares in those companies.

“Immediately after the bond issuance, we drew attention to allegations that some or all of the bonds may have terms and conditions relating to issuance or maturity that could be unprecedented, harmful to public interest and therefore not likely to meet the Bank of Ghana’s definition of G-Secs,” the minority leader added.

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