Opinions Mon, 14 Aug 2017

Bright Simons reacts to BoG's possible sanction of UT, Capital Banks officials

That oblique statement in the Bank of Ghana's press release about possible prosecutions of any members of (UT & Capital) management "found to be culpable" is confusing.

The BOG itself admits that the banks' inability to recapitalise has been a long running matter.

The BOG mentions several meetings held in the past to create room and explore ways to allow that recapitalisation.

In the circumstances, the BOG felt compelled to activate its wide ranging section 123 powers to forcefully assume control of the bank and sell it to GCB instead of winding it up in liquidation proceedings. It did not consider the alternative of regulatory capital injection as a lender of last resort either.

It is on record that for the last five years the BOG has never seen it fit to exhaust its equally vast, but less abrupt, powers under section 60.

Those section 60 remedial measures are designed precisely to prevent situations escalating to the section 123 threshold.

Section 60 powers range from the simple step of appointing an expert to guide a bank to help in the enhancement of controls all the way to the appointment of a conservator to literally run the bank.

If the fear was that such measures are too difficult to apply without creating panic, what about simple measures such as restricting lending? Are any of the struggling banks today subject to section 60 measures?

Why then is the BOG mulling criminal sanctions now when administrative measures could have perhaps prevented this situation from degenerating to this point?

Why is it now that the BOG wants to "investigate" and prosecute upon findings of culpability?

What has been the nature of its engagements with these banks during the many months of recapitalisation discussions (the law provides a minimum notice period for compulsory recapitalisation measures anyway)?

If these banks were indeed engaged in any conduct deserving of prosecution, as opposed to being mere victims of business misfortune, why then was the directive recapitalisation instead of removal of management and directors?

Does that mean that if shareholders had found some awoof money to reinject, everything would have been okay and matters allowed to settle?

Doesn't add up.

Unless......unless what we are being subconsciously told is that there was a previous regime at BOG that had a certain attitude to prudential regulation.

And now.....well....and now all things are made new. And that we should behold a new era and dispensation.

Columnist: Bright Simons