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CHRAJ clears Ofori-Atta of Conflict of Interest in $2.25bn bond saga

Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister

The Commission on Human rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), has cleared the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, of conflict of interest in the issuance of the government’s recent bond.

“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,” it said in its report on the matter.

CHRAJ commenced the investigations five months ago after  a known member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Yaw Brogya Genfi, petitioned it in April, to investigate Ken Ofori-Atta’s position in the issuance of the bond.

According to Mr. Genfi, Ken Ofori-Atta, secured 95 percent of the bond for his family and friends.

He said Mr. Ofori Atta “has attempted to promote a private or personal interest for himself or for some family members and business associates, and the promotion of the private interest has resulted in, or was intended to result in, or appears to have resulted in, or has the potential to result in an interference with the objective exercise of his duties and an improper benefit or an advantage by virtue of his position.”

According to him, the bonds were not on the issuance calendar, and that the transaction seemed to have been shrouded in secrecy with the bond processes being limited to one day compared to past processes that were open.

Mr. Genfi said one single investor, Franklin Templeton Investment Limited, an American global investment management organisation founded in 1947 purchased 95 percent of the bond issued.

He insisted that “a relational interest existed between the Minister of Finance and Mr Trevor G Trefgarne, who in a semi-annual report of the Franklin Templeton Investment Limited of December 31, 2016, is one of the Board of Directors of the organisation, while also being the Chairman of the Enterprise Group Limited.

“Enterprise Group Limited is a company partially owned by Data Bank Limited, a company in which the Finance Minister is known to have significant interest,” Mr Genfi said.

He also complained that Mr. Tevor G Trefgarne and the Minister of Finance had also been described as “great friends.”

But CHRAJ in the 140-page report after its investigations said “there was also no evidence before the Commission that there was a personal benefit to the Respondent or his private businesses and other relations.”

Brogya Genfi

Other Findings

Although there was no evidence that Mr. Ofori-Atta benefited personally from the transaction, the Commission found breaches of the rules on the issuance of bonds.

On the basis of that, it gave several directives in the exercise of its powers under Article 287 (2) of the Constitution that provides that “The Commissioner for Human Rights and Administrative Justice or the Chief Justice as the case may be, may take such action as he considers appropriate in respect of the results of the investigation or the admission,” directed that the Minister ensure that all processes in the issuance of bonds by MoF and the Bank of Ghana (BOG) are complied with.

It also directed that the minister, as a matter of urgency, pass regulations, rules or guidelines to regulate the format of and criteria for the auctions and the procedures for participation, bidding, and allocation in auctions in relation to the issuance of securities in the domestic market.

CHRAJ further charged the minister take measures in preventing Primary Dealers who are also bookrunners/Transaction Advisors from gaining the unfair advantage because of their dual roles.

It urged the implementation of section 56 of the Public Financial Management Act, 921 of 2016 in the shortest possible time due to the imperative of Bonds becoming a feature of the country’s debt payment system and the appetite of investors.

It said section 56 (1) provided that, “The terms and conditions of all government borrowing 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 with article 181 of the Constitution”.

“The issuance of bonds is a form of borrowing and therefore operationalising section 56 (2) of the PFM Act with standard terms and conditions for government borrowing through a legislative instrument or through a resolution of Parliament to enable greater transparency in all borrowings is long overdue,” CHRAJ stressed.

Observations

Among the 21-point findings in its decision, CHRAJ observed that Primary Dealers also doubled up as Bookrunners/Transaction advisors and that dual role gave them an undue advantage.

It also observed that the “Respondent is either a director, former director or shareholder, or beneficial owner, of several companies whose objects relate to the securities market sector. The companies include Databank and EGL. As such, Respondent’s interests in the growth and wellbeing of those companies, have the potential to conflict with the interests of the state in relation to the securities market such as the issuance of bonds.

It stated that “The Respondent has business partners and associates related to the securities industry where, according to the Respondent, he has been working for over thirty years. These business partners and associates include partners in Databank, Enterprise Group Limited, Ventures and Acquisitions Limited, as well as Keli Gadzekpo, Trevor Trefgarne and Angela Ofori Atta, also Respondent’s spouse.”

 

Click here to read the full report. 

By: Jonas Nyabor/citifmonline.com/Ghana

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