$2.25bn bond: Ofori-Atta to sue CHRAJ
Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta will “immediately” drag the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to court, in an attempt to “set aside” some “extraneous” and “ancillary” comments made by the ombudsman in its report covering a probe into the Minority’s alleged conflict of interest against him in the issuance of $2.25billion bond in 2017, Information Minister Mustapha Abdul-Hamid has said.
At a press conference, Mr Abdul-Hamid said: “I have seen Ken Ofori-Atta’s assets declaration forms and I wish to state that Databank was declared as an institution in which he hold shares.
“It is important to state that CHRAJ’s refusal to call Ken Ofori-Atta to explain this item on his assets declaration form, was a travesty of justice and failure of the test of natural justice,” Mr Abdul-Hamid said on Thursday, 1 February.
Mr Ofori-Atta’s resolve to resort to court, comes on the heels of a recent call by the Minority for him to resign vis-à-vis the bond issuance. The Minority, at a press conference on Wednesday, 31 January, accused Mr Ofori-Atta of flouting rules and guidelines of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) as well as engaging in several infractions in relation to bond.
After studying CHRAJ’s report on the matter, the Minority maintains that CHRAJ has raised various concerns which raise questions about the legitimacy of the issuance of bond.
Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu stated that the highlights of CHRAJ’s findings indicate that the issuance of the bond contradicts BoG’s own rules surrounding the sale of bonds.
He said the report indicates that: “The issuance calendar for the first-quarter did not include the issuance of seven-year and 15-year bonds, the trading of which concluded on 31 March 2017, which is within the first-quarter period and not the second-quarter calendar.
“On receipt of the second-quarter issuance calendar at 12:31 PM on 30 March 2017, the Bank of Ghana made an announcement to the public on the re-opening of five-year and 10-year bonds with an indication that this must be submitted electronically through the auction model not later than 3PM on Thursday, March 30, 2017 and settlements will be on Monday, April 3, 2017. Again, CHRAJ notes [that] this contradicts the Bank of Ghana’s own rules requiring the Bank of Ghana to announce periodically but not less than a week before auction, the amounts and specific details of the financial instruments available in the case the five-year, seven-year, 15-year bonds at the next auction and their maturity profiles”.
For him, the breach of the period of issue raises red flags which further corroborate the Minority’s earlier suspicion of conflict of interest on the part of the minister.
Mr Iddrisu added that CHRAJ further notes in its report that: “In terms of the seven-year and 15-year bond, the Bank of Ghana gave only a one-day notice to the market on the availability of the seven-year and 15-year bonds prior to the commencement of trading, instead of the two weeks required for new products under the Bank of Ghana guidelines”.
“So where is the transparency?” the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South questioned.
He also added that the CHRAJ findings indict the Finance Minister of breaching aspects of the assets declaration law as well as deceit of public officers after he willfully concealed his interests/assets in several financial institutions.
The Minority, therefore, urged Mr Ofori-Atta “to bow out honourably” and also gave President Nana Akufo-Addo a 14-day ultimatum to fire the minister “as a matter of urgency”, failure of which they will invoke Article 82 of the 1992 Constitution to have him censured.
However, Mr Abdul-Hamid told journalists that: “We find that CHRAJ went beyond the matter of conflict of interest to make pronouncements on other matters that it was not seized with the capacity to make.
“CHRAJ can make pronouncements on only conflict of interest situations and not issues to do with bond issuance and its ancillary subjects. That subject, per the Securities Industry Act, Act 929, is reserved for the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
“Indeed, the Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Minister of Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, made this point on the 3 January 2018 … In the same vein, the matter of assets declaration was not before CHRAJ and CHRAJ was, therefore, not seized with the power to make a pronouncement on it.
“We find that it is these extraneous matters which CHRAJ commented on, which have become the ammunition with which the NDC has started a new round of attacks.
“We hereby serve notice that Ken Ofori-Atta will proceed to the court immediately to seek to set aside those extraneous matters in the CHRAJ report,” Mr Abdul-Hamid noted.
According to the government spokesperson, “As players in a democracy, we expected that the NDC will take the CHRAJ ruling in their stride and move on but it seems that the Minority is determined to keep this matter going using it for nuisance purposes.”
Read Mr Adbul-Hamid’s full statement:
RESPONSE TO MINORITY STATEMENT BY THE MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
We have taken note of a press conference by the minority side in parliament on the rather over-flogged issue of the bond, issued by the government last year. Even though the issues raised by the minority are rehashed and discredited, we recognize that they are determined to keep these matters burning for as long as it takes, with the hope that they may just be able to scoop whatever political advantage that they can get from it. The NDC continues to hold in high esteem, the Goebelian principle, that repeating a lie often can establish it in the minds of people as true. Well, we also believe that no matter how long a log stays in water it does not become a crocodile. Even so, we wish to re-iterate the following points in response:
The NDC activist, with the active support of the entire NDC machinery, went to the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), to allege, specifically, that Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister for Finance, by the issuance of the bond, had involved himself in a conflict of interest situation and had thereby benefitted himself and his friends from the process. CHRAJ established that their claim was baseless and without merit. (See page 136, paragraphs 20 and 21 of the CHRAJ report). As players in a democracy, we expected that they would take the CHRAJ ruling in their stride and move on. But it seems that the minority is determined to keep this matter going even if for nuisance purposes. In the process, they keep shifting the goal post. We wish to remind the NDC that;
• Guidelines for the issuance of bonds are issued by the Bank of Ghana and not the Ministry of Finance. And the guidelines with which the 2017 bonds were issued, had been in existence since 2015, which guidelines determined the issuance of bonds in the period that the NDC was in office.
• CHRAJ determined that none of the companies in which Ken Ofori-Atta has interests, benefitted or participated in the bond issuance.
• We understand the psychological effect they hope to attain by constantly assailing Ken Ofori-Atta. We can understand the discomfort that the NDC feels, with the great work that has been done in re-ordering the messy economic fundamentals that the NDC bequeathed to us. They have therefore adopted what in some football circles is termed, “if you miss the ball, don’t miss the man.” They have lost the argument on the proper management of the economy and therefore they must attack the architects of this great work. Unfortunately, these men, including Ken Ofori-Atta wear shin-guards and will not succumb to such foul play.
• We consider it a blessing to the country that we have as Finance Minister, somebody who has enormous experience in international finance and banking. Such experience can only be a blessing for Ghana. While making the point, we wish to ask the question, “since when did success in one’s private life become a hindrance to the performance of his duties?”
• We call on Ghanaians to ask the even more germane question; “what did Ghana lose from this bond issuance? Nothing! Rather Ghana gained immensely from it. It enabled us to re-profile our debt and reduce roll-over pressure that saved over 600 million cedis in interest payments on our debts weekly.
• We notice that, the CHRAJ report, even when it has found that the substantive case brought before it by Brogya Genfi has failed, offers the NDC a lee-way to do the kind of mischief that they are doing. The report states that Ken Ofori-Atta failed to declare Data Bank in his Assets Declaration to the Auditor-General. I have seen Ken Ofori-Atta’s Assets Declaration Form, and I wish to state that, Data Bank was declared as an institution in which he holds shares. It is important to state that, CHRAJ’s refusal to call Ken Ofori-Atta to explain this item on his Assets Declaration Form was a travesty of justice and fails the test of natural justice.
• We find that CHRAJ went beyond the matter of conflict of interest to make pronouncements on other matters that it was not seized with the capacity to make. CHRAJ can only make pronouncements on conflict of interest situations and not issues to do with bond issuance and its ancillary subjects. That subject per the Securities Industry Act (Act 929) is reserved for the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). Indeed, the Deputy Attorney General and Deputy Minister for Justice, Godfrey Yeboah Dame made this point on the 3rd of January 2018, in his interview with JOY FM. In the same vein, the matter of asset declaration was not before CHRAJ and CHRAJ was therefore not seized with power to pronounce on it.
• We find that it is these extraneous matters which CHRAJ commented on, have become the ammunition with which the NDC has started a new round of attacks. We hereby serve notice that Ken Ofori-Atta will proceed to the courts immediately to seek to set aside those extraneous matters in the CHRAJ report.
Thank you for coming and God bless us all.