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– Group to petition IMF to audit GHS160m dubious earnings to Databank from Ghana’s bonds
Details have emerged of how Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has made fortune for his company by plunging the country into a debt crisis; with Databank alone accumulating more than GHS159m from the country’s domestic and international bond issuance from 2017- 2021.
Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta presented the details of his bank’s involvement in Ghana’s bond issuance as part of his response to the sixteen (16) long-standing questions filed by some Members of Parliament when he finally appeared before the House on Wednesday, May 22. According to the document presented, the Finance Minister’s own Databank has served as the government’s sole Broker for all domestic and international bonds issued from 2017 to 2021. The country raised Ghc207.4 billion during the period, with the Minister’s Securities and Brokerage firm profiting over GHS159.3 million from the government transactions. The document presented to Parliament reveals how the Finance Minister’s private fortune increases with every dollar of the government’s domestic and external borrowing since Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta assumed office as the country’s Exchequer. The records also show how the Minister’s Investment Bank made its highest returns in 2020 and 2021 put together, a period he claimed to be a difficult one for the country. In 2021, Databank ‘earned’ an amount of GHS85.37 million out of the government’s GHS 103.62 billion total bond issues.
Many Industry players and some politicians from the opposition parties have consistently raised issues of conflicts of Interest about the finance minister using his bank as the government’s transactions advisor in the bonds Market, a transaction he leads. Ken Ofori-Atta is a co-founder of Databank Financial Services and served as its Executive Chairman until his retirement on February 14, 2012, but he remains an integral part of the Group’s business activities. In 2017, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta was involved in questionable bond issuance to the tune of $2.25b, where one Trevor G. Trefgarne bought a chunk of the bond issued in the name of Franklyn Templeton Company Limited. Mr. Trefgarne who represented the company was the Director of Enterprise Insurance- a company that once had the finance minister as a director.
It has now become clear to Ghanaians that the other key reason for the government’s penchant for borrowing through bonds, which is at a record level since assuming power- is to create more wealth for the Finance Minister’s company. The more the nation borrows in the bonds market, the louder the minister laughs to the bank. Databank’s 7.7% earnings from the GHS 207.4 billion bond transactions over the 5 years so far appear to be an overcharge, compared to international standards for Brokerage firms.
Whiles former President John Dramani Mahama has added his voice to the call from many Ghanaians for the resignation or the sacking of Ken Ofori-Atta for the country’s economic woes, a group known as Forum for Accountability has indicated its readiness to petition the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over what it describes as a tenebrous selection process of Databank as the government’s transactions advisor leading to the quick accumulation of such amounts within that short period. As the government formally engages the IMF for a bailout in the weeks ahead, the group has threatened to expose the finance minister to the Washington-based institution if he fails to return the amount of money Databank has illegally taken from the state.