Minister-designate for Finance and Economic Planning Mr Ken Ofori-Atta is expected to receive unanimous approval in Ghana’s Parliament following his incident-free vetting yesterday.
There were reports that Mr Ofori-Atta may face stiff opposition from the Members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the Appointments Committee of Parliament as a result of some major decisions taken by government in the last four years including the abrogated PDS Power Agreement, the banking and financial sector clean up; and the Agyapa Mineral Royalties Agreement.
However, there was no indication any hitch as the vetting, even though tough, was done in an atmosphere of conviviality, candour and enormous show of respect between the minister-designate and members of the parliamentary committee.
Gentle-spoken Ofori-Atta was asked many questions such as the involvement of Databank in some financial transactions, an investment bank he co-founded; the Agyapa deal, appointment of his former colleagues to head key state financial institutions, which many believed, he answered with high level of skill and forthrightness.
The Minister-designate whose vetting was scheduled for February 18, 2021, had to be postponed because he travelled to the United States of America (USA) to seek further medical care.
It would be recalled that former Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin Amidu in a 67-page risk assessment report on the Agyapa agreement, accused Mr Ken Ofori-Atta of some wrongdoing in the deal, including possible procurement breaches, conflict of interest, “nepotism, cronyism and favouritism”.
However, in answering questions on the issue, the minister-designate said Mr Amidu did the country and its democracy a disservice for releasing the risk assessment report without including in it, a response from the Finance Ministry.
“I don’t think that we broke any rules” with regard to the procurement process with regard to the Agyapa deal, adding that the release of the corruption and anti-corruption risk assessment report of the transaction by former Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu without discussing it with him was not right.
Mr Ofori-Atta who is re-nominated by President Nana Akufo-Addo for the Ministry of Finance slammed the former Special Prosecutor for breaching the rules of national justice.
“I think, really, there’s quite a bit of cynicism about that transaction and for me, for the house, for such a report to be put out in the public without us or myself, as Minister of Finance having a chance to discuss it, I think it’s a disservice to our democracy and that is such a fundamental right that I think we, all, as a people, should be careful about such things.
“And, so, the speculative issues and the risk associated with most transactions, discussions by resubmitting to parliament, will enable us to work those things out”, Mr Ofori-Atta noted.
According to him, the report of the then Special Prosecutor could have been balanced if he had factored in the inputs of the Ministry of Finance and Mineral Income and Investment Fund (MIIF) Act, which formed the basis for the Agyapa deal.
“We should also note beyond that and the reason I brought the Act out because the Act was well-debated and put into motion. I think risks are part of every investment that you make and parliament gives me the onus, mandate to go and raise bonds – $2 billion, $3 billion with all sorts of risks – and, so far, these three years, we have brought the best pricing under what comparable countries could enjoy.
“I do not know why that type of performance will then not reflect in the way in which that report was put”, Mr Ofori-Atta pointed out.
Parliament, 2018, in line with the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF) Act, 2018 (Act 978), approved agreements to allow the country to derive maximum value from its mineral resources and monetise its mineral royalties accruing to the country in a sustainable and responsible manner.
The move gave Agyapa Royalties Limited the right to secure about $1 billion to enable the government finance large infrastructural projects.
However, the speculative report about the transaction by Mr Martin Amidu further poisoned minds about the deal.
This led to President Akufo-Addo putting the transaction on hold for more deliberation before a final decision is taken on it.
Akufo-Addo on Agyapa
Delivering the message on the state of the nation on March 9, 2021, President Akufo-Addo promised to inform Parliament on the status of the Agyapa agreement.
“Mr Speaker, let me, at this point, assure the House that in the course of this session of Parliament, the government will come back to engage the House on the steps it intends to take on the future of the Agyapa transaction”.
More on Agyapa
Answering a question about President’s intent of bringing Agyapa back to parliament, Mr Ofori-Atta told the Appointments Committee that, “I think with regard to Agyapa, there are a few things that we need to assure ourselves of. I think first and foremost, as the President has said that we resubmit it to parliament and so that shall be done, which then opens up all of the issues that have been brought to bear”.
“But I think one thing we need to note is that truly, I mean the basis of that transaction was an Act that was passed which was thoroughly debated and we did not really move away from edicts of that Act.
“I think it is all of us looking at the state of the economy of a new-normal which seems to be global with regard to debts and we looking to interject equity into the way in which the country grows. But if you look at the powers of the fund which this august house passed, Act 978(3), the fund may create and hold equity interest in a special purpose vehicle, procure the listing of the special purpose vehicle in any reputable stock exchange, assign or transfer any rights of its mineral income of the special purpose vehicle, so, I think we are on the right course but the challenge for all us is as you look at the new normal in which the seems to be quite a bit of debt by all countries, what do we do with our natural resources to leverage it into equity? And I think that’s a question we have to face.
“Now, as to how that is mobilised, the issues we contend with, I think that’s the reason the President wants us to submit to the issues around that but philosophically, I hope we are all going to come to terms with the reality of diversifying how we capitalise and fund our transformation, which we intend to do”, Mr Ofori-Atta urged.