Agyapa lawful – Special Prosecutor was unfair to me – Ken Ofori-Atta

The Minister designate for Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, has said no wrong was committed in the Agyapa Royalties Transaction.

He said the then Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin Amidu, did “a disservice” to Ghana’s democracy by releasing his Corruption Risk Assessment on the Agyapa Transaction without a response from the Ministry of Finance.

Responding to questions on the Agyapa agreement when he appeared before the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Thursday [March 25, 2021], Mr Ofori-Ata said the path Mr Amidu took was an infringement on his [Ofori-Atta’s] rights and did not augur well for the rule of law.

Therefore, he urged Parliament not to entertain the report which was issued by the Special Prosecutor on the transaction. The former Special Prosecutor last year released a report on his assessment of the Agyapa transaction in which he raised numerous issues about the deal..

Amidu’s report

Mr Amidu, in a press statement announcing the release of his report, stated: “ The analysis of the risk of corruption and anti-corruption assessment was completed and signed by the Special Prosecutor on 15th October, 2020. The Special Prosecutor in a letter with reference number OSP/SCR/20/12/20 dated 16th October, 2020 conveyed the conclusions and observations of the anti-corruption assessment to H. E. the President and the Hon. Minister of Finance as a matter of courtesy before informing the public.

“Two weeks is more than too long for this Office to continue withholding the announcement of the completion of its sixty-four (64) page report to the public. It is important that this Office has the freedom to discharge its anti-corruption mandate and keep the public informed. I have, therefore, decided to bring the facts of the conclusion of the anti-corruption assessment of the Agyapa Royalties Transactions by this Office to the attention of the public and to avoid the continued speculations on this matter.”

Ofori-Atta disagrees

But disagreeing with the position taken by the former Special Prosecutor, the ministerial nominee said: “Accepting and acknowledging a report in which your citizens were not able to give their views on is not something we should encourage. We did not break any rule as far as the Agyapa deal is concerned.
“For such a report to be put out in the public without myself having a chance to discuss it, I think it’s a disservice to our democracy and we all as a people should be careful about such things.”

Act of Parliament

Mr Ofori-Atta also stated that it was necessary to note that the Agyapa agreement was backed by an Act of Parliament and as such, the ministry did not deviate from any of the dictates of the act.
“One thing we have to note is that on the basis of that transaction was an Act that was passed which was thoroughly debated and we did not deviate from any dictates of that Act,” he stated.
He said the speculative issues that were raised in the report would be worked on when the deal was re-submitted to Parliament as the President had directed.
“Re-submitting the deal will allow us to work those things out,” he said.

Databank involvement

Commenting on the involvement of Databank which he co-owns, in all government transactions, he called for a broader discussion on Ghanaian enterprises and how independent and experienced entrepreneurs could join the government at any point in time.
“Here is a company that is 30 years old, a company that started with $25,000 dollars, started in Kantamanto, a place you will not think an investment bank will start. After 30 years, with 500,000 accounts of Ghanaians, a billion cedis under management, numerous offices around the country, having participated in every Euro bond transaction since we started in 2017.
“We should not encourage such cynicism because it goes to poison the environment. There is no conflict of interest because I was not part of the decision making and the first-class nature of the institution speaks for itself,” he said.
“We should encourage such Ghanaian companies to grow further so we can begin to issue our Euro bonds by ourselves,” he added.

Capping statutory funds

Mr Ofori-Atta also re-emphasised that the capping of statutory funds was necessary to deal with the budget rigidities.
Parliament in 2017 passed the Earmarked Funds Capping and Realignment Act (Act 2017) to provide a cap for Earmarked Funds.

Under the Act, all allocations to the eight statutory funds must not exceed 25 per cent of all government revenue.
There are currently eight earmarked statutory funds, namely the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF), the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Petroleum-Related Funds, Ghana Infrastructure Investment Fund (GIIF), Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), the Social Security and National Insurance Trust and the Road Fund. This action has often come under criticism by the Minority in Parliament and some sections of the public, who argue that the capping was counter-productive.

However, Mr. Ofori Atta justified the decision, stating that it was necessary to ensure that the government had enough fiscal space to undertake its economic policies. “On the issue of budget rigidities, that is pretty obvious to all of us with regard to our revenue to GDP. We had to ensure that we distribute the little resources for everyone to get its own share,” he explained.

Debt situation

On the country’s debt situation, he said: “We are all familiar with the debt in terms of what we came to meet and what it is now. We came to meet GH¢122 billion and it’s about GH¢292 billion now.
“What has been in contention is the way in which we categorise the financial and services sector debt and the energy sector debt which is identified in the books but not added to our public debt stock. There have been lots of debate as to how to accommodate that,” he said.
“But our sense is that, we are close to the completion of financing of both the asset management companies and the banking system and therefore we should by the end of the third quarter or end year have those numbers complete so that we can add them on to the public debt,” he added.
Mr Ofori-Atta, therefore, assured the committee that once the ministry completed the resolution of the financial sector and the energy sector and got the full cost, it would be added to the debt stock.