Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister
Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister
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The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, is set to sue the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), over its handling of the conflict of interest petition in relation to the $2.25 billion bond issue.

He intends to use the court action to compel CHRAJ to overturn some of its declarations he considers irrelevant to the petition against the bond issue.

At a press conference in Accra today, the Information Minister, Mustapha Hamid, said the Finance Minister believes 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.”

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The legal action move comes after renewed attempts by the Minority in Parliament to push the Minister out of office, using the declarations by CHRAJ as the basis.

Joseph Whittal, Commissioner of CHRAJ
Joseph Whittal, Commissioner of CHRAJ

Mr. Hamid said CHRAJ went beyond its mandate to probe the conflict of interest claims by passing comments on the actual bond issue.

“CHRAJ can only make pronouncements on conflict of interest situations and not issues to do with the bond issuance and its ancillary subjects.,” he stated.

CHRAJ, whilst clearing Mr. Ofori-Atta of any conflict of interest claims, said the Finance Minister failed to declare Databank Financial Services Limited, which is co-founded by the Finance Minister, as an asset to the Attorney General.

“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 courts immediately to seek to set aside those extraneous matters in the CHRAJ report.”

These extraneous matters have given the opposition National Democratic Congress cause to still attack the Finance Minister, despite him being found not guilty of the conflict of interest charges, according to Mr. Hamid.

The Minority in Parliament on Wednesday called on President Akufo-Addo to sack Mr. Ofori-Atta for breaching aspects of the law in the issuance of the bond.

Alternatively, the Minroity asked the Finance Minister to resign, else they will invoke an article in the constitution to force him to do so.

“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 leeway to do the kind of mischief that they are doing. CHRAJ’s refusal to call Ken Ofori-Atta to explain this item on his declaration form was a travesty of justice, and fails the test of natural justice,” Mr. Hamid said.

He maintained that, Mr. Ofori-Atta declared Databank as an institution in which he holds shares.

Mr. Ofori-Atta is notably the Co-Founder of Databank Financial Services Limited, and served as its Executive Chairman from 1990 to February 14, 2012.

The controversy over the bond begun after the Minority called for a full-scale parliamentary probe into how persons they referred to as very close friends of the Finance Minister, purchased 95 percent of the $2.25 billion bond issue in April 2017.

The NDC Ashanti Regional Youth Organizer, Yaw Brongya Genfi, subsequently petitioned CHRAJ to investigate the bond on grounds that Mr. Ofori Atta attempted to promote a personal interest for himself, as well as family and friends,.

On the substantive matter of conflict of interest, CHRAJ cleared Mr. Ofori-Atta of any wrongdoing, stating that, “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.”

CHRAJ however also said that the Finance Minister, breached certain processes in the issuance of the bond.

In its 140-page report on the matter, CHRAJ made some suggestions to the Minister of Finance to ensure that due diligence is ensured in subsequent deals.

Among other directives, it said the Minister must pass regulations to monitor 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 or transaction Advisors from gaining the unfair advantage because of their dual roles.

It had found the Primary Dealers also doubled up as bookrunners or transaction advisors, and that dual role gave them an undue advantage. 

By ADR Daily Newsdesk

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