On Tuesday, 30th March 2021, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo swore into office the Minister for Finance, Kenneth Nana Yaw Kuntunkununku Ofori-Atta, at a ceremony at Jubilee House, the seat of the nation's presidency.
Nana Akufo-Addo congratulated the Minister of Finance on his appointment and indicated to him that the Ghanaian people are expecting him to put the economy on a sound footing once again, and help lead it out of the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr Ofori-Atta was vetted for two days due to his ill health by the Appointment committee of Parliament.
His vetting delayed for weeks as a result of post-COVID-19 complications, which forced him to travel to the US for further treatment.
He was approved for the job by consensus.
In their 22-page report, the Appointments Committee said: “The committee, after deliberations on the nominations of His Excellency the President for ‘ministerial appointments’ and in accordance with Article 256 (1) of the 1992 Constitution and Order 172 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, recommends for the approval of the House, the nomination of Mr Ken Ofori-Atta for appointment as Minister responsible for Finance.”
One of the issues that took Centre stage during Mr Ofori-Atta’s two-day vetting was the controversial Agyapa deal.
He told the committee: “I don’t think that we broke any rules”, adding that the release of the corruption and anti-corruption risk assessment report on the transaction by former Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu without discussing it with him was not right.
“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”, he told the committee on Thursday, 25 March 2021.
“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.
In his view, the report of the Office of the Special Prosecutor could have been balanced.
“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 complained.
Parliament, last year, 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 income 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, a damning report about the transaction by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, prompted its withdrawal from Parliament.
Parts of the OSP’s report said the Transaction Advisor(s) involved in the deal were susceptible to “nepotism, cronyism and favouritism”.
Additionally, Mr Amidu said in the 67-page report that the deal lacked “probity, accountability and transparency” in some aspects.
“All the parties to the Mandate Agreement are deemed to have known the law but ignored it with impunity in signing and implementing the Mandate Agreement, which is null and void ab initio as violating the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) and the Public Procurement Authority Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) as amended”.
“This conduct, which appears to have been in furtherance of the suspected bid-rigging, in the assessment of this Office, severely lowered the risk of corruption, and rendered them a low-risk enterprise in the Agyapa Royalties Transactions process and their approval”.
“It is with these new lenses that the analysis of the risk of corruption, and anti-corruption assessments of the legality of the engagement of the other services providers and underwriters on the recommendations of the Transaction Advisors acting as the Ministry of Finance’s procurement entity tender committee contrary to Part VI of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) as amended, and Sections 7 and 25 of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) afore-quoted were made”, portions of the report said.
It continued: “It was further analysed and assessed that the Transaction Advisor(s) nonetheless, went ahead to identify and recommend services providers and underwriters to the Ministry of Finance for appointment by the Republic of Ghana”.
“The Ministry acted contrary to the Public Procurement Authority Act and the Public Financial Management Act in delegating the power to appoint services providers and/or other underwriters to the unlawfully appointed Transaction Advisor(s)”.
“The Transaction Advisor(s), whose selection and appointment by the Ministry of Finance did not measure up favourably to the analysis of the risk of corruption and anti-corruption assessment that meets the fundamentals of probity, transparency and accountability was/were potentially susceptible to undue influence, favouritism, cronyism, nepotism, and all forms of discrimination abhorred under the 1992 Constitution leading to the suspected packing of the services provider and underwriters position with entities not chosen on merit.”
During his State of the Nation Address on 9 March 2020, however, President Nana Akufo-Addo said: “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”.
Answering questions about why the President was intent on taking the deal back to parliament, Mr Ofori-Atta told the Appointments Committee: “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”, he noted.
He added: “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.