Is The Learned Lawyer Kwame Akuffo Still The Counsel For MenzGold? How Professionals Have Aided Misbehaviour In Ghana
At the Independence Declaration in 1957, Kwame Nkrumah said that Ghana is “free forever”. We may be free from the visible hands of colonial power but not the invisible and unethical hands of professionals. From scandal to scandal, Ghana has suffered at the hands of professionals, be it Accountants, Lawyers, Surveyors, Auctioneers, Auditors, Policemen, and Economists beside others. The recent bank crisis and the Menzgold issues underpin this concern. This brief article highlights how professionals have contributed to misbehaviours in Ghana.
Misbehaviour can be thought of as the opposite of ‘behaviour’, which is the range of actions and mannerisms made by individuals, organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with themselves or their environment  , which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the (inanimate) physical environment.
It is the response of the system or organism to various stimuli or inputs, whether internal or external, conscious or subconscious, overt or covert, and voluntary or involuntary  . Misbehaviour is synonymous to bad behaviour, misconduct, and disorderly conduct.
Irresponsive and rent-seeking institutions and personal of public institutions have encourage misbehaviour among citizens. It is no news that bribery and corruption are the bed fellows of the Ghana Police Service. The Lands Commission is arguably one of the most corrupt public institutions in Ghana. The leadership and members of the Commission are Chartered Surveyors who are members of the Ghana Institution of Surveyors.
This is a fact but does not suggest that these leaders are corrupt or have been caught in any corrupt act. They however preside over an institution that is known to be rent-seeking and corrupt, one of the reasons for the many challenges in the lands sector.
The inflation of property values to enable borrowers obtain bigger loans is common among the Surveying professionals. The alleged inflation of the Chancery building (for an embassy) in Norway are all examples of this problem. A building that was sold for US$3 million in 2017 commanded an excessive open market value of about US$12 million in 2018.
These are untouchable issues but the constantly emerge in private discussions. A value for money audit shows that the new Headquarters of the Lands Commission, which was awarded in 2016, was overpriced by about 18 million dollars. It follows a directive by the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, for a review of the Bill of Quantities and other relevant documents relating to the proposed Head Office Building.
Accountants, Auditors and the big four accounting firms – Ernst and Young, KPMG, PriceWater Coopers, and Deloitte were figured for negligence and the certification of financial statements that did not reflect the true positions of companies. Thus, aiding companies to misinform the public and investors about the true performance and health of many companies. These groups of professionals cannot be absolved of wrong doing in the case of the current bank crisis in Ghana. Auditors and Accountants have been blamed by analysts and regulators for the collapse of uniBank, Sovereign, Construction, Beige, Royal, UT and Capital banks, an issue the Institute of Chartered Accountants (Ghana) is investigating.
The recent Menzgold ponzi-scheme issues has also brought to light how Lawyers could be instrumental in misinforming the public and investors about the legality of a business. The Learned Lawyer Kwame Akuffo in particular has been instrumental in this regard. As Counsel for Menzgold, he has on countless occasions as reported in the media challenged the regulators – Bank of Ghana and the Securities and Exchanges Commission - about the legality of Menzgolds trade in collectibles. As a lawyer of reputable standing, perhaps, one of Ghana’s finest legal luminaries, his professional position on the matter provided customers of Menzgold and potential investors an impetus to continue investing. It was even the case that some customers accused the Government of using the Bank of Ghana to witch-haunt Menzgold based on the perceived ‘faulty’ legal interpretations of the learned Lawyer.
It has eventually turned out that Menzgold’s trade in collectibles is a Ponzi scheme. In that case, the promoters of the business including legal advisors may be culpable of deceiving the public. Even if it is not a Ponzi scheme and there is a lacuna which could lead to some regulatory arbitrage, one wonders which calibre of lawyer will advise a client to operate a business on such a scale without a license! I listened with surprise any time the learned Lawyer defended the illegal status of Menzgold’s trade in collectibles on the basis on some perceived regulatory arbitrage. As ‘notaries’, lawyers play a key role in any economy. One wonders whether his legal position could not be interpreted as negligence? This raises interesting questions about what motivates professionals to accept jobs from companies. Pecuniary incentives could be a cause as was in a crucial reason for the relaxation of professional standards in the case of the 2007 Global financial crisis.
Don’t lawyers owe the public a duty of care? Increasingly, his affiliation to Menzgold is a been interpreted as a big endorsement for illegality and anarchy, an example that must be discouraged. Professionals must understand that there are so many people out there who admire them and follow and implement their opinions on public issues religiously. Therefore, they owe the public a duty of care, at least morally if not legal, to ensure that the right information is put out for public consumption. There is no doubt the existence of great legal minds in Ghana - the current President and the likes of Ace Ankomah, Asante Bediatuo, Ayikwei Otu, Kwame Akuffo, Kpebu, Philip Addison, etc. However, many lawyers in recent times have bemoaned how legal training in Ghana is constantly churning out relatively sub-standard lawyers compared to the lawyers of old. Is the legal profession therefore becoming a ‘market for lemons  ’? I leave this question here for further discussion later.
As a student of Information Economics, I have learnt that information in itself has little value. The ownership of information, medium of dissemination and affiliates influence the value people place on the information. That is why professional opinion is held in high esteem. It is believed that these professionals have undergone the necessary and sufficient training to provide better advice than the untrained mind. To the extent that many customers of Menzgold believed the legal opinion of Lawyer Kwame Akuffo over the advice of the regulators, the learned Lawyer faced a greater responsibility to be right. However, history has taught us that professional certification although necessary is insufficient for quality detection in all cases. Low levels of professional development in Ghana thus has negative implications for quality detection. Perhaps, a reason for the increasing role of professionals in financial and investment misbehaviour in the country. There is a need to rescue the public from these professional misbehaviours.
By: Kenneth Donkor-Hyiaman, PhD.
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 A market where the quality of goods traded in a market can degrade in the presence of information asymmetry between buyers and sellers, leaving only "lemons" behind. In American slang, a lemon is a car that is found to be defective only after it has been bought.
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