Agyapa deal: There was no conflict of interest with Databank’s involvement - Ken Ofori-Atta

The Minister for Finance designate, Ken Ofori-Atta has opined that the release of the corruption and anti-corruption risk assessment report of the Agyapa transaction by former Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu without discussing it with him was not right.

 Ken Ofori-Atta

Pulse Ghana

Appearing before Parliament’s Appointments Committee to be vetted on Thursday, March 25, 2021, the former Finance Minister, who has been nominated for the same portfolio by President Nana Akufo-Addo, said:

“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”.

Mr. Ofori-Atta, who is also a co-founder of Databank, has said there was no conflict of interest as far as the investment and brokerage firm’s involvement in the controversial Agyapa deal was concerned.

Defending Databank’s involvement in the deal, which he said was clean and without any influence of his, Mr Ofori-Atta told Parliament’s Appointments Committee that: “In my situation, I truly do not engage in these procurements and transactions, as we think broadly on the economic freedom space for people, our international relationship to make sure that we get the best people. So, I can give you my commitment. Certainly, I’ve not been on the boards of Databank since 2014, 2012, I’ve retired from that. I think we built two great companies”.

In his view, the attractiveness of Databank is what has earned it places in government’s financial transactions for the past 14 years.

“I know that in my capacity as a public service official, who has been a director but co-owner of that company, I was not part of any decision-making with regard to that”.

“But I think we should be having, truly, a broader discussion about Ghanaian enterprise and, therefore, how independent and experienced entrepreneurs can join government at any point in time”, he proposed.

Demonstrating how meriting Databank was to have been landing such roles, he said: “So, here is a company that is 30 years old, that started by borrowing $25,000, that started – I guess Kantamanto is a place you’ll not think an investment bank can start – but this the resource the Ghanaian entrepreneur had to start that”.

“After 30 years, with 500,000 accounts of Ghanaians, a billion cedis under management, offices around the country, having participated in every Eurobond transaction since we started in 2007, are we truly saying that in the event of anybody becoming an Attorney General, you can’t use your other offices, in the event of being a Finance Minister, I think these are fundamental questions and, therefore, if the rules are clear on what you’re talking about, I don’t think we should encourage such cynicism because it just goes to poison the environment and then we lose”, he noted.

“I don’t think there was any conflict of interest; straight away, because I was not part of the decision. I think the first-class nature of that institution speaks for itself and the Ghanaian entrepreneurial ingenuity that has brought it this far, must be praised and we should be encouraging our companies to grow so that we can begin to do the Eurobonds ourselves”, Mr Ofori-Atta told the committee.

He also expressed qualms with former Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu for publishing a demining corruption and anti-corruption risk assessment of the Agyapa deal without adding his input.

“The fundamental flaw in the approach that the OSP took with regard to whether he gave us a chance to respond or not and I think that should be of keen interest to this house as just a rule of law. And, so, to then go on to accept, acknowledge a document in which your citizens were not able to give their views on, I think it’s something that we should not encourage,” he complained.

“I do not feel that we broke any rule. I think the AG will be able to give you a firm assessment of that”, insisting: “I think such conjectures are inimical to growth and it does not help the kind of freedom, policy orientation and innovation that we require for this country to grow," he added.

He said attempts to find outside-the-box ways of leveraging Ghana’s natural resources must not be impugned the way the Agyapa deal was.

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