Ghana’s Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, has been given a week to furnish the country’s parliament with details on the 2.2 5 billion dollar bond issued by the government in April. He is required to provide the House with the full complement of documentation related to the issuance of the bond, the participants, the utilization of the proceeds, and the currency in which the bond was settled. Controversy Government announced on April 3 that it has successfully issued 15 and 7-year bonds with the same coupon rate of 19.75%, raising a total amount of 1.13 billion dollars, and another 1.12 billion (cedi equivalent) in five and 10-year bonds via a tap arrangement. The minority Members of Parliament subsequently raised red flag over the issuance of the bond citing lack of transparency, conflict of interest and lack of borrowing without parliamentary approval as the basis.
The Ministry of Finance on hit back at the minority in a statement issued to debunk the claims by their MPs, describing those as “baseless” and designed to …” designed to malign and negate the positive news and rave reviews this landmark transaction has garnered, both locally and internationally”. It took the view that the bond as issued was indeed a local one which ought not be given a parliamentary approval. “Too simplistic” argument But the Head of the Finance Department at the University of Cape Coast, Dr John Gatsi argued the explanation by the Finance Ministry, is “too simplistic”, and requested that the Ministry takes time to especially “deal with the matter relating to conflict of interest” raised by the minority MPs. “The Securities and Exchange Commission should as a matter of public interest and securing the image of the government of Ghana and the Ministry of Finance should investigate the matter broadly and with dispatch,” Dr Gatsi said.
Commenting on the issue in an article titled: “What is external borrowing in the context of the issuance of the 2.25 billion euro bond and Ghana’s Public Borrowing Guidelines,” he argued the said bond cannot be said to be a local bond but rather external borrowing. Parliament’s summon The ultimatum, issued Wednesday by the Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Mike Ocquaye, followed a ‘half-hour motion’ moved by the minority in Parliament led by its leader, Haruna Iddrisu, 3FM’s correspondent Mercydarlyn Lokko reported. Our correspondent indicated the ‘half-hour motion’ is the first of its kind to be moved in the country’s parliament. Majority leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, who seconded the motion, said it would bring clarity and finality to the bond which many Ghanaians have questioned raising issues of conflict of interest among other issues. The Speaker in granting the motion said the House “demands that the minister of finance provides detailed information on the recent 2.25 billion dollar bond.”
Describing the ‘half-hour motion as rare, Prof. Ocquay explained it has not been applied in Ghana’s parliament before, noting granting it would broaden the horizon of Ghana’s democracy. “It must be made clear that it is not a substitute for statement…it is not a substitute for asking questions of ministers; whether regular questions or urgent questions. It is applied with circumspection,” the Speaker explained He added: “It is like an application for disclosure in a court of law where you ask for certain things including documents to be provided for you as pertinent to the case in question and you’ll wait for that before you make further comments”