US Securities and Exchange Commission acts on Minority’s petition over GHȻ2.25 bn bond

Ken Ofori-Atta

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has appointed a case manager for the petition filed by the Minority over government’s recent $2.25 billion bond issue.

Minority Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, who filed the petition tells Joy News the case manager Jennifer Carr, has promised to deal with the matter expeditiously.

“We have just received another communication from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. They have informed us that they have appointed a case manager who is going to be communicating with us on this matter and pursuing the investigations further,” said Okudzeto-Ablakwa.

The Minority in Parliament have not rested since the bonds issue in April, claiming that Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, breached conflict of interest rules when 95% of the bonds were purchased by Franklin Templeton, a US-based investment firm.

The Minority MPs claim that the United States-based firm is closely associated with the Minister because it is also a major shareholder of an insurance firm, Enterprise Group, a company closely aligned with the private interests of Ken Ofori-Atta.

The National Democratic Congress MPs say one Trevor Trefgarne who was on the Board of Franklin Templeton influenced the direction of the bond issuance because of his connection with Mr Ofori-Atta.

Mr Trefgarne is the Board Chairman of the Enterprise Group where Mr Ofori-Atta was once a director.

The Minority subsequently petitioned the US Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate the matter.

“We have been in touch with the case manager who expressed her commitment to ensure that all the concerns we have are duly investigated. I can also confirm to you that the case manager says she will be seeking some further clarification from Ghana and from our end on a number of issues we have raised,” Okudzeto-Ablakwa told Joy News Wednesday.

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The move by the SEC is seen a major first step in the Minority’s quest to get answers about the controversial bond.

If the case manager finds the Minority’s concerns credible, she may compel Franklin Templeton and other witnesses to testify and produce books, records, and other relevant documents on the bonds issue.

The SEC may file a case in the US federal court or bring an administrative action if adverse findings are established after a review of the investigative report on the matter.

Unsatisfactory explanation

Parliament on Wednesday heard the Finance Minister on the concerns raised by the Minority MPs.

The Finance Minster said he “had no direct dealings with investors” in the process of issuing the bond.

“All prospective bidders bid through their primary dealers, who in turn submitted the investor’s bids through the Central Securities Depository platform. The joint transaction advisers then collate these bids to build up a book on which the bonds are issued.

“At no time during the book building process did the Ministry of Finance negotiate with any investor in any way, and it will indeed be quite difficult to manipulate the process when the three financial institutions are governed strictly by the Bank of Ghana’s rules and regulations,” he told the MPs.

He said there were no breaches of integrity “either on government’s part or on the joint book runner’s part”.

However, the NDC MPs say the explanations given by the Minister were unsatisfactory.

“We wanted full documentation on the participants and currency…but the Minister chose to provide his own questions,” said James Avedzi, Deputy Minority Leader.

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“These are not bonds bought by individuals but rather bought by investment companies,” he said, adding the Minority is interested in knowing the companies that participated in the bond.

Source: | Ghana