The Minister for Justice and Attorney General-designate, Godfred Yeboah Dame, has told the Appointment Committee of Parliament that every step taken by the government, regarding the Agyapa Royalty deal, was in the best interest of the state and not any individual.
He also insisted that the former Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin Amidu, did not interview the former Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, and one of his deputies, Charles Adu Boahen, who was working on the transaction, before releasing his damming ‘Risk of Corruption Assessment’ Report.
Mr Godfred Dame, who apparently anticipated an avalanche of questions regarding the deal since he was Deputy Attorney General then and, therefore, prepared himself well for the day argued that Mr Amidu did not conduct a criminal probe into the deal. According to him, what he did was Risk of Corruption Assessment, contending that his (Martin) opinion on the whole deal has no legal consequences, especially when he also failed to follow the rule of natural justice by contacting those he accused in his report.
With the Minority side, led by Haruna Iddrisu, a lawyer, asking more lawyerly questions, the Minister-designate further told the Appointments Committee last week Friday that Mr Ofori-Atta committed no offence when his Deputy, Adu Boahen, signed the deal for and on behalf of the government, instead of the substantive Minister.
“The capacity to execute a financial agreement has been indicated in the Public Financial Management Act. In there, you find that, Mr. Chairman, the capacity is given to the Minister for Finance or any person that the Minister for Finance may authorise.
“In the light of this, it becomes quite clear that the Deputy Minister for Finance, if he was authorised by the Minister for Finance, has [the] full capacity to enter into the agreement,” the young Minister-designate contended.
The Minister, who was grilled as though he was under cross-examination in a regular court, again disagreed with another key finding in Mr Amidu’s report, which was persistently referred to by Mr Haruna Iddrisu and his group.
That the transaction between the lead transactional advisor, Imara, and Databank, the local partner, was an international one and ought to have, therefore, be approved by Parliament.
“I will submit finally that to the extent that Parliament had considered and approved the substantive agreement itself, the primary agreement being the Minerals Royalties Agreement, other agreements like the approval of a transaction advisor ought not to have come before this honourable House for approval,” he said.
Imara and its local partner, Databank, stood to earn a percentage of the amount raised for the listing as success fee, capped at $4million to be shared between the two.
Imara is on a $15,000 monthly retainer, which the contract states will be deducted from the success fee at the end of the IPO. Databank’s partnership deal with Imara excluded the Ghanaian entity from the monthly retainer, and billed to be paid at the end of the floatation in success fee.
Mr Godfred Dame drew members of the Appointment Committee’s attention to the fact that on a regular annual basis, the transaction advisors involved in Eurobond issuance or facilitators of loan agreements ordinarily get paid a percentage of the total amount, which can easily be more than the $4million involved here, and yet it is accepted as not at all necessary to present such incidentals deals to Parliament.
Mr Dame also punched down the accusation of conflict of interest charge against the Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, because he is also a Director of Databank, one of the local transactional advisors. To him, Databank has, for the past thirty years, worked with all governments on merits.
In 2018, Parliament passed the Minerals Income Investment Fund Act 2018, which establishes the fund to manage the equity interests of Ghana in mining companies, and receive royalties on behalf of the government.
The purpose of the fund is to manage and invest these royalties and revenue from equities for higher returns for the benefit of the country.
The then government, through the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF), set up Agyapa Royalties Limited to monetise Ghana’s gold royalties. This was after Parliament, on August 14, 2020, approved the Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited agreement with the government of Ghana, despite a walkout by the Minority.
In exchange, the company plans to raise between $500 million and up to about $1 billion for the government on the Ghana and London Stock Exchanges to invest in developmental projects.
The deal, however, has become a topical issue, following concerns first by the opposition National Democratic Congress,in the run up to the December 2020 general elections.
On August 14, 2020, a few days after approving an amendment to the MIIF Act, the Minority walked out during the approval process of the very transaction agreements the facilitation of which the amendment to the Fund’s statute was amended.
Civil society groups quickly added their voices to the opposition, describing the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), being created then, Agyapa Royalties of Jersey, as not being transparent, potentially corrupt, undervalued and that must be suspended for greater stakeholder involvement, according to some of the dissenting voice.
The government has, however, insisted that the deal is in the best interest of the country.
The President, last year, directed the Finance Minister and Attorney General to review the transaction agreements and make the necessary adjustment to address some of the concerns raised by stakeholders, where appropriate.