Why Databank must be withdrawn as Transactions Advisor to the Ministry of Finance

On 26th March 2018, the government raised GH¢1.58 billion by issuing a three-year bond at a coupon rate of 16.5%.

Contained in the issuance summary that was sent to investors was the list of institutions selected as Joint Book runners and Deal-Team for the Government of Ghana and the Bank of Ghana.

Surprisingly, among the institutions in that list was *Databank* , which has apparently replaced Strategic African Securities (SAS) as a book runner.

It is disgusting to note that Databank, which is the baby of the current Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, is now a book runner at the Bank of Ghana (BoG).

This technically makes Databank Transactions Advisor to the Ministry of Finance for the issuance of bonds and government securities on behalf of Government of Ghana.

It is instructive to note that the presence of Databank in the Transactions Advisor team puts up the Minister for Finance in a potential conflict of interest situation.

In the past, Barclays Bank Ghana, Standard Chartered Bank Ghana and SAS used to be the book runners. It is, therefore, interesting how SAS got removed from the list and replaced by Databank, given the relationship between the Finance Minister and Databank.

This must be of concern to industry watchers, especially given the things that unfolded at the Ministry of Finance with regards to public bond issuance since the assumption into office of Mr Ofori-Atta.
It is also quiet intriguing that at a time Unibank Ghana Limited is allegedly being slowly poisoned for some strange reasons, Databank is being propped up and nourished for growth.

Further, the combination of Fidelity Bank and Databank as book runners looks a bit lethal, given their association to recent events regarding bonds.

One can easily recall that Fidelity Bank was a Transactions Advisor in the recently issued _Energy Bond,_ which was largely a failure. That bond issuance yielded only GH¢1.2billion cash and a debt swap of GH¢3.5 billion.

What this effectively meant was that, after the Transaction Advisors failed to raise the needed funds, they just exchanged loan papers with bond papers. But surprisingly yet expectantly, the state spent GH¢177 million for this funny transaction.

Also, the *CHRAJ* report on the $2.25 billion bond reveals that even ahead of the BoG issuance instructions, selected investors had prior information on the transaction. This is a huge indictment on the book runners, which included Fidelity Bank.

It is again curious to note that Stanbic Bank Ghana Limited were the custodians of the controversial Franklin Templeton (FT), which ended up as the biggest beneficiary of the deal.

This trend paints a picture and leads one to conclude that institutions that are able to play ball are being conglomerated by the Ministry of Finance, headed by Mr Ofori-Atta, to pass the ball around, all in the benefit of individuals, not the state. It lends credence to growing disquiet in the financial sector that family and friends is having a better part of government-related businesses, not track record, competence and clout.

As a citizen and a representative of the people of Bolgatanga Central, I am still trying to understand what exactly the Mr Ofori-Atta seeks to achieve by drawing family and friends into the financial sector of Ghana.

Beyond serving his personal interest by giving him a greater grip on power and resources, this nepotism looks glaringly dangerous for the economy. As far as I am concerned, it is risky, uneconomical and a reckless adventure that is being woven to serve an individual, not the national interest.
This calls for the attention and anguish of all well-meaning Ghanaians to help disarm this empire and create a level playing field for all businesses and entrepreneurs rather than a privilege few that are related to the Finance Minister either by family or interest.

Lest we forget, sitting on the Board of the Bank of Ghana, which regulates the financial sector, is a former senior partner at Databank (Mr. Keli Gadzekpo) and close pal of Mr Ofori-Atta.

Sign
Hon Isaac Adongo,
MP, Bolgatanga Central.

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