More details continue to emerge about the controversial Agyapa Royalties Limited deal, revealing a deep-seated greed on the part of some of the promoters who are family member of the President, Nana Akufo-Addo.
They, include Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, who is accused of using their proximity to power, their knowledge of the government deals to award various aspects of the transaction to their private companies, instead of announcing the existence of the job and opening it up for competitive bidding process.
Databank, is one of the companies owned by the Finance Minister. Ghanaians were last Friday, shocked to hear that Databank Financial Services, was also engaged by the Finance Ministry to be part of the Agyapa transactions.
But this is not the first time that Ken Ofori-Atta’s companies; Databank Financial Services and Enterprise Insurance Company Limited under the Enterprise Group are also mentioned as competing for state jobs with companies with similar expertise, but more often than not, the jobs end up with the Minister’s companies.
Enterprise Insurance was mentioned in the botched PDS transaction to have been in a conflict with the Donewell Insurance Company Limited (DICL) and Alkoot, over insurance policy in the management of ECG, leading to the collapse of the concession agreement.
Another member of the Akufo-Addo family, Gabby Asare Octhere-Darko, is also described as one of the brains behind the Agyapa deal.
Gabby’s law firm, Africa Legal Associates, has done some legal work on the transaction and got paid a juicy US$103,000, according to veteran journalist, Kweku Baako of the New Crusading Guide newspaper.
But it is not yet clear, how much the Finance Minister’s Databank, was paid by the Finance Ministry, which he leads from the US$2 million cash on the table to have the deal packaged.
The Ranking Member of the Finance Committee of Parliament, Cassiel Ato Forson on hearing of the involvement of Databank took to twitter and expressed shock at Mr Ofori-Atta saying; “Finally, the Finance Minister has admitted that Databank is one of the transaction advisors on this dubious Agyapa deal! This is very revealing. May God Save Ghana!
Speaking to Kwame Sefa Kayi of Peace FM on Friday, September 4, 2020, the Finance Minister, admitted conflict of interest when he confirmed that his private company Databank, was one of the transaction advisers on the transaction, saying his company has over 30 years of experience in the area of investment banking.
He insisted that every major transaction which has built the stock market has had something to do with the Databank, including Ashanti Goldfield among others, adding it has nothing to do with him serving as Finance Minister, because with or without him, Databank would have won the deal.
Databank, he claims currently manages over US$3 billion assets and running a budget of GHC90 billion annually.
When the issue of conflict of interest was put to him directly with respect of his company’s involvement in the transaction, Mr Ofori-Atta, questioned whether his company was being asked to cease being in business in the country, because he had become a minister of state?
To him, denying his company government jobs will amount to collapsing companies on the altar of Politics, when the records show the extent of work Databank has done.
He insisted that he had declared his interest in the company, therefore,does not sit on the committees where such transactions are awarded to the company.
He rather asked Kwame Sefa Kayi to be rest assured, because they at the Finance Ministry are always mindful of fairness in all they, adding there are various transactions that go on the ministry.
He said that going by the same conflict of interest claim, he could not have become Finance Minister because his blood relative is President Akufo-Addo, despite his 40 years’ experience.
He demanded that sometimes such claims must be measured against years, skills and experience.
In the insurance industry, concerns have variously been raised by other companies that they have been losing insurance jobs in state institutions to Enterprise Insurance, which the Finance Minister co-owns with others and has his wife; Angela Ofori-Atta as a director with his friend Keli Gadzekpo as CEO.
Not long ago, a list of four companies went around state institutions asking them to do their motor insurance policies with Enterprise Insurance, Star Insurance and some others only. This did not go well with industry players.
The Herald last Friday reported on Joshua Siaw, a partner in White & Case, who doubles as the Director of the firm’s Africa Practice, has variously been mentioned as a good friend of Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko, through whom, many Ghana government legal deals, have landed in the conference room of the UK firm, mostly without competitive bidding and without value for money analysis.
Indeed, many have asked why, a state institution bypassed competent law firms here in Ghana, to handover legal jobs to foreigners; White and Case, who might be found wanting in the appreciation and application of Ghanaian laws.
But behind this arrangement, is a grimy conflict of interest situation with these legal jobs ending up on the desk of Africa Legal Associates, a law firm owned by Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, and his wife, Lawyer Nana Adwoa Hackman.
The Herald, has picked up signals that, Joshua Siaw, is beginning to feel uncomfortable about the negative publicity and claims of corruption White & Case is getting associated with in the Ghanaian media.
Sources close to Mr Siaw, who The Herald spoke to, said he was afraid that sooner than later, the UK authorities might be breathing heavily on the respected law firm per that countries highly ethical standards governing the legal profession and practice.
Joshua Siaw, who has been knighted by the Queen of England, as a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), is agitated there could be severe sanctions.
His friend, Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, has on various media platforms, boasted about his Accra-based law firm’s partnership with White & Case, revealing how the two law firms, have been working for lots of state institutions in Ghana.
He told The Herald in his office on July 27, 2020, that his Africa Legal Associates’ involvement in Agyapa Royalties, which had just changed its name from Asaase Royalties Limited, is as a result of the partnership with White and Case.
He was, however, angry when questioned about how his partners won the legal job and subcontracted to his law firm.
In the presence of one of his partners; Nii Odotei, Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko, later claimed, his firm had been paid less than US$100,000, for the time his law firm and Ace Ankomah’s law firm, Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa &Ankomah, had put into the transaction, including long hours of meetings and telephone calls.
Gabby, told The Herald, that the two Ghanaian law firms, were subcontracted by the UK-based law firm; White & Case, in the transaction, leading to the creation of the offshore company, Asaase Royalties Limited, which was later changed to Agyapa, following initial concerns from his law firm about the clash in name with his radio station; Asaase Radio based in Accra.
The name Asaase, was also prominent at the Registrar Generals’ department with companies into mining in the database. This he said, might conflict, hence the name change was suggested.
Parliament on August 14, approved the controversial Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited agreement with the government of Ghana, despite a walkout by the Minority. Agyapa Royalties is to receive and manage Ghana’s equity interests in mining companies, as well as royalties per the Minerals Income Investment Fund Act 2018, but the issue lacks transparency, suffered procurement infractions and lacked values for money analysis.
Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko, a cousin of both President Akufo-Addo and Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, had publicly admitted working on the deal, as well as Ace Ankomah’s law firm, which was involved in the botched PDS transaction in which Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) was to be privatized.
The Herald’s findings were that, aside the Agyapa deal, Joshua Siaw, a partner at White & Case in 2017, used his friendship with Mr Otchere-Darko, to advise the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) on a landmark liquefied natural gas (LNG) regasification project located in Tema, Ghana.
Coincidentally, Mr Asare-Otchere Darko’s wife, Nana Adwoa Hackman, is a board member of the GNPC and a co-partner of the Africa Legal Associates.
One Narinder Surae, who works with White & Case’s office in Johannesburg in South Africa, is part of Gabby’s law firm as an International Transactions’ Advisor.
Narinder boast of joining Africa Legal Associate in 2018 as International Transaction Advisor and has worked on major international transactions, including the multi-billion-dollar LNG transaction involving GNPC and, first Gazprom, and later, Rosneft, both of Russia.