The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, yesterday defended the $2.25-billion bond issued by the government, saying the process had been transparent and that all the rules governing the issuance of government bonds were complied with.
He denied the allegation of conflict of interest involving him and Franklin Templeton Investments in the bonds issue process.
Mr Ofori-Atta was responding to a half-hour motion moved by the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, last week Wednesday for him to provide the full complement of documentation related to the issuance, the participants, the utilisation of the proceeds and the currency in which the bonds were settled.
The Finance Minister submitted some documents related to the bonds to Parliament.
Bonds in cedis
Mr Ofori-Atta said on April 3, 2017, the government issued two new bonds and reopened two others.
He said all the bonds were domestic Ghana cedi bonds in the aggregate amount of GH¢97 billion and they were as such settled in cedis, saying “they were not US dollar-denominated bonds”.
He said the Ministry of Finance did not deviate from the rules in issuing the seven-year and the 15-year bonds and reopening the five-year and the 10-year bonds.
Franklin Templeton Investments
The Finance Minister said Franklin Templeton Investments, which bought the highest percentage, was not a person, as was being suggested, but the entity which owned the Templeton Global Bond Fund.
He said Franklin Templeton Investments was one of the world’s largest asset management groups, with over $850 billion in assets under management on behalf of more than 25 million private, professional and institutional investors as of September 30, 2014.
“In all my Wall Street years, I never had the opportunity to meet the founder, Rupert Harris Johnson Snr, who retired in 1957 and died in March 1989, aged 89,” he said.
The Finance Minister said as was the normal practice since the book bidding process began in 2015, the joint book runners announced the sale of the bonds as per the second quarter issuance calendar.
Subsequently, he said, primary dealers, who were mostly banks, mobilised interested foreign and local investors to participate in the sale.
“At no point during the book build process does the Ministry of Finance directly negotiate with any investor in any way. Let me assure you that it will, indeed, be quite difficult to manipulate the process when there are three financial institutions, of which two are international banks governed by strict Bank of Ghana rules and regulations,” he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta said the issuance of the bonds was part of the new debt management strategy of re-profiling the domestic debt by refinancing a greater proportion of shorter-dated debt instruments with longer-dated instruments.
Therefore, he said, the government expected commendation from Ghanaians for taking bold steps and not condemnation.
Minority wants more documents
But the Minority expressed dissatisfaction with the presentation, insisting that the Minister of Finance did not provide the full complement of documentation related to the bonds.
Leading the argument, Mr Iddrisu said the minister failed to provide documents on the date of issuance, the participants and utilisation of the proceeds.
He said due process was not followed in the issuance of the bonds, saying “there are more unanswered questions”.
The Minority Leader said the Minister of Finance was supposed to provide the full facts on how the bonds were issued but he rather chose to make a general statement on how bonds were issued.
The Majority lauded the bonds as a best bet for Ghana, as they had earned the country the biggest amount to be secured in a day in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the market considered the brighter prospects of the bonds, hence the positive response that they attracted.
He said the strategy behind the bonds issue was crucial, as it would not add any debt to the country’s debt portfolio.