Friday, 15 October 2021

Agyapa Royalties deal still on government's table for consideration - Ofori-At

 



Adnan Adams Mohammed

The Finance Minister, after long silence on the faith of the Agyapa Minerals Royalties agreement, has hinted it is still on government's table for consideration to be resent to Parliament.

The minister noted that, the most controversial and embattled Agyapa deal, has been reviewed and ready to be sent to Parliament for second consideration. He assured that all issues raised by stakeholders about the proposed deal have been addressed.

“The Attorney General has looked at it. We had a few stakeholder meetings and I think the new board should be energised to review that and go through the parliamentary process", Ken Ofori-Atta, said when he inaugurated the nine-member board of the Mineral Income Investment Fund in Accra, last week. "I’m unequivocal that it is the way to go in terms of monetising our minerals and finding a way to leverage mining.”

“You must continue with the work that has been done following the theme of the budget ‘Continuity, Consolidation and Completion’ and address and overcome all the concerns against the Agyapa transaction, so we can go to the market and create the first mineral royalty company in Ghana and in Africa because it is good for Ghana”, he charged the new Board.

He also assured the people of Ghana that the Agyapa transaction to monetize some of Ghana’s gold royalties was done in the national interest and in accordance with the laws of the land.

Board Chair of the 9-member board of the Minerals Income and Investment Fund is Prof Douglas Boateng.

Other members of the new board include: Felicia Nana A. Dapaah Gyamfi Ashley, Prof Akosua Apea Osafo, Edward Nana Yaw Koranteng, George Mireku Duker, Kow Abaka Essuman Esq, Associate Prof Grace Ofori Sarpong, Rev Ammishaddai A Owusu-Amoah, Dr Maxwell Opoku Afari.

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 government then, through the Minerals Income Investments Fund (MIIF), set up Agyapa Royalties Ltd to monetize Ghana’s gold royalties. This was after Parliament approved the Agyapa Mineral Royalty Ltd agreement in the name of the Government of Ghana on 14 August 2020 despite a walkout by Minority members of the House.

In exchange, the company plans to raise between US$500 million and roughly $1 billion for the government on the Ghana and London Stock Exchanges to invest in development projects. However, the deal has become a subject of hot debate after concerns expressed first by the opposition National Democratic Congress, leading up to the December 2020 general election.

However, 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 being opaque, potentially corrupt and undervalued.

They insisted that the deal must be suspended to allow for greater stakeholder involvement, according to some of the dissenting voices. However, the government has insisted that the deal is in Ghana’s best interests.

Furtherance to this, in December 2020, Transparency International urged the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to make detailed inquiries into the government of Ghana’s application to list Agyapa Royalties Limited on the London Stock Exchange and to reject the listing if corruption concerns were not satisfactorily addressed.

The banks and lawyers involved in the deal were also urged to withdraw their engagement.

Agyapa Royalties Limited is a Jersey-based special purpose vehicle that would own almost 76 per cent of the royalties generated from 16 large gold mines in Ghana under a scheme that has caused controversy and political fallout in Ghana.

Forty-nine per cent of shares in Agyapa Royalties are to be sold through a listing on the London Stock Exchange.

Following the controversies over the Agyapa deal, the Special Prosecutor at the time, Mr Martin Amidu, raised red flags over the risk of money laundering in the deal and possible bid-rigging in the contracting of advisors.

Mr Amidu shared his report publicly in November, which gave further impetus to the advocacy for a review of the Agyapa Royalties deal.

In a submission to the FCA – and forwarded to J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch International and law firm White and Case – Transparency International detailed concerns shared by a coalition of almost 30 Ghanaian and international civil society organisations that the deal smacks of corruption.

Linda Ofori-Kwafo, Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, the Ghana chapter of Transparency International, said at the time: “There are serious red flags in how this deal was set up. Concerns have been raised by civil society actors around inadequate stakeholder consultation, transparency and the valuation of the deal. Other concerns bother on the way transaction advisors became involved in the process and a lack of public oversight over the company at the heart of the deal. It is crucial for Ghana that the western financial institutions and regulators involved in this deal take these concerns seriously. They must not facilitate schemes that may end up plundering Ghana’s mineral resources in the name of investment.”

The president then 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.

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