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General News of Monday, 31 August 2020

Source: theheraldghana.com

Family and friends confirmed in government's US$2 million Agyapa transaction

Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko, Kofi-Osafo-Maafo and Charles Adu Boahene (L-R) Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko, Kofi-Osafo-Maafo and Charles Adu Boahene (L-R)

The subject of Akufo-Addo government's processes towards the establishment of the offshore Agyapa Minerals Royalties Limited, to receive and manage Ghana's equity interests in mining companies, as well as royalties per the Minerals Income Investment Fund Act 2018, has gotten murkier with issue lack of transparency, procurement infractions and values for money analysis.

So far, a whopping US$2 million, has been expended on the process, but it is emerging that, it did not go through competitive tendering.

Indeed, some key persons deeply rooted in the transaction, including the Deputy Minister of Finance, Charles Adu Boahene and Gabby Otchere Darko, have openly admitted to insider information and headhunting of the consultants, companies among others.

Although, Mr Adu Boahene, said part of the deal was advertised in 2018, leading to the hiring of Accra-based together with the Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah, the UK-based law firm, White & Case, with whom Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko, had admitted to The Herald, as well as Asempa FM that he has a partnership with, through his private law firm, Africa Legal Associates, Bright Simons of IMANI Africa, disputed this, saying he and other civil society organizations, are yet to see any such advertisement on Agyapa.

But the most bizarre thing, is the explanation offered for recruitment of Kofi Osafo-Marfo, son of Senior Minister Yaw Osafo-Marfo, which was influenced largely based on the fact that he was a classmate of the Deputy Minister of Finance, saying he attended the same secondary school with him, sat in the same class with him, knew him well and could vouch for his brilliance, competence and expertise as CEO Agyapa.

Mr. Adu Boahene had used the explanation to dispel claims of nepotism and lack of merit in the recruitment of Kofi-Osafo-Maafo's services with reports that, his position was not advertised per the country's procurement laws.

However, his explanation has turned out to be a lie, as The Herald's probe revealed that, while Mr Osafo-Maafo, completed Achimota School in 1986, the Deputy Minister of Finance, left the same school a year later.

Mr Adu Boahene, left Achimota School in 1987, together with Koku Anyidoho, and Julius Debrah, therefore, could not have been a classmate of the Senior Minister's son. Other details were that, the Deputy Finance Minister, had left Achimota School to Mfantsipim School for his 6th Form.

The Deputy Minister was speaking on Joy FM's Newsfile on Saturday, in response to both the Member of Parliament (MP) Ajumako-Enyan-Esiam Constituency in the Central Region, Cassiel Ato Forson and Bright Simons on detail of the procurement processes towards the establishment of Agyapa Royalties, per the country's procurement laws.

In particular, Mr Ato Forson, insisted on knowing the involvement of Gabby's law firm, how much they were paid as legal fees, whether or not, there was competitive procurement process to derive value for money.

The Ranking Member of Finance Committee, disclosed that Mr Adu Boahene, had informed the Finance Committee of Parliament that US$2 million had been spent on the process, but failed to provide details as to what was paid to each of the consultants and companies, although specifics were demanded from him during the committee meeting.

The committee also demanded from the Deputy Finance Minister, the relationship between the consultants and the private companies, as well as public officials at the Ministry of Finance, who worked on the deal but again, Mr Adu-Boahene, could not provide.

On the issue of the Senior Minister's son; Kofi Osafo-Marfo's employment as CEO for Agyarpa, Mr Forson, insisted on knowing if government advertised the position with other Ghanaians offered the opportunity to take part in the selection process.

Among other things, the MP, who is on the ticket the National Democratic Congress (NDC), charged the government to make public the selection process it adopted in getting the prospective management team for Agyapa Royalties Limited, arguing that it was necessary because the method government adopted through the Finance Ministry is questionable.

IMANI's Bright Simons, had also on the issue of conflict of interest, noted that as a member of the 15 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) ,who have called for a suspension of the Agyapa deal, their investigations have given them cause to question for further explanations about the recruitment process.

According to him, they have made inquiries about the recruitment agency, but did not see any public advertisement leading to the choice of Mr Kofi Osafo-Marfo's role as CEO in Agyapa.

Mr Simon's disclosed that, the CSOs have even asked people who ordinarily would have been aware, but none of them have seen anything, suggesting there was a public advertisement in the database and this somehow suggest that the attempt to get Ghanaian talents for Agyapa job, was not as extensive as it should been.

"We have made inquires, we cannot see any public advertising for the role, obviously there should be a database. We have asked a lot of people that traditionally, will be approached and none of them were aware that this recruitment was going on. So that suggests that somehow the attempt to look for a Ghanaian to helm this entity, was not as extensive as possible," he said.

Mr Simons, further questioned why the Akufo-Addo administration, chose to establish a private market, instead of transacting business directly with existing royalty streaming companies.

"Did they do any analysis of transactions in the private market? And did those analyses suggest that if they had used that method, they would have made less money if they went directly to instead of using this route.And what was the outcome in terms of proceeds per annum ounce of gold in royalties in that analysis?" he quizzed.

But the Deputy Finance Minister, mounted a strong defence over the selection of Kofi Osafo Maafo, saying although he has been recruited as CEO of Agyapa Royalties Limited, he is currently only acting as a consultant on the transaction based on his expertise. He insisted that Mr Osafo-Marfo, is not paid for the services he is providing on the deal.

Mr Adu Boahen, insisted that the selection process was thorough and competitive, adding "It was just a mere coincidence that the person we selected is the son of a member of our party."

According to him, he and others who worked on the deal, had told the Job recruitment agency that, they wanted a Ghanaian as CEO. This, was after the agency had come up with 30 names for CEO, CFO and Board Members in 2018, after combing the globe for people with expertise in royalties companies either directly or indirectly.

Out of the 30 individuals, some six of them were Ghanaians who qualified for the job, however, it was easier to settle on Kofi Osafo-Marfo out of the six Ghanaians, because he was the only one who had expertise in the area of investment management, asset management person, equity analyst covering mining companies and energy companies. Mr Osafo-Marfo, also had expertise in gold royalty companies and understands the deal.

"So it was on that basis that he was listed and identified as a potential for the role. At that time he was working for SSNIT, which he still is. So we approached him and said look we want to get this transaction off the road. We need somebody to advice us, as to how to structure this, do you mind coming onboard as a consultant for now to help us, which he agreed to do, but by the way it's an unpaid consultancy role".

"I must say without his input, his wisdom and knowledge of gold royalty companies, we won't be where we are today. So, I think he deserves a lot of thanks. It is by sheer coincidence that he happens to be a son of a member of the party. That is by sheer coincidence. He also happens to be a classmate of mine from secondary school. So I was very comfortable with him, because I could vouch for his competence, his brilliance and expertise. So that we did not have a problem with at all".

He further disclosed that the transaction came about because he had received a call from the Vice-President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia one day, saying he had a company in his office and that they were offering to purchase Ghana's royalty streams.

The Vice-president directed him to evaluate the offer to see if it made sense and after a long discussion and a written offer, he did his analysis and it came out that, what they were offering wasn't good enough, as it was far below expectation, and as an investment banker with over 20 years' experience working in London, United States and South Africa, he knew the industry and knew the players and called his banker friends and asked them about their opinions on the offer to the government, adding this how the process started.

Parliament on August 14, approved the controversial Agyapa Mineral Royalty Limited agreement with the government of Ghana, despite a walkout by the Minority.

On his part, Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko, a cousin of both President Akufo-Addo and Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, had publicly admitted working on Agyapa Royalties Limited, which metamorphosed from Asaase Royalties Limited, because his law firm had been engaged by White & Case in UK ,together with Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah, a corporate and commercial law firm which was involved in the botched PDS transaction in which Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) was to be privatized.

Gabby Asare-Otchere Darko on Asempa FM, had on Friday, revealed White & Case's involvement in many government transactions in which his law firm; Africa Legal Associates is involved based on the partnership they have.

But The Herald gathered that, White & Case partner, Joshua Siaw, who is the director of the Firm's Africa Practice, is a personal friend of Mr Otchere Darko.

This paper's findings are that, the White & Case LLP, has advised 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.

The feeling on the ground is that he; Gabby, use his nexus in the Akufo-Addo government to get government legal deals awarded him to execute, using White & Case, as a clever front to drown any suspicion of favouritism.

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 boasts 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.

Meanwhile, Bright Simons, has argued that the money being received by government for the Agyapa agreement isn't enough.

This, he said, is because all of the nation's most valuable Assets for further prospecting in addition to 100percent of gold productions are contained in the deal, adding the valuation can be improved to benefit the country better.

"They have the optional mining licences in the agreement which purports to grant this structure the capacity to actually get more. So, to give it away at $1 billion valuation is problematic, too little," he told host, Samson Ayenini.

According to him, the choice to deal with the public Stocks Market, rather than directly with the private was the fundamental flaw of the agreement.

"The worst thing you can do is to lock your royalties in a transaction where you more or less get all your money upfront and there is no other fiscal room.

"But that money that you get is far less than the money you get, if you had gone to any of the hundreds of gold streaming companies in the world," he said.

Some economic experts, including the former Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, Lawyer Fui Tsikata and Kofi Ansah of legal and mineral, have kicked against the deal passed by Parliament on August 14th.

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