Parliament Cracks GH¢8 Billion Joke With Taxpayers

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Plans 3-Day Secret Probe Into Collapse Of Banks Despite Huge Public Interests  

The 25-member Finance Committee of Parliament, appears to be playing games with the peoples’ money, scheduling a three-day close door probe into the collapse of seven local banks in the last twelve months, despite the huge public interest that the subject has generated.

But The House, claims it had agreed on a secret hearing to prevent media trials and preserve the hard earned reputation of the bank managers and directors indicted for siphoning depositors’ monies from the commercial banks for their private use.

Many see the proposed secret hearing as a monumental sham being pulled on Ghanaian taxpayers by Parliament to shield friends, schoolmates, political allies and business partners.

The collapse of the banks namely ; uniBank Ghana, the Royal Bank, the BEIGE Bank, the Sovereign Bank and the Construction Bank, is costing the country GH¢8 billion to salvage by looking for money to pay individual depositors.

Many workers, have also lost their jobs and family members and dependants are going to bed daily without food in their bellies.

Interestingly, there is a damning document on the collapsed banks in the public domain that radio, TV and newspaper journalists, are feeding the public with, and the people, would like to hear those indicted responding satisfactorily to the issues that they siphoned money from the banks.

“The committee has decided to hold hearings on the 5th to 7th September on the collapse of the banks here in Parliament,” the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr. Mark Assibey Yeboah told the press on Wednesday.

Already, reputation of Rev. Dr. Mensa Otabil, Prof. Stephen Adei, William Ato Essien, Stephen Kpordzih of Construction Bank, Osei Asafo-Adjei of Royal Bank, Dr Kwabena Duffuor II of uniBank, Johan Rheeder of Sovereign Bank and Mike Nyinaku of Beige Bank and Kofi Amoabeng of UTbank.

Dr. Assibey Yeboah, speaking after a committee meeting said the committee “agreed on the mode of hearings, who to invite and all other matters,” adding the committee was now going to write to the Bank of Ghana (BoG) for documentation which will be assessed on August 30.

“We need documentation to form our opinions on what to do… we cannot work without official documentation,” he explained.

Yesterday on Accra-based Joy FM, caller after caller, criticized the decision by parliament to have an in-camera hearing into the bank crisis as a needless waste of time.

Indeed, Senior Research Fellow at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDDGhana), Dr. Kojo Asante, said other state institutions like Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) and the Bank of Ghana (BoG), are already investigating events leading to the collapse of the seven banks in 12 months, if Parliament wants to have a bite at the issue, it must be a public hearing, if the probe is to be relevant.

Representatives from the BoG, Consolidated Bank, KPMG, PwC and the Ministry of Finance, are expected to appear before the hearing.

The owners and directors of the seven banks that have collapsed, some under controversial circumstances, will not be invited, according to Dr. Osseiy Assibey.

“We are seeking information. We are not an investigative body, so to speak. We don’t have prosecutorial powers,” he noted,

The legislator, said the state of the economy was the committee’s main concern.

“We are concerned with the economy generally so if banks collapsed and if the Ministry of Finance is setting up a bank and are doling out GHc8 billion, don’t you think we should be concerned?”

There appears to be some confusion from key members of the committee on whether the hearings will be made public.

Dr. Assibey Yeboah, said a decision has not yet been taken.

“If the committee so decides, I don’t have any problem with that. I don’t decide for a 25 member committee. There are members in there so all of us will reach a conclusion.”

But also speaking to the press on Wednesday, a Ranking Member of the Committee, Cassiel Ato Forson, was definite that the hearings will be private.

He explained that this was due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that considering what we call the sensitivity of the matter, parliament committee of Finance will meet in-camera to look at this matter.”

“It is important for the people appearing before the committee to be at ease and to give us the needed answers,” Mr. Ato Forson said.

But explaining the benefits of holding public hearings, the governance expert Dr. Kojo Asante said that public confidence in the financial system will improve because there is a visible response to deal with the crisis.

Dr. Kojo Asante, said the processes of dealing with the failed banks are as important as the results.

“Sometimes when you want to purge a system you need to go through some of these processes,” he said on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show yesterday.

He said Parliament is well positioned to deal with the matter because the public have a vested interest in knowing circumstances surrounding the collapse.

At EOCO, however, “nobody really knows who has been called and what questions have been asked.” Parliament can therefore deepen accountability with a proper and thought out probe.

The plan to finish the probe within seven days, he said, does not show any serious attempt to deal with the serious issues in the financial services sector.

The last Parliamentary probe looked into allegations that the presidency was used for profiteering. It took more than three weeks to submit a report.

The Governor of Bank of Ghana, said the five had been collapsed into a new bank; the CBG Ltd and deposits of the collapsed banks, had been transferred to the Consolidated Bank.

This was after UT and Capital Banks, which collapsed first, were taken over by Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) on the instructions of the BoG.

The Governor, Dr. Ernest Addison, said some of the five newly collapsed banks, had committed various offenses against the country’s banking laws, including obtaining their licenses through false pretenses.

The banks collapsed, despite the fact that the BoG, had supported them with hundreds of millions of cedis to enable them to recover from distress.

Their collapse has, however, resulted in the state incurring more cost in fixing the mess created.

This has increased public agitation, as some of those said to be complicit in the mismanagement of the banks, misapplied the funds leading to the eventual collapse.

 

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