Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur, Governor of the Bank of Ghana, is poised to face the Appointments Committee of Parliament today over his nomination by President John Mahama to the high office of Vice President.
The smooth-talking economist is likely to face a barrage of questions bordering, especially on his tenure of office as the head of the Central Bank, the falling value of the cedi, the ever-rising interest rates, among others.
A question which may probably prove to be a sticking point before the vetting is his role in attempts to facilitate the settlement of a case, which experts say is laced with pure criminality, instead of pushing for prosecution of the matter in court.
Public Agenda's sources at the Castle have indicated that the government is pushing for the striking of a secret deal with the Belgian managing partners of the Ghana Oil Palm Development Corporation (GOPDC) over an alleged abuse and misappropriation of huge sums of money belonging to, and/or accruing to the state.
The details of the deal are not immediately known, as government's instruction to negotiate with the Belgians is yet to be carried out. It is however, likely to follow the pattern of the EO Group's settlement, where reparations were demanded by the government in exchange for indemnity against prosecution.
Government's action, which is said to be spearheaded by Mr Amissah Arthur, runs counter to explicit recommendations contained in the report of a forensic audit carried out by the Professional Group at the instance of the State.
It would be recalled that the September 14, 2011 edition of the Daily Graphic reported that the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) was investigating the operations of the GOPDC, whose majority shareholder, Societe d'Investment Pour l'Agriculture (SIAT), was said to be at the centre of alleged tax evasion to the tune of GHC214,000.
The Graphic's report alleged that, the Belgian company had suppressed the total dividends that were declared and paid by the GOPDC in the course of preparing the company's annual financial report and succeeded in evading the payment of corporate taxes.
It also indicated that, in the course of doing business in the country, SIAT had breached Ghana's Company Code by introducing in 1996 the African Tiger Mutual Fund (ATMF), with a sole Belgian shareholder by name Henk J. Cornelius Van Gastel into its shareholding structure without authorisation.
ATMF's activities were allegedly, not registered with the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) as required by Act 478 of the Company's Code, neither did it file any annual returns and yet it continued to pursue its business activities and succeeded in secretly investing in 400,000 shares in the Ghana Commercial Bank and 875,000 shares in Paterson Zochonis Ghana Limited.
A forensic audit report on the GOPDC affair, authored by Accra-based consultants, the Professional Group, and sighted by the Public Agenda confirms the revelations by the Daily Graphic.
The summary of findings, in which the Professional Group sought to provide justification for the continued freezing of GOPDC's cash holdings, and to encourage the government to demand its pound of flesh reveals how a $12.5 million IFC loan contracted for the expansion of the company's operations in 2006 was diverted into a private account. The loan application, according to the report was "neither passed through the Bank of Ghana, nor were the disbursements for the loan utilization advised by the Bank of Ghana, in contravention of the law." The loan, the report says, was disbursed to "an account with KBC Bank in Belgium, with SIAT as Managing Director and family as signatories."
The findings also affirm that, SIAT owes the Government of Ghana $1.02 million in unpaid sale of its (GoG) shares made since 1995. The amount excludes interest.
Again, the Government of Ghana is owed GHC39, 243,686 in unpaid dividends, plus interest (at 91 day Treasury Bill rate, as per the calculations of the Ministry of Finance.
The report further reveals that, "Government of Ghana's 20% shareholding allocated to workers and small holders was illegally and fraudulently taken over by SIAT Ghana without SIAT Ghana making any payment for it." It notes that, SIAT Ghana has offered to relinquish its holdings on the 20% shares, and encourages the government to accept.
Strangely, the GOPDC forensic audit report appears to be going nowhere, ten months on. Private, as well as political interests in the matter appear to have pulled the breaks on what should have been a natural course of action in a matter that borders on economic sabotage of a sovereign state by a foreign private firm.
Our sources say, the government wants an amicable settlement, as prosecution will send the wrong signal to investors.