US-based Ghanaian lawyer and Professor of Accounting, Kwaku Asare, is asking government to disclose the names of all transaction advisors and specify how much has been paid them in the controversial Minerals income Investment Fund deal between Government of Ghana and the Royalties Company. His comments follow recent queries by Ato Conduah, also a lawyer and Management Consultant regarding the propriety of the GoG and the Finance Ministry in entrusting such sovereign wealth into the hands of an off-shore company who he claims apart from its unknown track record, exposes its related parties who seem connected to the Ministry and Government of Ghana.

The controversial deal which was passed in parliament last week amid objections by the minority and some sections of the public aims to manage the equity interests of the country in mining companies, and receive mineral royalties and other related income due the country from mining operations to provide for the management and investment of the assets of the fund and for related matters. However, attempts by Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and other government spokespersons to justify the deal appear unconvincing as a lot more questions are being raised.

In a recently published statement on Facebook, the US based lawyer suggests the deal has the tendency of undermining government’s credibility.

Below is the full statement

What Agyapa has been set up to do is to swap the country’s future cash flows from mineral royalties for immediate cash. It is analogous to going to the bank and taking cash now in exchange for your salary for the next x periods.

These types of transactions have several hidden costs.

First, it disadvantages all existing lenders since the revenues that would otherwise have been available to service their debt have been now allocated to a particular party. This tends to undermine the credibility of the government, alienate traditional lenders and increase the cost of borrowing.

Second, it can trigger all kinds of legal challenges, especially as it is likely that some traditional lenders may have protected themselves by barring such arrangements.

Third, it is a nightmare for budgeting flexibility. Instead of the flexibility of allocating mineral royalties to higher priority areas, as determined by future events, the country has locked itself into using it in a particular way.

Fourth, following from the third, such an arrangement deprives future governments of the revenue that should be available to them during their tenure. It therefore ties their hands. Imagine the extreme case where the government of the day decides to monetize future VAT or payroll taxes!

Fifth, it is just a gimmick to park debts off the country’s balance sheet. Even though the country is borrowing, the accountants say they are not! But this does not fool anyone and the nation pays for it in the debt market.

Sixth, the transaction cost could be high unless the country uses its own staff from the Attorney-General and other financial institutions.

Given these costs, it is imperative for government to give as much information on this deal as possible.

In particular, government should name all transaction advisors and specify how much has been paid to them.

The Mineral Income Investment Fund has a 9-member Board, supported by a 5-member Investment Advisory Committee who are all on government payroll. So the case for paying for transaction advisors must not only be made, it must also be compelling. Then there is an Attorney-General Department, etc.

Further, what are government plans to use the cash that results from the monetization of the future royalties?

If there is no clear plan and the cash is to flow into the general funds to pay salaries or other unproductive activities then the case for monetizing is considerably weaker.

On the other hand, if the cash is to be used to invest in an identifiable project with clear potential for generating economic activity and cash flows then the case for rallying around it is stronger, in spite of the aforementioned costs.

Finally, I still do not understand why the country has not been able to pass the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Bill notwithstanding that we are doing over $5B annually in such projects.

The PPP Bill was drafted about a decade ago but such projects are still being consummated under the 2011 policy, creating needless legal and regulatory uncertainty.