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Treasury team in disarray as finance minister faces probe and his deputy is sacked

Finance minister Ofori Atta survives opposition bid to unseat him but his deputy is sacked over claims about investor bribes

The chaos at the Treasury worsened after minister of state for finance Charles Adu Boahen was sacked by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on 14 November for telling undercover journalists that investors would have to pay a 20% bribe if they wanted an investment of US$500 million approved in Ghana.

Adu Boahen made the claims to an undercover team working with investigative reporter Anas Aremayaw Anas, then added that Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia would charge investors $200,000 to make an appearance and would require them to allocate some jobs in the new company to his relatives.

All this destabilises the government's economic management team: with Adu-Boahen sacked, and tough questions facing Vice-President Bawumia, who coordinates economic policy, and finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta being probed by Parliament this week.

Anas was due to screen his documentary on politicians' collusion with the illegal 'galamsey' mining operations that are destroying the country's environment on 14 November at Accra International Conference Centre but had been told the venue was no longer available.

Before this latest scandal, President Akufo-Addo and some ruling party loyalists, had been helping finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta fight off the latest attempt to unseat him as many blame him for roaring inflation and the crashing cedi. Apart from the political backing, some market analysts argue that Ofori-Atta should stay on to conclude negotiations for a US$3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

The political pressure on Ofori-Atta is growing but he is set to present his 2023 budget statement on 24 November while navigating several threats to his position in the weeks ahead. It looks likely that Accra's complex negotiations with the IMF will drag into next year.

Ofori-Atta has taken most of the flak for the government's economic woes, marked by a more than 50% fall in the cedi's value against the US dollar, inflation nudging 40% and a tripling of public debt to 402.2bn cedis ($28bn) in five years (AC Vol 63 No 22, Economic woes hit Akufo-Addo on all sides). Opposition MPs are also accusing him of benefiting from the economic chaos via illegal payments, opaque financing contracts and conflicts of interest.

On 10 November, MPs began debating a motion to dismiss Ofori-Atta introduced by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). But the leadership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) derailed the attempt by agreeing to establish an eight-person committee to examine the opposition's claims against Ofori-Atta and submit a report within seven working days.

A vote to sack him would have required a two thirds majority – that is all the opposition MPs and substantial number of NPP MPs.

Last month, 80 of the NPP's 137 MPs had threatened to boycott government business in parliament, including the 2023 budget, unless Ofori-Atta, and his deputy, Minister of State, Charles Adu Boahen, were dismissed by President Akufo-Addo. It seems that setting the budget date has given the treasury ministers a stay of execution.

Getting the budget through parliament and concluding a $3bn loan with the IMF are the twin priorities for Akufo-Addo but both have been greatly complicated by the political fight in the treasury.

A group of Ghana's bondholders carrying $14bn in foreign-currency bonds are reported to have hired Rothschild & Co. as financial advisers and the San Francisco-based law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP as legal counsel. This suggests protracted negotiations around a debt restructuring which would delay a decision on an IMF programme until early next year (AC Vol 63 No 21, Banking on the Fund).

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