A former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Johnson Asiama has fingered Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta as the architect of the collapse of UniBank, one of the seven indigenous banks that went bust about a year ago.
According to the former Deputy Governor, Mr. Ofori-Atta allegedly declined to act on a suggestion that would have saved the bank from collapsing.
According to Dr. Asiama, prior to the bank’s collapse, the Bank of Ghana (BoG) noticed that UniBank had financed government institutions such as the Ministry of Finance, the Road Fund, the Volta River Authority, COCOBOD and several other government agencies and institutions to the tune of GHC1.3 billion.
At the same time UniBank was dangerously exposed, Ken Ofori-Atta’s investment brokerage firm Databank and several government agencies were aggressively withdrawing huge funds from the already struggling bank.
“UniBank informed us that they were experiencing large withdrawals from key institutions such as COCOBOD, VRA, EDC, Databank, etc. According to the letter, COCOBOD was withdrawing over GHC 400 million while it also had to finance the outstanding VRA facility of about US$100 million, etc,” wrote Dr. Asiama who had recently gone to court to protest harassment from state investigative agencies, who appear to be fingering officers of BoG as the cause of the collapse in the banking sector.
Dr. Asiama’s explosive revelation reinforces earlier accusations that Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta may have orchestrated the collapse of several of the distressed banks. For Instance, Groupe Nduom Bank which was affected by the banking sector culling had angrily blamed the Finance Ministry for withholding payments totalling more than GHC 2 billion which was used to pre-finance government infrastructural projects such as roads.
Dr. Asiama in his statement said that when the central bank noticed the difficulty UniBank was having with government agencies, they actually invited Ken Ofori-Atta to discuss how the bank could be saved from the peculiar withdrawals, but he refused to oblige the central bank.
“The Minister of Finance was actually invited to the Bank, based on my promptings to discuss these payments to UNIBANK, but he declined suggestions, on the grounds that UNIBANK had gotten enough support to thrive,” Dr. Asiama revealed in a statement issued over the weekend.
He added that: “Clearly, if at least part of these payments were done at the time, UNIBANK could have avoided the persistent daily clearing failures that eventually shut them out of the interbank money market.”
Dr. Asiama, together with the Founder of UniBank and former Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor and his son, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor Junior ( succeeded his father to become CEO of UniBank), are being chased by the Special Investigation Team of the Police Service for their alleged roles in the collapse of the bank.
However, the trio are fighting back what they regard as unwarranted harassment. They are all in court seeking the court to retrain the police from harassing them. Already, UniBank has dragged the Finance Ministry and the government to court over the revocation of its banking license.