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ISODEC boss Steve Manteaw backtracks on “scam” comment about Agyapa Royalties deal

The executive director of ISODEC, Steve Manteaw, has backtracked on his judgement that the Agyapa Royalties agreement is a scam

The spokesman for 15 civil society organisations (CSOs) and executive director of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), Steve Manteaw, has backtracked on his conclusion that the Agyapa Royalties agreement is a scam.

The outspoken frontline representative of the CSOs since the Agyapa Royalties deal became a top line for public debate has been heard on various platforms describing the deal as dubious and a move by the Ghanaian elite to capture the country’s natural resource wealth.

However, speaking on The Asaase Breakfast Show (ABS) on Thursday 3 September 2020, Dr Manteaw moderated his hardline stance, saying that the deal is rather a “potential scam”.

He was answering a question posed by the host, Kojo Mensah, as to whether he stands by his earlier comments about the Agyapa deal.

“So, it’s not a scam, then?” Kojo Mensah asked. Dr Manteaw responded, “It is a potential scam … For me, you see a conflict-of-interest situation involving a politically exposed person and you adopt headhunting recruitment, then it is fraudulent.”

Accusations of “elite capture”

Fifteen CSOs have called on President Akufo-Addo to suspend the arrangement since the details of the Agyapa deal came to public light, describing it as “elite capture”. The deal seeks to leverage the country’s interest in 16 selected mining concessions for development.

“Ours is a struggle against elite capture of resources that commonly belong to all Ghanaians and we call on every one of us, regardless of our political persuasion, to join hands in safeguarding the national interest,” the group said at a press conference in Accra on Tuesday 1 September.

Agyapa Royalties Ltd, a special purpose behicle (SPV) created by the Minerals Income Investment Fund (MIIF), will offer up to 49% of the fund’s shares in the SPV to investors to raise roughly US$500 million upfront, followed by another $500 million. The company will list on the Ghana and London Stock Exchanges before the end of this year.

The government’s intention is to use the Minerals Income Investment Fund Act 2018 to maximise the royalties the government receives from mining companies. The money will be used to finance big-ticket infrastructure projects.

The convenor of the group, Dr Manteaw, said the government must come clean on who the managers and directors of Agyapa Royalties Ltd are. He further raised questions about the processes used to select these people. Critics fear that the individuals could be politically exposed.

The group, which calls itself the Alliance of CSOs Working on Extractives, Anti-Corruption and Good Governance, has called on President Akufo-Addo to suspend implementation of the MIIF agreement until there is what it describes as full disclosure on the deal. The CSOs object particularly to what they see as a lack of transparency surrounding publication of the documents underpinning the transaction.

Objective: international standards

Speaking on The Asaase Breakfast Show on Friday 4 September 2020, the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, explained that the upfront capital to be raised from listing Agyapa Royalties on the two stock exchanges will be invested in developing Ghana’s gold resources. It will also be used to build institutions that will attract internationally accepted certification, including state-owned refineries. Regular dividends earned thereafter will go towards the same twin purpose.

“The funds raised during the listing and future profits will be reinvested in mining and the building of gold refineries and certification companies that will refine and certify gold produced locally and for other countries in the [West African] sub-region,” the Finance Minister said. “We have been mining for centuries and we don’t have many gold refineries and gold certification companies.”

In 2019, Ghana’s income from mineral royalties stood at roughly US$200 million. At a time when gold is trading at record highs of US$2,000 an ounce and more, experts have argued that though the metal is not a currency, it rivals the dollar as an international reserve asset.

The trade in gold has benefited from the desire for diversification, following the fall in real interest rates.

Wilberforce Asare / Asaase Radio

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