Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Monday April 09, 2018
It is turning out that the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni allegedly gave authorization for subsidiaries of the Board to invest huge amounts of cocoa cash into what looks like unprofitable ventures.
One of the subsidiaries of COCOBOD, Cocoa Marketing Company Limited (CMC), whose board was chaired by Dr Opuni, invested heavily in private financial institutions, as well as micro finance institutions in clear breach of its policy where almost GH¢60 million appears to have gone down the drain.
A report of an Ad-Hoc Committee set up by COCOBOD to investigate trade and investment irregularities that occurred at CMC Limited between 2014/2015 to 2015/2016 sighted by DAILY GUIDE made shocking revelations about how the previous Opuni-led administration wasted cocoa money on non-banking financial institutions, some of which never returned the investments to the state like a ponzi scheme.
The non-financial institutions, who were beneficiaries of the CMS Limited’s ‘benevolence,’ included Eclipse Investment, Corporate Hill Investment, Express Saving & Loans, Ideal Finance, CDH Investment, Hodidi Microfinace and ASN Financial Services.
Three bigwigs at CMC, including its former MD, Bennett Akantoa, Dr Edem Amegashie-Duvon (deputy MD) and John Odametey, deputy MD, Finance, were put under investigation.
In all, a total amount of GH¢56,507,795.94 was made as investments with the non-bank financial institutions as at April 15, 2017 with GH¢52,284,811.71 and GH¢4,222,984.23 as principal and interest respectively.
In the breakdown, CMC invested GH¢28,496,549.34 with GH¢25,837,613.12 and GH¢2,658,936.22 as principal and interest respectively in Express Savings & Loans and the source of funds read ‘corporate/sweeping.’
For Hodidi Microfinance the source of fund was ‘sweeping’ and CMC invested GH¢4,669,050.19 with GH¢239,578.48 and GH¢4.429,471.71 as interest and principal respectively.
CMC also invested GH¢10,928,836.14 with GH¢784,021.72 and GH¢10,144,814.42 as interest and principal respectively in Eclipse Investment and the source of fund read ‘Corporate/Provident fund/Welfare’ while the COCOBOD subsidiary again invested GH¢4,479,266.66 with GH¢210,513.84 and GH¢4,268,572.82 as interest and principal respectively and the source of funds was ‘Provident Fund/Welfare.’
For Corporate Hill, CMC invested GH¢4,109,079.11 with GH¢205,042.10 and GH¢3,904,036.95 as interest and principal respectively and the source of funds was ‘Corporate’ but in the case of ASN Financial Services, there was no source of funds indicated, but CMC invested GH¢3,825,014.50 with GH¢124,891,81 and GH¢3,700,122.96 respectively as interest and principal.
Most of the investments could not be recouped, making the company to lose miserably.
Loss of Funds
According to the report, CMC’s investment exposure with non-bank financial institutions as at September 30, 2017 stood at GH¢59,931,555.96 and the breakdown showed that Express Savings & Loans had GH¢30,677,861.73 followed by Eclipse Investment with GH¢15,949,162.24.
Corporate Hills Investment, Hodidi Microfinance and ASN Financial Service had GH¢4,827,213.16, GH¢4,310,706.91 and 4,166,539.65 respectively.
The report said Express Savings and Loans gave a static interest rate at 27% without taking into consideration the time and principal amount and also gave seven separate cheques to CMC totaling GH¢17,285,166.97 but since the first one was dishonoured at the bank on August 26, 2016 “the remaining cheques were not presented because the first one was not honoured.”
The report also indicted the CEO of Express Savings & Loans called Prince Sarpong when it said he was the brain behind other non-bank financial institutions like ASN Financial Services, Corporate Hills and Express Savings & Loans where CMC put its investments.
“Prince Sarpong was a director of Corporate Hills Investment, and a majority shareholder in ASN Financial Services when investments were made in these two companies. After he had acquired a majority shareholding in Express Savings & Loans, investments were made there again,” the report explained.
According to the report, “Letters from CMC Management requesting the six non-banking financial institutions to pay back all installments by March 17, 2017 were not honoured,” adding “only Corporate Hills Investment and Eclipse Micro Finance responded to the letters from CMC.”
The report said that Corporate Hills Investment contested the GH¢4,827,213.16 as total indebtedness to CMC as at January 11, 2017 but when they were asked to submit relevant documents to prove, they never appeared before the Ad-hoc Committee again and rather sent the documents through Prince Sarpong, CEO of Express Savings & Loans.
The committee noted that “the assets portfolio of Corporate Hills Investment will not be sufficient to pay CMC’s investment to them.”
For Eclipse Micro Finance, the report said CMC’s investments on different dates were neither rolled over nor redeemed when they matured and as at April 15, 2017 additional interest had accrued on the investment and the new balance stood at GH¢10,928,836.14 and the current investment as at September 30, 2017 stood at GH¢15,949,162.24.
It said “the CEO, Kafui Amegah could not confirm CMC’s investment balance when he met the committee,” adding “he promised after the second meeting to reappear with relevant documents and payment plan but he failed to show up.”
“Eclipse has neither the capacity nor intention to pay back the investments and interest accrued. Eclipse was incorporated in July 2013 and commenced business in August 2013.”
The report further said that ASN Financial Services as at April 15, 2017 was holding CMC’s GH¢3,825,014.50 although the investment matured in March 2016 and as at September 30, 2017, CMC’s investment with the private firm had reached GH¢4,166,539.65.
“The committee found that ASN Financial Services has neither the capacity nor intention to pay back the investments. Prince Sarpong was the majority shareholder and a director at the time CMC placed investment with ASN. Johannes Okutu Akuffo failed to present the letter he said he wrote to the COCOBOD Chief Executive.
Both ASN Financial Services and Express Savings & Loans claim ownership of the mortgage with CMC.”
For Hodidi Micro Finance, the CMC’s investment was neither rolled over nor redeemed when they matured at various maturity dates and as at April 15, 2017, additional interest had accrued on the investments and the new balance stood at GH¢3,975,125.25 while by September 30, same year, the balance stood at GH¢4,310,706.91.
“The committee found that Charles Owusu Juanah and Solomon Tanye who presented themselves as a Director and Managing Director respectively were not directors of the company.”
The directors are Akwasi Prempeh and Frank Brown, according to checks at the Registrar General’s Department.
The representatives of Hodidi were evasive and did not show any sign of a company which is ready to make good their indebtedness.”
Therefore, the committee recommended that all the companies should be reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Bank of Ghana (BoG) and the state investigative agencies for action to be taken and also asked COCOBOD to ‘blacklist’ all of them.