Our elders advise us to watch and take notice of the discomforting and discomfitting similarities between hands when one decides to feed on primates. Not long ago and under the financial architecture created by Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta on entering office, financial institutions and banks with clients that had huge payment arrears with the Government more than funds needed by some banks to stay afloat or sort out their liquidity wahala were collapsed.
Regulatory agencies and party-insiders inspired whispers that engineered a run-in by customers, while the State refused to pay clients or contractors whose payments were locked up, even when settlements of those debts could have solved the liquidity challenges and made the banks stayed afloat.
The excuse was that we needed to do a clean-up of the banking sector. As if that clean-up needed to target every challenged bank without appropriately examining the cause(s) of the challenges, isolating and dealing with them. Bailout was ruled out as unnecessary and a waste of taxpayers funds.
Yet some banks more challenged were left to operate than some that were collapsed in a manner that left tongues wagging.
Today, karma has returned. It has served a reminder that one has to be careful when cutting a tree just because one is comfortably sitting atop.
Per the Government’s own admissions, the so-called GHc25 billion spent to solve a documented GHc9 billion challenge has created a financial mess. Instead of targeting and weeding out the Ato Essiens/Capital Bank from the industry, we added Heritage Bank and others without similar problems and collapsed people’s banks and businesses in the name of a clean-up, without proper analysis and projections of the net effect on the social structure, employment, tax revenue, confidence in the banking sector, etc, probably hoping to pick up left-overs of the collapsed businesses.
Guess what! Today, the finance house largely owned by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, operating in an industry supervised by former Databank Vice President, the Reverend Ogbarmey-Tetteh, is caught up in a self-inflicted demon its former owners and leaders yarned for others not too long ago.
Their former employer, whom they own shares in, simply can’t find funds to pay depositors demanding their investments or monies.
Unlike the past when the BoG, Finance Ministry and SEC instigated a rush-in on the banks with announcements of imminent closures and/or regulatory abuses, the Ken Ofori-Atta-owned Databank hasn’t even suffered any call-out by regulators. It has rather been a beneficiary of almost all investments and businesses within its domain under the watch of its owners and previous employees in Government.
Today, Databank says it has “no choice but to move to a work-from-home option” to avoid depositors wrath.
“While our offices will be physically closed, we will continue to serve you and process transactions remotely, and all our digital channels will remain open just as we did during Covid. However, we cannot endanger the lives of staff by opening the office without any available liquidity.”
In short, same or similar inability to meet the liquidity challenges some of the banks faced, or failure to raise necessary cash-calls to settle or pay investors, clients or customers and the fear of customers negative responses to withholding of their investments are what has compelled Databank to shut down operations within this period. Fact is, there is simply no cash to settle clients even after unannounced cut-down of principals and interests of investment holders for a while in the name of “marked to market” appraisals of their investments.
In all these, it’s Databank customers, investors or clients who are taking a hit. Not the lead beneficiary shareholder, Ken Ofori-Atta, or his ex-Databank-now-turned Government players and regulators.
It is even difficult to pray that the SEC and the Finance Ministry won’t use public funds to cover losses occasioned by Databank and allied agencies as a result of their own wahala beyond allowed levels.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Databank has announced a resort to funds announced by the same owner and Finance Minister as a potential saviour. So the corporate being, whose beneficial owner is the FInance Minister and advise same Minister on contract, says it is engaging the same Minister and Ministry and SEC led by its former Vice President to map out a solution on clients or customers investments.
That’s where the confusing rigmarole of a potentially conflicted process of interests that the other financial institutions and banks never had leaves us as citizens. Our collective resources are in the hands of folks involved in a conflicted process and we are supposed to trust them wholeheartedly on that.
By Alfred Ogbamey