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Bank crisis probe: CHRAJ pushes for transparency

The Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has expressed serious concerns over Parliament’s Finance Committee’s decision to hold an in-camera probe into the collapse of seven local banks in the country.

According to Joseph Akanjolenur Whittal, the issue of collapse of the seven banks is a subject that is of prime interest to the general public. Hence it would have been better if the hearing was made opened to allow the public to make their own deductions from the exercise.

He observed that a larger section of the public have been keenly monitoring the matter since the news on collapse of banks including (uniBank, Sovereign Bank, The Royal Bank, The Beige Bank and Construction bank) this year and (UT and Capital Bank) in 2017 and deserve to be updated on further development on the matter.

Mr Whittal advised the Committee to “gauge the mood of the country very carefully” and not “draw itself into this imbroglio.”

“It appears the decision to hold an in-camera investigation into this banking saga, if they think carefully; they will rather go public because it is about transparency,” the head of the state investigative body cautioned, Tuesday.

He stressed that as part of efforts to ensure accountability in the country it’s important for Parliament “to carry the people along and that is by holding an open [and] transparent hearing so that the people can judge for themselves.”

“After all, it is the taxpayer’s money that the government has committed to use to bail out the affected banks, so they deserve to know…and participate actively,” he argued.

It is in light of this that the CHRAJ Boss also wants the committee to tread cautiously with the decision to hold an in-camera investigation as, the approach does not augur well in the current situation where people are losing confidence in the country’s banking sector.

“For me, it is not about the personalities who are involved, it is not about the institutions, it is about a call by the people for accountability…so don’t we as a people deserve to understand what went into this failure, how did it happen, what steps should we take to avert future occurrence of such nature and to breathe confidence back into the sector,” Mr. Whittal questioned.

Controversial hearings

For Mr. Whittal, a number of reports about parliamentary committee hearings held in-camera, have been dogged by persistent confusion leaving the public dissatisfied with the outcomes.

He, therefore, foresees issues being raised by the people if the committee goes ahead to conduct the probe in camera.

 “Maybe from their perspective they think they are representing the people very well by shielding whatever may come in the open and teleguiding that camera but I think they ought to wise up.”

“…I think they are not representing the people very well if they don’t allow the people to participate actively, hearing for themselves the questions they themselves are putting to the people because parliament itself is under scrutiny [and] they need to all understand that,” Joseph Whittal stated.

Background

The Bank of Ghana in August 2017, revoked the licences of UT Bank and Capital Bank as a result of severe impairment of their capital.

Read: BoG statement on GCB take over of UT, Capital Banks

The central bank in a similar move, collapsed another set of five locally-owned banks to form the Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited after the affected banks run into liquidity challenges.

Parliament’s Finance Committee announced on Tuesday that it will on Wednesday begin probing the collapse of the seven indigenous banks in the country.

The Chair of the Committee, Dr Asibey Yeboah said they have agreed not to invite the directors of the collapsed banks.

According to him, representatives from the Central Bank, the Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited, KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Finance Ministry are scheduled to appear before them and will answer questions on the issue.

“We have made it clear from the onset that we are inviting the institutions to have an incamera hearing to garner first-hand information from them,” he said.

However, OccupyGhana, a pressure group, thinks the Finance Committee will be doing a great disservice to the public if the hearings are held in secret.

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Source: www.asempanews.com

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