A legal practitioner Ace Ankomah has said stripped off fine technical words surrounding the collapse of banks in Ghana saying the banking crisis is down to plain “stealing.”
He said attributing the crisis to corporate governance breaches is to water down the seriousness of the matter.
“Who is talking about stealing?” he asked rhetorically at a Danquah Institute program discussing the collapse of seven banks in the past 12 months.
He said apart from addressing the failed banks as a case of stealing, public officials under the Banking Act and Companies Act failed to do their work.
The lawyer disagreed with a quip by President Barack Obama during his visit to Ghana when he said ‘Africa does not need strong men, it needs strong institutions’.
“He might have been right about Africa but he was wrong about Ghana…Ghana has every institution to flourish what we lack is men of testicular fortitude and the women with mammary fortitude and the spine to enforce the law..simple”.
“Where are the powers of the Registrar-General? Where are the powers of the Bank of Ghana?…Were there lawyers in these banks?…were there auditors”, he charged.
Ace Ankomah stressed that there were several reports done by lawyers, foreign investors and central bank officials yet leadership at the time failed to simply act.
He was full of praise for Governor of the Bank of Ghana Ernest Addison for leading the charge to enforce regulations dating back to the 60s.
“I am not ashamed to say thumbs up to Addison”.
Confidential reports have been serialised in the media including how a former Chief Executive of defunct Capital bank used 80m cedis of depositors and public funds like his “personal piggy bank”.
Part of 610m cedis from the Bank of Ghana to support a struggling Capital Bank was used to set up another bank, Sovereign bank, which has also collapsed.
Directors and shareholders of some of the defunct banks have been found to have taken loans in suspicious circumstances and also giving contracts to related parties.
Ace Ankomah lamented a crisis of trust observing that Ghanaians feared armed robbers and so deposited their monies in banks but it appears banks are now robbing depositors.
The lawyer with pressure group OccupyGhana said there are express laws and regulations prohibiting directors from giving out contracts to their relatives unless it is on commercial terms.
He said the Registrar-General also has tremendous power to ‘kill a fly with a sledge hammer’. The Registrar can step in to check fraud by instituting an inquiry into bank operations and later ask the court to wind up the company.
The Registrar-General can also institute court action in the name of the company and on behalf of victims sue directors for compensation.
While expressing anger at the failures of public officials, the social commentator urged Ghanaians not to rush the Bank of Ghana to exact punishment.
He said prosecuting white collar crimes can be very difficult because “if you make a mistake and you lose one, you lose your module”.