The founder of the All People’s Congress (APC), Mr Hassan Ayariga, has accused the central bank of deliberately targeting and collapsing Heritage Bank Limited (HBL), which was solvent, just to satisfy someone’s personal wishes and desires.
At a press conference on Tuesday, 5 February 2019, the former presidential candidate said collapsing Heritage Bank was not in the interest of the banking sector contrary to what the Bank of Ghana would want Ghanaians to believe, but rather hurt an innocent businessman, Mr Seidu Agongo, and by extension, put the jobs of 250 Ghanaians at risk.
The BoG revoked HBL’s licence on Friday, 4 January 2019 on the basis that the majority shareholder, Mr Agongo, among other things, used proceeds realised from alleged fraudulent contracts he executed for the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), for which he and former COCOBOD CEO, Dr Stephen Opuni are being tried, to set up the bank.
Announcing the withdrawal of the licence, the Governor of the central bank, Dr Ernest Addison told journalists – when asked if he did not deem the action as premature, since the COCOBOD case was still in court – that: “The issue of Heritage Bank, I wanted to get into the law with you, I don’t know if I should, but we don’t need the court’s decision to take the decisions that we have taken. We have to be sure of the sources of capital to license a bank; if we have any doubt, if we feel that it’s suspicious, just on the basis of that we find that that is not acceptable as capital. We don’t need the court to decide for us whether anybody is ‘fit and proper’, just being involved in a case that involves a criminal procedure makes you not fit and proper”.
HBL has been added to Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited (CBG), which was first formed when the central bank collapsed some five local banks in August last year. They included The Royal Bank, The Beige Bank, The Construction Bank, Sovereign Bank and uniBank. Later on, HBL and Premium Bank were added to the first five.
Mr Ayariga, however, said at the press conference that: “Inasmuch as I agree certain banks needed to be consolidated, I strongly disagree with one of the banks that was consolidated on Christmas Eve, the Heritage Bank. I clearly see mischief and witchhunt”.
He explained that: “Of all the nine banks that the Bank of Ghana collapsed, only Heritage Bank was a solvent bank, yet its licence was also revoked.
“By being solvent, Heritage Bank did not pose a risk to customers or other banks in the banking sector and the entire economy.
“Therefore, collapsing Heritage Bank was purely to satisfy personal desires and not in the interest of the banking sector or the economy”, Mr Ayariga argued.
In his estimation, “By choosing to collapse Heritage Bank when it did not pose a threat to third parties, the Bank of Ghana rather denied a hardworking businessman of his investments, and in the process, put the livelihoods of about 250 people and their families and dependents at risk”.
“The professions of the staff”, he said: “Have now been jeopardised just because of an individual using state authority and central bank powers to satisfy personal interests”.
“This is a bad precedent that must be criticised by all well-meaning persons and the outcome reversed with immediate effect to help prevent a situation where it inspires future actions.
“Fellow citizens, given that Heritage Bank was solvent and, therefore, not a risk to any third parties, if the Bank of Ghana suspected anything, it could have used other alternatives provided under the BSDI Act 930 to exclude Mr Seidu Agongo from exercising his rights as shareholder until the determination of the case at the High Court. But to meet the personal interest and deprive him of owning a bank, simply because he is the one, BoG decided to revoke the licence and put the lives of the staff, other shareholders and even customers at risk”, Mr Ayariga added.
About two weeks after collapsing Heritage Bank, world-renowned Canada-based certification body, PECB, located in Montréal, issued a management system certificate to HBL.
PECB, which is a respected certification body for persons, management systems, and products on a wide range of international standards, said in its correspondence to the erstwhile management of Heritage Bank that: “It is with great pleasure that we congratulate your company on attaining the PECB Management System Certificate signifying that your organisation has been assessed and found to be in accordance with the management system requirements in ISO/IEC 27001:2013”.
“The scope of HBL Information Security Management System (ISMS) includes all employees, business and support activities carried in HBL’s Head Office and Datacenter Facility based at Plot No 6, Airport City, NCA Tower, First Floor and Part of the Ground Floor, Accra, Ghana, in accordance with Statement of Applicability (SoA), Ver. 1”.
“Your certificate number is: C578-ISMS173-01-19, and is valid until 2022-01-16”, the correspondence signed by CEO Eric Lachapelle; and President & COO Faton Aliu, said.
PECB noted that: “In order to maintain the certificate, your organisation will be subjected to two surveillance audits. The first surveillance audit will take place no longer than 12 months from the initial certification audit. Additionally, the second surveillance audit will take place in no longer than 12 months from the first surveillance audit”.