The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) has exonerated the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, of any wrongdoing in the payment of U$100.7 million into an offshore account in relation to petroleum funds from Jubilee Oil Holdings Limited (JOHL), a subsidiary of the Corporation.
“As far as JOHL is concerned, the finance minister is not responsible for their revenues. We have to, at the end of the day, submit our financials (to the Ministry) and pay our taxes to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and in 2021 JOHL paid 17 million to GRA in taxes,” a Deputy Chief Executive of the Corporation, Joseph Dadzie said.
He made this known yesterday at the day-two sitting of the eight-member Adhoc Committee constituted by parliament to probe grounds on which the minority wants the finance minister removed from office.
The Minority had claimed that the finance minister made illegal payment of oil revenues into offshore accounts in flagrant disregard for the Petroleum Revenue Management Act.
Their claim was anchored on a report by the Public Interest Accountability Committee (PIAC) in 2021 that the Ministry of Finance paid the amount into the offshore account illegally.
Appearing earlier before the Committee yesterday, Vice President of the PIAC, Nasir Alfa Mohammed, insisted that the payment of the amount was illegal.
He thinks that the right account to receive the money from the sale of 900 barrels of crude from the Jubilee Field as lifted by JOHL was the Petroleum Holding Fund and not the company’s offshore account.
But Mr Dadzie said the PIAC has misread the law.
“We disagree with PIAC that revenues from the liftings should have been paid into the Petroleum Holding Fund. JOHL is a hundred per cent subsidiary of GNPC and registered under the Companies Act and for that reason, hundred per cent of the revenues cannot be paid into the Petroleum Holding Fund.
“The company must operate and if at the end of the day it declares profit, and the directors decide that dividends must be paid, that money is paid to GNPC and subsequently into the Petroleum Holding Fund,” Mr Dadzie stated.
He explained that when the original owners of the block in Jubilee, Anadarko, decided to sell their share, GNPC approached to purchase seven per cent which it got for US$164.7 million but due to delays in the finalisation of the agreement, Anadarko decided to set up JOHL to curve out the seven per cent for GNPC.
“When we were ready, we had to buy JOHL so the structure of the transaction wasn’t a GNPC structure. It was a structure that was defined by the seller,” he said.
To this end, he said, when Tullow bought that particular lifting, it paid the money into JOHL’s Cayman Islands account.
The funding of the purchase, he said was done by the Ministry of Finance through a loan; a funding agreement which did not receive parliamentary approval though same was included in the Corporation’s work programme for the year 2021 as submitted to Parliament.
Pressed if the Finance Minister could be held liable for the payment, Mr Dadzie reiterated that “We believe that JOHL is governed by the Companies Act and not by the Petroleum Revenue Management Act and for that matter, the finance minister cannot be held responsible” albeit no illegality in the payment of the amount into the offshore account.
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, is expected to appear before the Committee today with his defence to the seven grounds for which the Minority wants him censured.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI