Government’s move to settle the longstanding grievances of clients of the DKM Microfinance Company has taken off on a disappointing note with a number of the depositors in the Upper East region dissatisfied with the refund arrangements.
The Bank of Ghana (BoG) shut down the company on Monday May 11, 2015, after it reportedly failed to comply with the terms and conditions required in its licence and also for purportedly possessing assets deemed too insufficient to meet its liabilities to investors. Several millions of Ghana cedis got locked up at the firm as thousands of shareholders including chiefs and clerics, hit by the sudden disaster, held their heads in raw horror.
Devastated creditors across the country openly blamed the BoG for alleged failure to have ascertained the capabilities of the company from the onset before granting it licence to operate. And President John Dramani Mahama himself came under fire not only because the disaster struck under his government but also because it was taking so long for government to undo “the mess” despite the “several promises” the president made.
Government finally bowed to pressure following endless protests that repeatedly saw the depositors-turned-demonstrators, who said marriages were being dissolved and DKM-related suicide cases were being recorded, issue open threats to vote against the ruling party if government failed to retrieve their investments for them.
In a move to lay the agitations to rest, the Bank of Ghana announced in September, this year, its readiness to have the withheld investments reimbursed. It scheduled public fora in regions struck by the heartbreak as a channel through which the mode of repayment was to be communicated to the distressed customers. A forum held Thursday at the Golden Jubilee Park in Bolgatanga, the regional capital, saw in attendance countless survivors of the ‘financial tremor’ in the region, among them fresh pensioners who had put in their entire retirement package at the liquidated company.
They thronged the venue with mixed expectations. Whilst some wished to be told that their deposits would be repaid with some interests, a number of them were prepared to be content with getting back at least only what they had deposited. Questions posed by the customers to the Registrar-General’s Department, the liquidators appointed by the BoG, highlighted those expectations. But hopes were dashed. The department only gave a date for refund. It did not guarantee that clients would have their deposits fully refunded when repayment began.
“The difficulty that we had was whether they were going to pay all or not. We actually wanted to know whether they are paying us the deposits or with interests or they are paying us parts of our deposits. That wasn’t actually very clear. But they were not ready to tell us, saying they were still doing the validation. They said by next week, Friday, they would be in a position to know how much we would collect,” the Chairman of the Aggrieved Customers of DKM in Upper East, Charles Ayambire, told radioxyzonline at the close of the forum.
Bloated Gh¢540 million claims being verified
About 1,400 people in the region are said to have banked Gh¢11, 829, 371 at the company before the sudden shutdown.
Just after the closure, DKM was reported to have about 63, 000 creditors to settle with a sum of Gh¢113 million nationwide. But, after a forensic audit was conducted by the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), the figures stand at about 93,000 claims today with liabilities of Gh¢540 million to defray across the country.
“The claims that came in were about 63,000, but through the forensic audit we got about 93,000 separate claims coming in- and that’s why the verification is going on. Next week, Friday, we will come out with the numbers. The total figure they say DKM is owing them is 540 million (Ghana Cedis) but it’s not been verified. By next Friday, I will have that figure of the real value that we have to pay out,” Acting Registrar-General and official liquidator of the DKM Microfinance Company, Jemima Oware, told journalists moments after the forum had ended.
She added: “Next week we will come out with the list of verified claimants or creditors. We will paste it in all the places they’ve submitted their claims. And the banks we have identified to help pay the verified claimants [are] ADB, GCB and Fidelity Bank. And we will have dedicated officers in the various banks to these monies over the counter. We’ll start paying first week of October. The verification is a process. If you [are a client] and you find out that your name is not there, it doesn’t mean you are not a creditor. Continue waiting to hear from us through the dailies, through the stations, through the papers as and when we come out with more names. We are still working. We’ll continue working until we see to everybody.”
Heavy security dispatched against foreseeable attacks
Armed attacks were anticipated at the forum in view of the scale of anger shown in the past by the frustrated clients, some of whom, after the management of the company had fled for cover, purportedly broke into the office block of the microfinance organisation to confiscate any assets they could find.
A horde of security personnel, numbering about 50 and fully armed, was dispatched to the Jubilee Park to ensure that the forum did not turn into furor. Police vehicles, packed with prepared officers, provided escort for the liquidator and her entire team when it became necessary to go into the office building of the bankrupted company on the Commercial Street in Bolgatanga to fetch some vital documents to aid the ongoing verification of claims.
“The liquidators have outlined all the processes. We feel convinced. But in all their presentations, they didn’t come out clear how much they are paying. They dodged that part. But we heard they told those in Sunyani that they would only pay parts of the deposits. Before we will say anything, we want to see the monies in our accounts. We are worried the way they are in a hurry. We see some rush here. We want to take our time look into the validation. If I’m paid, I will now subtract DKM from the issues to consider going into the 2016 elections,” said one of the depositors who had vowed to vote against the governing party at the upcoming polls.