|Dr. Stephen Opuni - Former CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD)|
The COCOBOB CEO says Ghanaians will soon know the outcome of their investigations into that transaction.
He explained that, the NDC government secured an amount of US$1.8 billion for the 2016/2017 cocoa purchases, which were projected at 850,000 metric tonnes.
According to him, as at January 2017, the US$1.8 billion had been fully drawn and utilized when only 587,125 metric tonnes of cocoa had been purchased.
He said “The mystery surrounding the exhaustion of the US$1.8 billion is being investigated and the full facts will be made known to Ghanaians in due course. Peculiar to the loan utilization is the last drawdown of US$400.0 million which was effected on 20th December 2016 at the time the NDC had woefully lost the December 2016 elections.”
“It is still surprising how the full drawdown of US$400.00 million (GH¢1.69 billion) was fully expended between 20th December 2016 and 6th January 2017 when the NPP government took over after 7th January 2017. Audit findings into the utilization of the amount will be made known to Ghanaians at the appropriate time when the full facts are unravelled.”
Mr. Boahen Aidoo said, despite this inability to account properly for the loan, the NPP government was saddled with a whopping debt of GHC19.6 billion after taking over in January 2017.
The COCOBOD CEO, who spoke to journalists at a news conference on Wednesday, took on the NDC Minority, because according to him, they have made several baseless and false about the new government’s management of the cocoa sector.
He said the penchant to siphon funds through inflated contracts was rampant in the NDC administration through ill-conceived construction contracts in the cocoa sector.
He said such contracts were awarded without proper value for money analysis, bringing into question the motive behind them.
COCOBOD built Bole guest house for Mahama’s comfort – CEO
He named one of such wasteful contracts as the building of an “unnecessary COCOBOD Guest House” in the Northern Regional town of Bole, where then President Mahama hails from.
Joseph Boahen Aidoo accused former President John Mahama of influencing the construction of that guest house for his personal comfort while in office. He insisted that the erstwhile administration of COCOBOD led by Mr. Stephen Opuni, rather misappropriated millions of cocoa funds on frivolous activities.
He revealed that the Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO) is investigating possible cases of financial malfeasance during the tenure of the former COCOBOD CEO, Dr. Stephen Opuni.
We’ve saved Ghana GhC80 million cedis
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board, also revealed that the new administration has saved the country some Ghc80 million, following the review of a fertilizer and chemical supplies contract of over GHC500 million, awarded by the John Mahama administration shortly before they left office, after losing the 2016 election.
He said the free fertilizer programme for instance, was used by the NDC to introduce sub-standard and inefficacious fertilizers into the cocoa Hi-Tech programme.
“Cocoa farmers expressed misgivings and disquiet in accepting the sub-standard fertilizers through the free fertilizer programme introduced by Dr. Opuni and the NDC regime. He resolved to willfully cause financial waste such that farmers would be compelled to accept the fertilizers for free if acceptance through the subsidized sale was not successful.”
“Similarly, the cocoa mass spraying exercise was changed from the normal model of spraying by gangs to the distribution of sub-standard insecticides and fungicides to farmers to spray their own farms. The amount saved from the non-payment of gangs was misapplied through inflated contracts.”
He added that “the rehabilitation programme was abandoned by the NDC regime, and therefore the party cannot claim credit for the cutting of mistletoes. Rather, the NDC decided to pursue the so-called free distribution of inputs and seedlings, which were rather conduits for inflated contracts and the syphoning of funds.”
According to him, the NPP Government has now re-introduced the fertilizer subsidy programme with quality and high yielding fertilizers.
“There is an average subsidy of 53% on the fertilizers. The mass spraying gangs are paid promptly and therefore there is no evidence to suggest that spraying gang allowances have been in arrears for four (4) months as alleged by the NDC press conference. The gangs spray evenly across all farms without discrimination.”
NDC minority making noise about non-existent challenges
“It is very interesting to hear the minority talk about challenges with the Cocoa Mass Spraying programme when the government has, in fact, re-launched the programme to make it more viable. All the so-called challenges mentioned are non-existent. Cocoa diseases and pests do not know the political affiliation of cocoa farmers. It will, therefore, be unfortunate for COCOBOD to politicise this important intervention which has played a very important role in increased cocoa production since its introduction in 2001.”
Mr. Boahen Aidoo further revealed that, the NDC administration spearheaded procurement of agrochemical and fertilizer inputs above allocated budgets, and that the budgets for the years were exceeded through padded contracts.
“Worse to mention is the fact that, these agro inputs were rushed through the scientific testing regime by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG). Officials of CRIG who resisted to rush the products through the fast-tracked testing regime were transferred. These inputs were confirmed by farmers across the country to be ineffective and it is not surprising that Ghana’s cocoa production plummeted to the 740,000 and 778,000 tonnes in the 2014/2015 and the 2015/2016 seasons respectively when Dr Opuni was in charge of COCOBOD.”
“In addition to this, the NDC Government had awarded contracts for fertilizer and chemical supplies worth more than GHC500.00 million before leaving office in January 2017. The new management had to renegotiate these contracts, saving the Ghanaian farmer over GHS80.00 million” he noted.