Cocoa roads projects under scrutiny
- Approved GH¢1.6 bn budget increases to GH¢5bn
- ‘Completed’ roads do not exist
A comprehensive value for money audit of the country’s Cocoa Roads Projects is underway to assess the financial obligation of the projects to government and ensure value for money, Minister for Food and Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has said.
Though an amount of GH¢1.6 billion was approved for the construction of cocoa roads across the country, more than GH¢5billion worth of contracts were signed with various companies for the execution of the project funded by the Ghana Cocoa Board ((COCOBOD).
Dr. Akoto said: “For cocoa roads, the previous administration approved a budget for GH¢1.6 billion, but when we took over, we realized that they signed contracts worth nearly GH¢5 billion. It just beats your imagination. This is just one piece of evidence that I’m giving you about mismanagement.
A budget has been approved by management to follow and then the board sits and oversee the quadrupling of what they themselves have set as ceiling. This is unthinkable and the cause of all the financial challenges Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is facing now,” he said.
Dr. Akoto, who has oversight responsibility of COCOBOD after the cocoa sector was recently moved from the Ministry of Finance of Food and Agriculture, was speaking after the swearing-in ceremony of a seven-member board of directors for the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC) Limited in Accra.
“What is more revealing is that all the cocoa roads they captured that the money was used for do not exist. Those roads are not there. We have ordered investigations to help government proceed to the court,” he said.
Dr. Akoto indicated that country’s cocoa industry has worsened to the extent that the Board, for the first time in its history, has to borrow money to pay its farmers.
“This is the first time COCOBOD is having to go out and borrow money at between 21 and 22 percent to pay farmers for their produce. That is how bad the industry has become”, he said.
This, he said, has made it difficult for COCOBOD to finance its operations, adding that, the price the country is paying to its farmers is below the price they are getting on the international market.
“A year ago, the world price of cocoa was around US$3,000 per metric tonne on the London exchange. As we speak now is not even US$1,900 that is a substantial drop of more than one third on the price”.
“Unfortunately, when Akufo-Addo came in prices have already started tumbling and as of last week, it was as low as US$1,880. The price Ghana is paying to its farmers is just below the price that we are getting on the international stage”, he stated.
Dr. Akoto urged the current Board to be prudent in their management of resources to help revamp confidence in the cocoa sector.
The Board members include: Mr. Joseph Kobina Essidu, Board Chairman; Anthony Osei Boakye; and Dr. Emmanuel Osei Tuffour—the President’s nominee.
Others members also include: Mr. Charles Nornoo, MOFA’s representative; Dr. Johnson Asiama, Bank of Ghana; Mr. David Nii Klotey Collison,Ministry of Finance; and Dr. K. Mensah-Aborampah, representing CMC.
Speaking on half of the other board members, Mr. Essidu, thanked the President for giving them the opportunity to contribute towards the revival of the country’s cocoa industry which has great impact on the economy.
He confirmed that cocoa continue to be the country’s mainstay of the economy and promised to work diligently to ensure the speedy revival of the country’s cocoa sector.