Management of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has accused ex-President John Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of siphoning a whopping $400 million from the $1.8 billion syndicated loan for the 2016/2017 crop season – during the transition period.The amount was reportedly expended between December 20, 2016 and January 6, 2017.
The immediate past managers of COCOBOD, headed by Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, are being investigated by various security agencies.
The current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Cocobod, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, made the disclosure at a press conference yesterday in Accra to respond to some allegations put forward recently by the minority NDC in parliament.
Mr Aidoo also hinted that COCOBOD built a guest house for John Mahama at his hometown of Bole in the Northern Region for holidays.
“The President Mahama/Opuni tenure used export duty payments from COCOBOD as a conduit to siphon funds for activities not related to cocoa,” Mr Aidoo said.
According to him, cocoa money, which was supposed to be used judiciously to improve the lives of hardworking Ghanaian farmers, was “secretly” and “smartly” diverted into the payments of unnecessary judgment debts.
“A case in point is the payment of $25 million from COCOBOD to Construction Pioneers (CP) in January 2016 to settle judgment debt awarded against the Government of Ghana in the UK,” Mr. Aidoo noted.
“The contract for COCOBOD to construct a guest house at Bole in the Northern Region was needless at the time it was awarded,” the Cocobod CEO indicated.
He claimed, “President Mahama was said to have influenced the award to enable him enjoy comfortable holidays during visits to his constituency.”
The minority NDC had held a press conference, demanding answers to the utilization of proceeds relating to cocoa production above 850,000 metric tonnes projected for the 2016/2017 crop year.
But Mr. Aidoo said the move by members of the minority was a clear attempt to peddle falsehood just to throw dust into the eyes of the public in general and farmers in particular.
Painting a clearer picture of what the real issues are in the cocoa sector, Mr Boahen Aidoo said the minority and the NDC as a whole had failed to account for the 2016/2017 syndicated loan.
It would be recalled that the Mahama-led NDC administration secured an amount of $1.8 billion for the 2016/2017 cocoa purchases, which was projected at 850,000 metric tonnes.
According to Mr. Aidoo, as at January 2017, the $1.8 billion had “been fully drawn and utilized when only 587,125 metric tonnes of cocoa had been purchased.
“The mystery surrounding the exhaustion of the $1.8 billion is being investigated and the full facts will be made known to Ghanaians in due course.”
He disclosed, “Peculiar to the loan utilization is the last drawdown of $400 million, which was effected on 20th December, 2016 at the time the NDC had woefully lost the December 2016 elections.”
“Despite this inability to account properly for the loan, the NPP Government was saddled with a whopping debt of GH¢19.6 billion after taking over in January 2017,” Mr. Aidoo revealed.
Part of the debt showed GH¢3.52 billion for the construction of cocoa roads.
“Total budgetary allocation of GH¢1.64 billion was earmarked for cocoa roads project between 2014/2015 and 2016/2017 whilst the NDC government awarded contracts to the tune of GH¢5.16 billion. This was over the budgeted figure for GH¢3.52 billion,” the CEO averred.
In an attempt to conceal the over-bloated cocoa roads contracts, he said the NDC administration decided to create a Trust as a separate vehicle to manage the (cocoa roads) projects.
According to him, the Trust Deed was not registered, even though the Trust was said to have been inaugurated at the Ministry of Finance, adding, “The inauguration of the Trust was used as charade to deceive Ghanaians.”
Surprisingly, according to Mr Aidoo, many of the cocoa roads for which contracts were awarded had been found to be non-existent, saying the NDC government is the only government in Ghana that has created ‘ghost roads.’
Abuse Of Power
“There was gross abuse of power and wasteful expenditure during Opuni’s regime,” he said, pointing out that “there is evidence to show that the NDC over-bloated revenue and allocated budgets for spending above the available resources.”
Mr. Aidoo also highlighted some actions taken by Dr. Opuni which he claimed led Ghana to lose huge revenues in the cocoa sector during the NDC era.
According to him, the numerous actions included trading in options.
“This led to the loss of $750,000 in 2015/2016. This trading in options, which was executed by the then Marketing Manager of CMC and directly supervised by Dr. Opuni, is a subject of investigations currently being undertaken by Cocobod,” he said.
In addition, he asserted that price discounts which were given on cocoa sales for Cocobod’s failure to honour contracts on due dates resulted in losses to the board.
Abuse of power and misuse of money were also present under the cocoa roads contracts, Mr. Aidoo observed, alleging that “four-wheel drive vehicles were purchased by Cocobod for the contractors as part of the contract prices.
“Currently, 160 vehicles are with the contractors. To indicate the abuse, an 18-kilometer road for example, was allocated six four-wheel vehicles for inspection by the old administration. I have initiated steps to retrieve the vehicles from the contractors.”
The inspection tours of such cocoa roads were mostly embarked upon by Dr. Opuni and former Minister of Roads and Highways, Inusah Fuseini.