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Ghana Cocoa Board, respectfully, what is a public document?

Sun, 11 Oct 2020 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

High officials of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) have stated categorically that the audit report on cocoa roads contracts that were awarded under the previous administration is not a public document, hence they will not release it for public scrutiny.

Fiifi Boafo, the Public Affairs Manager of COCOBOD and Joseph Boahen Aidoo, the CEO have both stated this on radio about a report produced with taxpayers’ monies.

Upon assumption of office in January 2017, the Akufo-Addo administration ordered that the cocoa roads projects meant to construct tarred roads in the forest regions of Ghana, should be investigated.

Fiifi Boafo told Citi News: “We have not been instructed to put the report out there yet. It was submitted in 2019. When a decision is made by the board and management, of course, in consultation with the Government that we publish the report, we will not hesitate……It is not a question of why no one has been found corrupt after the investigation? The report was to among other things confirm [……] the suspicions [of] corruption at the time.”

Fiifi Boafo then informed the nation: “A number of actions have arisen from the report. We had to redesign some of the projects. There were some roads that were designed without bridges though they were required. The report helped us to re-scope some of these designs. There were other projects that had no faults. There were issues as to whether or not the contractors had the capacity to execute the contracts given to them.”

Meanwhile that same Monday, when Joy News, another media outlet, asked how much the Government of Ghana spent on the audit, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, a former MP for Amenfi East and current CEO of COCOBOD chose to rather blame the opposition thus: “They have entered the gutters and I wouldn’t want to go there.”

Let us say it as it is, “and get off the page” as my mentor will say.

First, when a report is laid before Parliament, it is a public document.

Why then will any public institution conduct an audit and refuse to submit the report to the people through the institution of parliament. Needless to say, if the COCOBOD had submitted the report to Parliament, no one would have been asking them for it.

Second, the idea that journalists should apply for the document under the Freedom of Information Act regime while at the same time telling us that the report is not a public document is disingenuous.

Third, any work undertaken with public funds is public work, and must be fully disclosed to the public unless of course its disclosure will impede national security. Clearly, this report cannot be classified as such.

Fourth, political discourse is a matter that must concern all of us. Even if some persons have partisan political interests, why not? Does the constitution not guarantee their right to free speech?

Release the audit report and let the discerning public also judge the motive of the politicians.

As my mentor often says when the same matter has been repeatedly addressed but the mistakes continue, “I have lost academic interest”.

This is precisely how I feel when called upon to react to the antics of our politicians and public servants.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah