Bole Guest House Was Built In 1975
Tema Housing Project Has Increased Staff Homes From 17 to 192
CP Judgement Debt Was Incurred By Kufuor Gov’t
Warehouse Construction Saved Cost From Excessive Rent
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board, yesterday suffered a colossal damage to his reputation, when ex-President John Mahama, swiftly refuted his claims that he as president, caused the construction of a guest house “for his personal comfort” in his hometown of Bole – Northern Region, using the Board’s funds.
A statement signed by Mr. Mahama’s aide, Joyce Bawa Mogtari, clarified that, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana Research Station Guest House, “has been in existence since 1975.”
The facility in question, also is a station which “conducts research into Shea nut and Cashew”. It is said to have workers presently working there on the payroll of the board. The Accra-based contractor who did the renovation has been named to as Shiraz. Apart from a store which was built next to the guest house, all other buildings were only renovated.
Joseph Boahen Aidoo, at a press conference on Wednesday to respond to reports of mismanagement at COCOBOD by the Minority in Parliament, said the erstwhile administration of COCOBOD led by Dr. Stephen Opuni, rather misappropriated millions of cocoa funds on frivolous activities, including the construction of an “unnecessary guest house” for ex-President Mahama to “enable him enjoy comfortable holidays during visits to his constituency.”
Mr. Mahama’s office, described such claims as only “intended to slander the former President as a way of covering up bad management practices and decisions identified and highlighted by the NDC Minority in Parliament about the country’s cocoa sector.”
The statement also described the accusation by Joseph Boahen Aidoo, as falling into “a regrettable pattern of false and inaccurate information”, adding “such an unwholesome practice will only serve to detract from the important business of managing the Cocoa sector which is the lifeblood of the Ghanaian economy.”
Mr. Mahama’s office, thus urged Mr. Boahen Aidoo “to pay greater attention to discharging the weighty responsibility entrusted to him devoid of unnecessary partisanship and mudslinging” because “a decision by the Board of COCOBOD to renovate the facility, after many years of use cannot be needless, and does not require the influence of the President of the Republic, as he then was.”
It explained that, “the Station conducts research into Shea nut and Cashew, to boost production of these two crops in the Brong Ahafo, Upper West, Upper East and Northern Regions that constitute the Northern Savannah zone”, adding “…the CRIG Research facility includes the guest house that has always provided commercial accommodation services to officials of COCOBOD and any other person that requires its use”.
To this end, The Office of the Former President, charged Boahene Aidoo’s management to address the bad management practices and decisions identified and highlighted by the NDC Minority in Parliament about the country’s cocoa sector, instead of covering up.
Mr. Boahene Aidoo had claimed that “…the contract to construct a 50,000 metric tonne warehouse at Tema was not considered to be financially and operationally prudent at the time since COCOBOD already had enough warehousing capacity at Tema to sustain its operations into the foreseeable future. The warehouse rehabilitation contract at Abuakwa in Kumasi was not required at the time since the facilities were in excellent working condition. Last but not the least, a whopping US$24 million contract was awarded to demolish excellent staff housing quarters in Tema, only to construct new housing facilities raising several questions about the motive for the award of the contract.”
US$24 million Tema Housing
But The Herald’s findings on the issue of the US$24 million Tema Housing project awarded Amandi, are that the project is rather constructing and increasing the residential facility for both junior and senior staff from a paltry 17 apartments for senior staff to a whopping 192 two and three bedrooms for both junior and senior staff of COCOBOD.
This is said to have been explained to an audit team set up by the COCOBOD Board Chairman, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, who in the past, had also alleged wastage against the Opuni-led management.
50,000 metric tonne warehouse at Tema
On the 50,000 metric tonne warehouse at Tema, it was revealed that, COCOBOD rents warehouses from private individuals, including Global Haulage, but that this was done to check cost and save resources from rent paid by COCOBOD.
Mr. Boahene Aidoo, also claimed that “the President Mahama/Opuni tenure used export duty payments from COCOBOD as a conduit to syphon funds for activities not related to cocoa. A case in point is the payment of US$25million from COCOBOD to Construction Pioneers (CP) in January 2016 to settle judgement debt awarded against the Government of Ghana in the UK. Without this payment, Government was to lose a property worth about US$1.2 million in the UK as a result of reckless handling of debts owed CP. This amount was taken from COCOBOD in the name of “exercise” duty (in the word of the then Deputy Minister of Finance – a Board member of COCOBOD Casiel Ato Forson). The payment under export duty was to make it appear legitimate”.
US$25million from COCOBOD to CP
The Herald’s information is that, US$25million from COCOBOD to Construction Pioneers (CP) in January 2016, to settle judgement debt awarded against Ghana in the UK, was occasioned by ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor’s government.
COCOBOD, was asked by the Finance Ministry to step in with US$25million to settle Construction Pioneers (CP), the COCOBOD facilities in UK, were going to be garnisheed by CP to settle the judgement. The said cash is supposed to be returned to COCOBOD coffers.
Insiders informed The Herald that, the move to use the US$25million from COCOBOD, was done to avoid a situation where the European banks involved in the syndicated loans, would be alarmed at the garnishment of COCOBOD properties abroad. It is to prevent an embarrassment to COCOBOD and save Ghana’s Cocoa prices abroad that the money was used to settled CP judgement debt.
Meanwhile, report of the Judgment Debt Commission, had accused the erstwhile Kufour administration of engaging in needless “feet-dragging” in the payment of a legitimate judgment debt due construction firm Construction pioneers(CP) leading to the figure ballooning from some 27million euros to 162 million euros.
According to the Commission “A review of the GoG’s role in the resolution of the CP saga between 2001 and 2008 shows that as at 18th October 2002, the total outstanding claim of CP against the State had been computed at DM 55, 092,544.65 and GHc2, 747,165.78, which is the total equivalent of Euro 27, 547,272(€27, 547,272).”
However, “as of 28th February 2009, the ICC awarded claim in favour of CP in addition to undisputed but unpaid Certificates had been computed at Euro 162, 609,600.89 (€162, 609,600.89), which was accruing interest at the rate of €12, 787.19 a day”.
Thus to the commission, if the Kufour administration, was minded to settle the debt as of 2002, when it stood at some 27 million euros, it would not have ballooned to 162million as of 2009.
Most of the feet-dragging “in payment and hence the astronomical increase in the debt of both this CP issue and indeed other judgment debts” have, in the Commission’s view, “contributed to the eventual high bill in foreign exchange terms for the State”.
This they attribute to the distrust between incumbent governments and their predecessors “Most current political incumbents are completely distrustful of the intentions of their predecessors in such matters as contracts that, they cannot see their way out of the debts partially or fully either technically or professionally.”
In the opinion of this Commission, if there is no satisfactory evidence that can stand up in court, politicians must learn; “to cut the losses and count the gains”. “All Governments; past, present and possibly future ones, need to watch this unhealthy practice carefully and put a stop to it”.
The cost to the country of “this pettiness is too high”. In the long run, it continues “nothing by way of even a small fraction of the debt is reduced. It is rather increased through compounding accrued interest on principal and on loss of profit through effluxion of time to the hurt of the State”.
The commission was particularly worried about the NPP government’s failure to pay especially when earlier “ incumbent Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Hon Paapa Owusu Ankomah, had admitted that the Government had a bad case in the dispute with CP.
His successor Hon Joe Ghartey also held the same view and strongly urged the then Government to arrange an immediate payment of the outstanding debt.” So also had the then”Minister for Roads and Transport Dr. Richard Anane added his voice to the immediate payment to CP of this over-hanging debt”. These debts were, however, not paid until there was a change of government in January 2009.
The report, however, commended the former attorney general, Betty Mould Iddrissu, for negotiating down the 163million euros to 94 million euros “This decision by the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice Betty Mould-Iddrisu, which recommended and insisted that the awards which she had managed to negotiate downwards from about 163 million Euros (€163 million) to 94 million Euros (€94 million) should be satisfied and paid by the State was, in the opinion of this Commission, one of the best decisions that could be taken in the interest of the State.
The negotiated settlement agreement brokered by Betty Mould-Iddrisu, required that the negotiated amount of €94 million be paid quarterly to CP.
The Commission subpoenaed the Central Bank (BoG) to testify on the payments so far made to CP, as a result of the negotiated settlement.
The Officer who represented the Bank of Ghana at the Commission was Mr. Eric K. Hammond who said he was a Chief Manager at the Bank.