But CEPS Promises Investigation After Blacklisting Officer
The Foods and Drugs Board (FDA), whose officers had used their eyes and nose to scan through two 40-footer container loads of rotten chicken at the premises of an importer, has defended its action, saying not all the 5, 600 boxes of chicken were rotten at the time they saw it at the Tema Port on October 13, 2017, as late as 5-5:30 pm.
Interestingly, a third container with 2,800 boxes of frozen chicken, has been impounded at the premises of the importer; Tema-based White Stones Frozen Food Limited, pending a laboratory investigation, something the Customs Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS) division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), had earlier asked them to do, but was ignored.
According to the Head of Public Affairs of the FDA, James Lartey, when FDA officers assigned to the consignment realized that not all the chicken were rotten, they ordered for the unwholesome ones numbering 266 boxes to be destroyed, but prevented the importer from clearing a third consignment full with frozen chicken.
But the third container was smuggled out of the Tema Port by agents of White Stones Frozen Food Limited, against the instructions of the FDA and veterinary service, although they together with CEPS, had noticed a pungent smell coming from it, indicating “spoilage”.
Mr. Lartey confirmed to Citi’s FM’s Breakfast Show host, Bernard Avle that although the consignment was embargoed, the FDA, later realized that it had been cleared and smuggled out of the port.
He said, when the FDA noticed the smuggling, it confronted the company, but it lied that it had dispatched the container load of bad meat to Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region, butit was later discovered that the rotten chicken, has all along been in Tema at the premises of White Stones Frozen Food Limited.
He claimed that FDA’s investigations showed that, the products had not moved from Accra, adding that the FDA, had located the products, and sealed the container, awaiting results from a test conducted by the veterinary service.
Interestingly, no agent of the White Stones Frozen Food Limited, has been arrested for smuggling the rotten chicken from the habour.
There has not also been an arrest for the destruction of the FDA seal on the third container. So has there not been an arrest for deceit of public officer in this matter. Indeed, the company is busily selling its wears to the public.
The usual press statement characteristic of the FDA, warming the public about unwholesome meat in the market, is also missing.
“On the day the first container was being cleared, they noticed that there was another container, so what our officers did was that, they tried to open that container which belongs to the same company to inspect it, but it had been sealed. The clearing agent promised that on Monday, they will bring a welder to open it, but they realized that the container was on Monday cleared [on the FDA’s blind side].”
“What we did was that, we called the clearing agent, and he told us that the product was in Techiman, so we called our office immediately in Brong Ahafo to start making investigations on the product, only for us to go back to the warehouse to notice that the clearing agent gave us wrong information. The whole product was still in Accra. On Wednesday, we saw 2,800 cartons of the product that one didn’t have a foul smell, and we called the veterinary service who took samples to do analysis, the results I don’t know yet. We have sealed that, and they cannot be touched,” Mr. Lartey said.
Mr. Lartey noted that, the FDA officer at the port cannot be blamed for the clearance of the unwholesome product, since he took the right steps within his power to ensure that the right thing was done, adding that their officer was subsequently able to detain 2,800 cartons of the embargoed consignment.
“I don’t know why our officer should be blamed in this instance. In the first place, he has allowed a product to be cleared…he went there, he did sorting, there was a second institution that was among the sorting team, samples were taken, the wholesome ones were kept and the unwholesome ones were destroyed. What has he done wrong? I don’t know how I’m going to blame our officer.”
He also noted that “with the second consignment, he had clearly agreed that the product should not be cleared, and it has been cleared, how do you blame him? He has followed up and found 2,800 cartons of the one that was not supposed to be cleared, and he has detained them, and you blame the officer for what?”
The earlier two 40-footer containers numbered 420174417371 from Weddam Food Link BV of Holland, were labelled chicken back, but they were discovered to be hen wings. The intention is to evade paying the state the required tax.
The wrong designation, is said to attract some penalties against the importer, but it is not clear, if this has been slapped on White Stones Frozen Food Limited owned by Madam Eunice Jacqueline Buah alias Lady Bianca, who is the Western Regional Representative on the Council of State and also a Board Member of the Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GHPHA).
But CEPS, has also said it should not be blamed for the alleged importation of unwholesome chicken that has found its way into the country.
Also speaking on the Citi Breakfast Show on Monday, a member of CEPS communication team, Paa Kow Ekumah, said something happened and that an officer is under investigation over the matter to ascertain the entire truth.
“In the case of this chicken, yes, the full work hasn’t been done yet, and we have our officers down there and I’m sure in a matter of a day or two, we will come to the conclusion of it”, and said an officer has been cited by he won’t put out his name.
“That issue has come up and we are seriously looking at it – investigations going on from different angles. It’s a little sensitive now and it’s a little early to draw conclusions but what we know is that when it comes to Customs, we will always make sure that we will not find ourselves at the wrong side of the law.”
“That issue has come up and we are seriously looking at it – investigations are going on from different angles. It’s a little sensitive now, and it’s a little early to draw conclusions. But what we know is that, when it comes to Customs, we will always make sure that we will not find ourselves at the wrong side of the law.”
The FDA officer at the port, Solomon Agampim, had told The Herald that he discovered the rotten chicken from Weddam Food Link BV of Holland and raised alarm after customs had cleared it, but a document generated from the computers of Customs, said something different.
The Customs’ document had noted “spoilage” in one of the containers during its inspection, and asked that the particular container be moved and detained at the premises of White Stones Frozen Foods Limited, until it was properly certified for human consumption through a laboratory investigation.
Interestingly, Mr. Agampim, has said he and the Port Veterinary officer, had around 5-5:30pm same day, relied on their eyes and nose to identify and remove some 266 boxes of the rotten chicken from the flagged container, before allowing the other cartons to be put in the market for human consumption.
Mr. Agampim and others, had earlier denied knowledge of the rotten chicken from Holland when The Herald first made contact with them at the Tema Port to ascertain reports that they had aided the Tema-based White Stones Frozen to smuggle the bad meat into the market.
A day later, Mr. Agampim in fumbling speech revealed his role, including how he together with port veterinary officer used their eyes and nose to sniff out the bad meat from the 40-footer container against the strict instructions of the customs that they should carry out laboratory investigation on meat with pungent smell.
The additional information confirms a cover-up, complicity and betrayal of public trust by some state actors with the FDA, veterinary officer and the Customs at the Tema Port, who had been entrusted with the health and safety of the citizens.
The document obtained from Customs, shows the heavy culpability of the head of the FDA at Tema Port, Solomon Agampim and the Port Veterinary officer.
Customs had said it noted “spoilage” in the containers during its inspection of the frozen chicken, and asked that the particular container be detained until it had undergone a laboratory investigation, however, Mr. Agampim and the Port Veterinary officer, had at 5-5:30pm used their eyes and nose to identify to remove the 266 boxes of the rotten chicken from the container with 2,800 boxes.
The custom document had the inscription: (RLSD TO FDA (DOE Dzedzorm Paul) 01×4, and dated on October 14, 2017. It was titled “Internal Remarks created by KOANTW”, and it said “Ignore earlier remarks. Further inspection of consignment shows that some CTNS are showing signs of spoilage”.
It directed that “Consignment should be sealed and detailed at the importers premises pending laboratory analysis and clearance from the VSD please”.
Per the documents, the containers were to be moved out of the Port to the premises of White Stones Frozen Foods Limited, for the laboratory investigation, but not the eye and nose verification by the FDA and veterinary officers.
The document, which also had another name; Arhin Kwarkor, written beneath it, stated “Ascertain the veracity of the claim by AG”.
It named the container as type RE 40-footer container marked AEXU4501079. The seal number was given as 0137329 and gross weight as 29300. The max payload was marked 0, while the number of packages onboard is 2, 000, instead of the normal 2,700 cartons of meat. ISOcode was indicated as 45R1.
Other detail available to The Herald revealed how the importer use Customs, veterinary and with the FDA to smuggle imported frozen food from the port without paying duties on them. They surreptitiously described the frozen meat as unwholesome for human consumption, and destined it for destruction, but later divert to their actual owners for bribe.
An under pressure Mr. Agampim confirmed to this paper that three 40-footer container of chicken products, were cleared from the port with some sent all the way to Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region, and mentioned the owners of the consignments as White Stones Frozen Foods Limited, the Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GHPHA) board member.
The FDA officer, said two containers were allowed to be cleared by CEPS on Friday, October 13, 2017. However, when it was inspected by the FDA, they found that, one had issue so they alerted the CEPS official, which led to him withdrawing his earlier approval.
“We know of two containers and in that one, if you look into the system, they were cleared by CEPS’ head and when we opened and realized that one was [rotten], we alerted him that this is the case, so he had to retract his clearance in the system.
Now, looking at the time, it was almost getting to 5-5:30pm so we said ok, if that is the case lets place a seal on it and then follow it to the premises of Whitestone or whatever and then do de-stuffing and when we finished, there was only 266 boxes, of the same Whitestone frozen foods products or whatever you call it. We did that on either Friday or Saturday that we did that”, he said while fumbling.
Mr. Agampim, continued that all the processes were adhered to, and so some 266 layers of the chicken that went bad, were removed for destruction, which were paid for by the company; White Stone Frozen Foods Limited.
“We locked the container, followed up to start all the stuffing, because it was the last badge. Because when they are loading, you have to put on the limit before it gets to the roof, but this one was almost packed to the roof, so the last four layers or is it three layers, were bad.
We had to take all that out and then look at the other one and even sampled some and the following morning, we went and sampled some and it was looking very beautiful.
Then the other ones that were bad 266 boxes, we told them to pay for supervision and they did pay, and was it yesterday or the day before yesterday, we followed it and they went and did safe disposal, I was there with the veterinary officer at the Port”, he said and inistsed that documents covering the destruction exercise were available, which he could show as proof.