Thr Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has directed the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to produce a report on payments made to cocoa road contractors from 2020 to the present.
The committee particularly directed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, Joseph Boahene-Aidoo, to produce the report in two weeks, failure of which he and other top management members of the board would be sanctioned.
He referred to Article 103 (3) of the Constitution which stipulates that “(6) A committee appointed under this article shall have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court or a Justice of the High Court at a trial for— (a) enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise; (b) compelling the production of documents; and (c) issuing a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad”.
“I am using these powers to demand for that document.
This is a committee of Parliament, and this is a Constitution that gave us that power, and so we want you to give us that report,” the chairman demanded.
Engaging the CEO of COCOBOD over some infractions contained in the Auditor-General’s 2021 Report on the board, Dr Avedzi said: “Whether the report has been submitted somewhere else, we are demanding it, and we give you two weeks.
“It is a report and the work has been done.
It is a matter of pulling it from the drawer,” he said.
Dr Avedzi gave the directive when the COCOBOD CEO and other management members appeared before the committee yesterday.
Per the Auditor-General’s report, the records of COCOBOD showed that the board had been burdened with a relatively high loan portfolio over the years.
It said the board had debts totalling GH¢12.3 billion on its records as of the end of the 2019/2020 financial year.
“The debt burden resulted in increased finance costs over the years.
This, if not managed effectively, could lead to the crippling of the cocoa industry,” the report said.
A member of the committee, Kwame Governs Agbodza, asked the COCOBOD management what part of the company’s indebtedness was to cocoa road contractors for works certified in 2020.
He also quizzed if the figure owed contractors had improved or depreciated in terms of debt situation regarding cocoa roads.
In the view of the Member of Parliament (MP) for Adaklu, cocoa road contractors were also Ghanaians who aided the work the board did in the country, and thus there could not be a better opportunity for COCOBOD to give them (contractors) some assurance.
“The information we want is not witch-hunting but just to find information to the problem that affects everybody in this country,” he said.
When the chairman asked Mr Agbodza if the report was submitted to him, the Adaklu MP said the immediate former Minister of Food and Agriculture “did make a public comment that he submitted the report to Parliament”.
We demand report copy
Intervening, Dr Avedzi questioned why since September 2020 when the board’s account was prepared, management did not have money to pay cocoa road contractors.
He, therefore, directed that in providing the information to the committee, the board must disclose what was the current debt of COCOBOD to cocoa road contractors as of September 2020.
Dr Avedzi pointed out that the last time the CEO of COCOBOD appeared before the PAC, the committee demanded that he furnished them with an indebtedness report on cocoa roads.
“We demanded the report but you did not provide it to the committee.
We are asking you now again to provide a copy of the report where you spent money to do an audit of cocoa roads throughout the whole country since we have not received a copy.