Story: News Desk
A former Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto has reacted to the Finance Minister’s decision to set up an oversight desk at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to check the government agency’s expenditure.
In an interview , Dr Afriyie Akoto described the decision as shocking because the Finance Minister already has a slot on the Board of COCOBOD.
The New Patriotic Party presidential aspirant believes that considering the Finance Ministry’s position on the board, the oversight desk is not a new initiative that can help check COCOBOD’s expenditure.
“I don’t understand; the Minister of Finance, Minister for Food and Agriculture, Minister for Trade and Industry and the BoG Governor are on the Board. It is only the Governor himself who goes to the Board directly, all these three portfolios, deputy ministers are to report to them. So what is new? He is there on the board,” he said.
This follows the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta’s assertion that a monitoring desk by his outfit and the Bank of Ghana will be established at COCOBOD to ensure discipline in its expenditure.
This is due to the agency’s huge annual losses that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has identified as a major threat to the sector and government’s fiscal efforts.
Mr Ofori-Atta noted that the purchase of fertilizers and the construction of cocoa roads will also be strictly monitored to ensure they are within budget limits.
Responding to the discipline aspect, Dr. Afriyie Akoto said despite his six years of struggle, he was unable to restructure COCOBOD’s finances, which he claimed have gotten out of control.
He said the poor financial state was impacting negatively on cocoa farmers.
“You would be amazed the amount of time I spent trying to straighten COCOBOD and all of that in terms of their expenditures and all of that, but everything has gone out of hand to the detriment of the farmer,” he said.
However, the Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD in charge of operations, Dr Emmanuel Opoku disagreed with assertions that COCOBOD had been financially undisciplined in managing its affairs.
He insisted that COCOBOD was working according to the requirements of the law.
“We work under a board chaired by somebody appointed by the government and the Minister of Finance is a member of the board. We have the Minister of Agric also on the board. In this case, it is the deputy minister who represents the minister so I don’t think COCOBOD has done anything wrong.
“We (COCOBOD) cannot spend anything without the board’s consent, and then our supervisory minister’s approval so it beats imagination, to believe that somebody raises an accusation that we have been reckless,” he explained.
He also mentioned that COCOBOD had made a few appearances before Parliament, and “I don’t think they have found anything against COCOBOD” while insisting that “We have auditors that audit our accounts and they understand how COCOBOD works.”