Uproar Over Ayariga Tractors

·Mahama Ayariga, Deputy Minister of Trade and IndustryACQUISITION OF tractors by outgoing Presidential Spokesperson and Deputy Minister-designate for Trade and Industry,

Mahama Ayariga, caught the attention of the Appointments Committee yesterday as the ministerial nominee was grilled for almost three hours- the longest so far in the two-day vetting process- over how those farming equipment were purchased.

The purchase of five tractors by President Atta Mills’ former spokesperson had been enmeshed in controversy over the past months, in which conflict of interest and abuse of office had been cited, pushing a group calling itself the Progressive Nationalists Forum to petition the Commission on Human Right and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) to investigate the matter.

Concerns were also raised by Member of Parliament for Bekwai, Joseph Osei-Owusu, as to whether procurement laws were obeyed in the process of acquiring the controversial tractors.

However, a day to Ayariga’s appearance before the Appointments Committee for vetting, CHRAJ issued a statement clearing the nominee of all charges in the matter.

Appearing before the Appointments Committee, Ayariga was put under diligent scrutiny by probing members of the Committee including MPs for Manhyia, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh; and Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Akyea, during which he admitted purchasing the tractors from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture although he did not know the types of the tractors he duly signed for under a purchasing agreement.

In what could be described as a stormy time for Ayariga and his bid to extricate himself from the protracted issue, he told the Committee that he initially applied for two tractors to assist farmers in Bawku and its environs to plough their farms.

According to him, it was after the application that he met the Minister for Food and Agriculture who asked what the tractors were meant for.

He indicated that after informing the minister that he was going to set up an agric mechanization centre to assist farmers in his area, the Minister then disclosed to him that there was an Agric Mechanization Centre Scheme (AMCES) under the Ministry, giving opportunity for people to buy five tractors instead of the two that were initially requested.

Ayariga said he was subsequently given five tractors for GH¢90,000 out of which he deposited GH¢10,000, with the remaining amount spread over five years.

However, Minority Leader and Ranking Member of the Appointments Committee, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, was curious as to why a Minister would approach Ayariga to give advice on how to acquire tractors under a scheme although a Member of Parliament was refused tractors by the minister under the same scheme, suggesting favoritism in the allocation of the equipment.

But Ayariga, who had to be let off the hook by the Chairman of the Appointments Committee and First Deputy Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, after an intensive grilling on the tractors, apparently due to lack of time, said it was for the Minister to answer and not him.

Other Ministerial nominees who appeared before the Committee were Bukari Moses Mabengba, Northern Regional Minister; Inusah Abdulai Fuseini, Deputy Minister for Energy and John Gyetuah, Minister of State at the presidency.

By Awudu Mahama