General News of Sunday, 16 July 2017
Source: Mark Boye
Ranking Minority Member on Food and Agriculture Mr. Eric Opoku, has questioned the rationale behind COCOBOD’s decision to suspend the ongoing construction of roads across the cocoa growing areas in the country.
According to him, the decision to suspend the about 230 contractors due to the flimsy excuse of re-auditing them is rather causing more harm than good, since most of the suspended roads are deteriorating by the day, due to the onset of the rains.
Mr. Opoku who is also the Member of Parliament for Asunafo South, said it is unjustifiable for the COCOBOD to suspend the roads, after the contractors have mobilized, moved to site and started work with some of them nearing completion.
“You cause EOCO to invite all the contractors for questioning, they came there, made available all their documents, what auditing are you talking about again?” he fumed.
The COCOBOD in a letter dated 26th June, 2017 directed the Ghana Highway Authority to suspend works on roads in cocoa growing areas especially in the Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo and Western Regions.
The Board said it will want to review the rationalization of each one of the project.
“This is to inform you that the Board of Directors of Ghana Cocoa Board had directive that work in connection with the above contracts be suspended with immediate effect,” it said.
The government owes the 230 contractors about GHC2 billion and its believed that necessitated the suspension of the road projects.
But in an interview with the press, Mr. Opoku said the decision was unnecessary and would affect the economy of the communities and also the contractors, since most of them borrowed at high rates from the banks to pre-finance the roads.
He explained that the debt are not actually debt but a commitment by the COCOBOD, explaining that during the NDC regime, it spread the contract sum over a five year period and allocated $150 million annually from the syndicated fund to the cocoa roads.
He suggested that, the best solution was for the COCOBOD to allow the contractors to continue the roads to avoid the deterioration and consequent variation of the contract sum, adding that after all, it was the COCOBOD in collaboration with the Ghana Highway Authority, which awarded the contracts.
Mr. Opoku claimed that since the assumption of power of the NPP government, it has not paid a single contractor working on the cocoa roads monies and yet finds it necessary to suspend the projects for a so called re-auditing.
The minority ranking member argued that, the unnecessary suspension of work on the roads can cause the COCOBOD huge loss, because apart from affecting the original cost, it can also incur additional cost to resume and continue.