Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) is in financial distress as a result of unapproved expenditures by former Chief Executive Officer, Dr Stephen Opuni, of up to ¢3.5 billion.
The unapproved expenditures were mainly in the area of road construction between the 2014 and 2017.
As a result of this expenditure, the Board does not have enough funds to construct any new cocoa roads this year.
This was contained in Parliament’s Finance Committee report in which the Board sought exemption from payment of Stamp Duty, a form of a tax paid to the state.
Presenting the report in the House on Thursday, Chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr Mark Assibey Yeboah, and Deputy Finance Minister, Kweku Kwarteng lamented how the situation will affect Board’s operations this year.
Stamp Duty exemption
Explaining why the Board should be exempted from the payment of Stamp Duty, the CEO of the Board, Joseph Boahen Aidoo explained that currently Cocobod is distressed financially due to payments of outstanding contracts and services.
Further, he said the Board is also servicing the payment of some facilities including the payment of Bui Dam loan, therefore, paying the Stamp Duty would further add to their financial challenge.
The Board fears this development can adversely impact on the purpose for sourcing the facility.
In order to ensure that the object for the Trade Finance facility is realized, there is the need to exempt the facility from the payment of Stamp Duty, the Board said.
When the Financial Committee inquired whether an allocation has been made for Cocoa Roads, Mr Aidoo said no allocation has been made in the facility for such.
He, however, stated that they have received a number of certificates for works on a number of cocoa roads.
According to him, the Board has set up a committee to audit the contracts and claims after which payments would be made.
He disclosed that for the past three years, $150 million was allocated yearly totalling $450 million from the syndicated loans to cocoa roads, however, despite the approval, it was observed that contracts awarded exceeded the budgeted amount.
For the three years 2014 -2016, the total budgeted amount was ¢1,642, 500,00 but actual value of contracts awarded for the period amounted to ¢5,161, 631, 496.41
Commenting on this development, the Deputy Finance Minister said there should be an investigation into why there are Cocoa Roads in the “heart of Accra” in Madina and Cantonment.
“It is important that we get to the bottom of this report and sanitise the strategies for providing these Cocoa Roads and ensure there is value for money,” he added.
Responding to the state of affairs at the Board, PRO, Fiifi Boafo said,“it is not good news because the expectation is that we will work within this budget.”
He said the issue of Cocoa Roads does not affect the Board in performing its core mandate which he said is to ensure cocoa production increases and farmers get better prices for their produce.
According to him, although they have taken money from the Syndication is not going to pay road contractors adding that is not the only source of revenue for Cocobod.
“We will address the issue of Cocoa Roads going forward. Contracts have been awarded even though there is an audit going on, it does not mean that when the audit is done, we will abandon the roads,” he said.