COCOBOD: Unprecedented Thievery and Corruption Uncovered

The Herald has intercepted multiple audit reports, detailing grand schemes at COCOBOD where officials of the state institution in partnership with private companies and political collaborators are engaged in well-orchestrated thievery and corruption to enrich themselves through phony procurement deals under sole-sourcing, dubious judgment debts, and unexplained payments to non-registered companies.

In what can pass as an avenue of a create, loot and share agenda, officials of the Ghana Cocoa Board company and their associates, are grabbing almost everything on sight, making the sector lose huge monies in some cases amounting to US$4.8million.

The corrupt acts are contained in both internal audit and the Auditor Generals (AG) reports. It is like a mad rush meant to make some people in authority rich and powerful.

In the internal audit report, it is reported that, as part of the grand agenda to steal from the state, particularly in the procurement of jute sacks, COCOBOD budgeted GH76 million for the 2018/19 procurement, but in order to make room for a backhand emergency procurement to favour cronies, the Board overstated its budget to PPA by GHc114million.

Under the watch of the Joseph Boahen Aidoo led management and the Hackman Owusu-Agyeman board, these officials according to the AG’s report, eliminated companies which hitherto offered the lowest bid for Agrochemicals to restricted tenders to sole source chemical, to politically linked companies, resulting in a loss of $3,570, 300 to the state.

In paragraph two of the AG’s report, the management of COCOBOD, violated the Public Procurement Act (PPA) in applying single-source procurement for what it called Forum R. Fertilizer.

Additionally, in one instance on paragraph six of the AGs report, these officials colluded with political cronies to cook and use fake documents to obtain contracts by fraudulently passing on an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certificates belonging to already vetted companies, to newly formed ones and also arranged for different companies belonging to one person, to undertake fictitious tendering and awarded contracts at inflated prices.

“Officials of COCOBOD colluded with dubious elements in high political circles, to create a fictitious group of companies which bid for the supply of chemicals and knapsack sprayers”, the report said.

The document said after obtaining the best price guide from Public Procurement Authority (PPA), the said officials connived with cronies to eliminate the least bids by writing to COCOBOD to drop them out of the process so as to enable the contact to be awarded to the only remaining firm with the most outrageous bid price outside the approved band.

The Auditor-General, according to credible information contained in paragraph 10, concluded that these fraudulent schemes could only be cooked with the express connivance of COCOBOD, PPA officials and the crocked suppliers with sole purpose of duping the state.

There were also issues of fraudulent payments where the administration schemed to settle a case in involving the procurement of street lights due to the political connections of the claimant. In that investigation, the AG found that officials of COCOBOD yet again colluded to make deliberate overpayment in excess of $450,000 to the lawyers.

While overpaying people, COCOBOD, refused to settle its external solicitors; Lithur and Brew an amount of GHc2million after defending it interest for well over two years.

Curiously, same COCOBOD made a payment of US$400, 000 to one governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) lawyer as a consultancy fee, contrary to a clear instruction of Board of Directors for COCOBOD’s internal legal department, to provide them an opinion on the award of a contract to three companies namely Alive, Agricult and Sango.

This act raised eyebrows and COCOBOD’s Internal Auditor was stunned as to why a department of ten lawyers, paid the colossal amount to a single lawyer for just an opinion to the Board.

The AG, was also displeased with directors and management of COCOBOD for failing to declare their assets and liability within three months of them assuming office especially at a time of allegations of conflict of interests, corruption, and display of unexplained wealth by these same appointees.

Some of the appointees are alleged to be involved in massive conflicts of interest cases as some reportedly own haulage companies and doll out huge contracts to themselves.

They are reported to be part owners of cocoa processing companies as well as partners of foreign cocoa buying companies and thereby supplying to themselves, raw cocoa at rock bottom prices resulting in significant losses.

Some of these proceeds have gone into the acquisition of multi-million properties at very plush areas in Accra like airport residential area, East Legon, Cantonments with some owning hotels in the Western Region, the national capital and other parts of the country while splashing millions on their political campaigns.

“Both Auditor General and COCOBOD’s own internal audit are increasingly concerned about the level of corruption in the internal procurement and specifically flagged the fictitious procurement of Agricult Comet. Asuotem Liquid Fertilizer and Okunakat; which resulted in loss of $2.575 million through a dubious single-sourcing scheme”, a source said.

The internal audit continued by saying that due to the entrenched corruption within the current management, the organization has developed a high appetite for doing business with non-registered companies and also, non-VAT registered companies, contrary to section 183.4 of the Financial Administration Regulation 2004.

They have disregarded all the risks as a state-owned organization and a derelict of their duty to protect the public purse.

The recalcitrant management after successfully abolishing the free fertilizer supply to cocoa farmers’ policy, replaced it with a fraudulent scheme designed to enrich officials and their cronies. They executed this scheme by hurriedly putting together fictitious companies to the front as fertilizer agents of COCOBOD by first of all, deliberately including some LBCs and cooperatives as part of their grand agenda.

These so-called Fertilizer agents take the products from the COCOBOD to be sold to farmers and payback, however, these fertilizers allegedly ended up in private chemical shops, others smuggled to neighboring countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Cameroon while the proceeds ended in their pockets together with associates including top politicians.

Aside from the procurement of jute sacks by COCOBOD priced at GH76 million for the 2018/19 procurement, but overstated to PPA by GHc114million to take care cronies, it was alleged that someLBC are owing GHc150 million as debt incurred from the fertilizer scheme.

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The jute sack arrangement is described as a deliberate deception and a violation of the Public Procurement Act but the current administration continues to use such fraudulent tactics to create and loot large sums of taxpayers’ monies by way of inflated contracts to friends and political cronies.

To paint a deceptive picture as far the mismanagement of the sector is concerned, the Boahen Aidoo regime has deliberately accounting irregularities and deceptive tactics to show a healthy financial standing as a part of the grand scheme of government propaganda.

The Boards accounts have intentionally posted legacy debts owed from over 30 years ago by Cocoa Processing Company (CPC) and Produce Buying Company (PBC) as part of their current assets contrary to its internal and international accounting principles.

COCOBOD: Unprecedented Thievery and Corruption Uncovered
COCOBOD: Unprecedented Thievery and Corruption Uncovered

Sources said as a result of the gargantuan corruption swallowing COCOBOD, cocoa production has decreased from the time this administration took office because the increases in budgetary allocations have ended up in the pockets of a few.

Incentive packages such as bonuses to farmers, staff and the rest are no longer available. Good policies such as awarding of scholarships, free Fertilizer, construction of cocoa roads, and others have all been stopped because of the selfish interest of few individuals in authority.

“The entire COCOBOD system is near collapse as foreign partners are gradually waking up to the fictitious accounting and are unwilling to do business with the Board. If nothing is done to change the ongoing naked stealing the sector will be brought to a halt in no time”, a source said.

Source: The Herald

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