Aliu Mahama’s Son Runs From Procurement Rot At COCOBOD

Procurement Rot At COCOBOD Procurement Rot At COCOBOD

Farouk Aliu Mahama, the privilege son of the late Vice-President, Aliu Mahama, whose transition from the Cocoa Marketing Board to Ghana Cocoa Board, continue to mystify his colleagues, is fleeing from the massive procurement rot recorded at the institution, seeking to have his superior officers singlehandedly carry the blame.

Farouk, who is the Deputy Manager at Procurement Department, where the bulk of the rot was captured by two audit reports, one by the Internal Audit and the Auditor General, is peeved at The Herald, for using his picture together with the board chairman of COCOBOD, Hackman Owusu-Agyeman and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, on the rot.

According to him, the publication "has lowered my person in the estimation of right thinking members of society and has caused me great discomfort and ridicule among my work colleagues".

In one of two rejoinders sent to The Herald, Farouk wrote "My attention has been drawn to a mischievous and misguided publication in the pro-NDC newspaper (The Herald) on Thursday, September 17 under the above headline. I wish to first of all state that I have not been involved in any malfeasance at the COCOBOD either in the past or present".

"For the avoidance of doubt, nowhere in the said story published by the Herald was my name mentioned. Nothing in the story was related to my good self and I am therefore at a lost to why my picture was used in the story", Farouk said in the September20, 2020, rejoinder to the 16th September, 2020 edition headlined "Unprecedented Level of Thievery Uncovered at COCOBOD".

The previous rejoinder dated 16th September also signed by Farouk, who is contesting the Yendi Constituency seat as the Parliamentary candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), wrote "I am not only abashed at your publication but total distraught as a result of the said publication. The said publication makes disparaging comments about alleged corrupt activities at the Ghana Cocoa Board of which I am an employee as follows:

"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 Agro-chemicals to restricted tenders to sole source chemical, to politically linked companies, resulting in a loss of $3,570,300.00 to the state".

According to him, "the said publication though did not specifically mention my name had my picture and name published alongside that of the two mentioned officials of the Board, on the front page and other pages of the said edition of your paper. This act regrettably has lowered my person in the estimation of right thinking members of society and has caused me great discomfort and ridicule among my work colleagues".

"This has caused many people who hitherto respected me to shun and avoided my company thus exposing me to great hatred, contempt and injurious to the office I occupy in the esteemed state company", he added.

He stated that "by the publication of my picture and name with the said story, the natural meaning and inference which any reasonable reader draws from the said publication is obvious and this has defamed my reputation which I have worked hard and fought to maintain all these years of my selfish service to our dear nation.

I am therefore by this letter requesting the following:

"That you retract the story on the front page in your next edition using the same character and font size".

"That the said retraction should be given the same prominence in two consecutive publications", adding "please, note that should you fall to carry out the above as I have instructed in your next edition, I will have no option but to refer the matter to my Lawyers for necessary action".

Last week The Herald, reported intercepting the 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 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 back- hand 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 Agro-chemicals to restricted tenders to sole source chemical, to politically linked companies, resulting in a lossof $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.

Therewere also issues of fraudulent payments where the administration schemed to settle a case in involving 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 over paying 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 payment of US$400, 000 to one governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) lawyer as consultancy fee, contrary to a clear instruction of Board of Directors for COCOBOD's internal legal department, to provide them opinion on award of 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 state-owned organization and a derelict of their duty to protect the public purse.

The recalcitrant management after successfully abolishing 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 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 fertilisers 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 the procurement of jute sacks by COCOBOD priced at GH76 million for the 2018/19 procurement, but overstatedto PPA by GHc114million to take care cronies, it was alleged that someLBC are owing GHc150 million as debt incurred from the fertilizer scheme.

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.

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 awarding of scholarships, free Fertilizer, construction of cocoa roads and other shave 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.