The Food and Agriculture Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has revealed that the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government spent over $450 million on non-existent cocoa roads in the country.
He said former state officials under President John Mahama, who introduced the cocoa roads project, used it (project) to steal from the public purse.
The former COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Stephen Opuni, is under investigation by the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service over alleged fraudulent deals in the cocoa sector.
“I mean we stopped the cocoa road construction which was full of corruption…people were given contracts for 32km (of road), they did 2km and they came in to be paid (for) 32km; they are paid and people share those monies,” he said on Starr FM in Accra on Wednesday.
Dr. Afriyie Akoto said all the affected road contracts awarded under the previous government had been terminated because they were fraught with massive corruption.
“These are bare corruption…in three years they claim they spent $450 million on cocoa roads and where are the roads?” the minister queried.
He said, “So now we’ve suspended all those (contracts); that’s savings that we are making. We are also looking at input prices that suppliers give us so that we can cut them back to sustain the price at where it is.”
In June this year, COCOBOD announced the suspension of the cocoa roads projects after an interim audit had revealed a lot of discrepancies in the actual amounts of money spent on the entire projects.
New COCOBOD Chief Executive, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, had disclosed that over 230 different road contracts were awarded under the previous regime to the tune of over GH¢3.5 billion, which he said was above the financial muscle of the state-owned cocoa agency.
He had explained that the preliminary audit revealed what he described as ‘outrageous’ cost components of most of the contracts.
Mr Boahen Aidoo underscored, “We are just suspending the project to make way for a comprehensive audit which will give us a clearer picture because we need to protect the public purse, especially money coming from the sweat of modest cocoa farmers.”
Cocobod had directed the Ghana Highway Authority to suspend works on roads in cocoa growing areas, explaining that it would want to review the rationalization of each one of the projects.
“This is to inform you that the Board of Directors of Ghana Cocoa Board had directed that work in connection with the above contracts be suspended with immediate effect,” a statement indicated.