Members of the Majority in Parliament, on Wednesday, chided hardline opposition MPs for attempting to indict the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) with suggestions that it had failed to pay Licenced Buying Companies (LBCs) for the 2020/21 crop season.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Buem, Kofi Iddie Adams, had told the House while delivering a statement that despite the $1.3 billion facility secured by COCOBOD to make upfront payment for cocoa beans purchased from farmers, the board had failed to release funds to the LBCs to enable them pay the farmers.
According to him, reports from his constituency and other constituencies in the cocoa growing regions in the country were that cocoa farmers had not been paid by LBCs for their cocoa purchased in the last two months, “even though we are in the third month of the main cocoa season.”
“Mr. Speaker, it is my considered view that if Parliament, which approved the syndicated facility for the purpose of purchasing cocoa for the (2020/21) crop season, doesn’t intervene to get COCOBOD to release funds to LBCs to enable them pay the farmers for the cocoa beans purchased, the economic and health situation of these farmers and their dependents will deteriorate,” he suggested.
His allegation was re-echoed by other NDC MPs, including the Asunafo South MP, Eric Opoku, and Juaboso MP, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, on the Floor and at a press briefing.
Mr. Adams’ allegation prompted an angry backlash from MPs from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) on the Floor when he invited the Speaker to summon officials of COCOBOD to appear before the House to provide responses to queries with the Deputy Majority Leader and MP for Efutu, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, who led the charge.
He described Adams’ allegation as “factually inaccurate” and challenged Buem MP and other NDC MPs who spoke after him by way of comments or contributions to mention one LBC that COCOBOD had not paid for invoices submitted.
“He makes a general statement that the House should get COCOBOD to pay LBCs. We are challenging the Western North and Buem, he cited, he should let us know which LBC. He has refused to name one LBC in making the allegation against COCOBOD.
“On that strength we submit that whatever that Mr. Adams read in the House is factually inaccurate,” the Deputy Majority Leader again told the media during a press briefing.
He said COCOBOD had issued a statement to indicate that as at January 2021 “all LBCs have been given their seed capital for the purchase of cocoa. COCOBOD has said no single foreign LBC is owed.
“Our view is that some of these statements can be indicting and have far-reaching consequences on the Ghanaian economy. We cannot just get up and put out information that we have not validated or verified. In the situation we find ourselves, the international financial market is monitoring,” Mr. Afenyo-Markin argued.
He again asked rhetorically, “Is it a case that COCOBOD has drawn down funds and refused to pay LBCs?” and added that “because they also forward returns and state clearly what they have used the funds for.”
“So we are saying that this statement is speculative, a figment of somebody’s imagination and it is not backed by any fact. If there is any such evidence, we are challenging our colleagues to put it out,” Deputy Majority Leader intimated.
By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House