The newly sworn-in Chairman of the Ghana COCOBOD, Mr. Hackman Owusu-Agyeman has disclosed that the US$1.8 billion Cocoa Syndicated Loan meant for this year’s cocoa production season has been exhausted despite outstanding payments yet to made.
According to him, it is worrying that the funds were all not invested in the cocoa sector to improve this year’s yield.
“The syndicated loan of 1.8 billion dollars that we have hoped to you use for this production year, unfortunately, Mr. President it’s all gone and we are yet finish the purchase of the crop,” he said after the swearing-in ceremony of the Board by President Akufo-Addo.
Mr. Owusu-Agyemang later clarified on Eyewitness News that “ the 1.8 billion dollars that we had syndicated for the cocoa has all been exhausted, meanwhile there are still cocoa out there that we must buy”
“Obviously we did not use all the money to buy the cocoa. There are still commitments out there that we must take care of. There was indiscipline in using the money,” he lamented.
He added that government must work quickly to raise funds to clear the arrears as the production season draws closer.
“It falls on us to immediately try and organize some financing to carry on the process. The decline in production exacerbate the situation just as the farmers are also selling their farms to galamsey. Smuggling at the borders is also a source of great concern. Huge indebted of the sector of the COCOBOD is something that we really have to tackle,” he said.
Salary of management unthinkable
Mr. Owusu-Agyeman, also described the salaries of management of COCOBOD as unthinkable, hence will be slashed.
“COCOBOD is a state institution. It cannot be taken out of the context of the overall remuneration structure and within the executive and those ancillary services,” Mr. Owusu-Agyeman asserted on Eyewitness News.
Mr. Owusu-Agyeman has indicated that even after the planned cut in salaries, some of the top management will still earn more that the highest paid article 71 office holders which is pegged at GHc 22,000.
“For me, it is absolutely unthinkable that the gross salary of the Chief Executive Officer should be in the neighbourhood of GHc 70,000 to GHc 75,000 a month, and the net is about GHc 55, 000 to GHc 57,000 a month. If you even discount this by 50 percent, it would still be higher than anybody under article 71 of the constitution,” he noted.
The new COCOBOD Chair said the fact that the salary of the COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer dwarfed the President’s salary was problematic given that “at the end of the day, we have to be able to say that the work that is being done is getting reasonable levels of remuneration commensurate with the work that they do, and also within the context of the Ghanaian economy.”
The fact that COCOBOD is not even making profits also compounds the issue and makes the cuts necessary, according to Mr. Owusu-Agyeman.
“If they were making profits, it would have been a different story, but in the last three to five years, there has been deficit upon deficit. If you are making no profit and we begin to say we want to discipline and trim down expense and what have you, then you have to look at the whole thing.”
Cocoa workers should see the most benefit He also expressed concern about the fact that many cocoa farmers whose activities are being supervised by these managers, have rather become poor in many instances.
“I saw one of the budgets where the amount of money allocated to cocoa farmers’ children amounted to basically GHc 2 million and that is easily the total gross salary of the two or three persons at the top. All I am saying is those who do the work should benefit more than anybody else,” he noted.
Mr. Owusu-Agyeman was sworn in by President Nana Addo as Chairman of the Board, together with other board members.