Daniel Ohene Agyekum
Former Board Chairman of Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), Daniel Ohene Agyekum, has thrown a challenge to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
He has dared the current administration to appear before Antoa, the dreaded river deity in the Ashanti Region, over issues emanating from the COCOBOD scandal involving the disappearance of $400 million from the company’s account.
Recent news has revealed the extent of alleged corruption and mismanagement at COCOBOD under the supervision of former Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and the direction of the board chaired by Ohene Agyekum, former Ambassador to the United Sates.
The new COCOBOD CEO, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, threw a bombshell last week when he said apart from some $400 million which his administration suspects the Opuni-led management withdrew from the coffers of the company after the NDC had lost the election in 2016, he (Opuni and others) also spent a whopping GH¢8 million to build a guest house at Bole, the hometown of former President John Mahama in the Northern Region, for his (Mahama’s) comfort.
In the ensuing debate, Mr Ohene Agyekum, who is not new to using Antoa to establish his case, told Kasapa FM ‘s Akwasi Nsiah in Accra on Monday that the board he chaired followed due process in approving the renovation of the Ghana COCOBOD guest house at Bole, which has become the talk of town.
The Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and the Police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) are currently probing the former COCOBOD officials over alleged corruption and face imminent prosecution.
“If what I am saying is not true we should go and face Antoa,” he fumed, adding, “It is an old guest house and it is the policy of CRIG which is a subsidiary of Ghana COCOBOD, to renovate its guest houses from time to time.”
Mr Ohene Agyekum insisted, “The guest house project is not a new project. It has been in existence since 1975.”
He dared the NPP government to bring on the much-talked-about Special Prosecutor for him to face that office.
“They (NPP) say they are bringing the Special Prosecutor. I want to meet him in court asking me questions and when everything is done, Ghanaians will hear from me later,” he challenged.
According to the former COCOBOD chairman, the EOCO investigated his bank accounts but found nothing incriminating against him, although he claimed the anti-graft body was still harassing him.
He said he did not fear the Special Prosecutor because he had done nothing wrong as board chairman of Ghana COCOBOD and added, “What they are doing is absolute nonsense, lies and propaganda.”
Ohene Agyekum, former Ashanti Regional NDC chairman, said that the current COCOBOD administration was peddling falsehood against the immediate-past team to cover up its shortcomings.
“How can you say we stole money? This is blatant lie. As Chairman, where did I take the money to? I am waiting for EOCO to take me to court and Ghanaians will know about it. What needs to be investigated, they are not doing it and rather targeting innocent political opponents.”
Ohene Agyekum said, “I came to COCOBOD in 2014. The syndicated loan is not paid directly to COCOBOD. There is a Ghana Commercial Bank in London. That is where all the money is lodged and it is transferred to the Bank of Ghana for goodness sake!” he explained, adding, “When COCOBOD draws its budget, they don’t go to the ministry of finance. They seek approval from parliament and they go to borrow and based on the estimates that all the subsidiaries present to the board, they give approval.
“The head office has its share, CRIC, CMC, PBC, all have their share of the money. Nobody can take $1.8 billion to say he is going to save it in his personal account. The money is brought to the BoG so we draw on it not in dollar but in cedis.”
He said cheekily that the board was not ‘stupid’ to have given Dr. Opuni the staggering monthly salary that set tongues wagging sometime ago and added that the proposal from the ex-CEO was “not outrageous.”
“We did a comparative analysis of other top state enterprises like BoG, GPHA, SSNIT, BOST and others and we came to the conclusion that Opuni’s proposal that came from management, he was not alone.
“The BoG and others that I mentioned, their Chief Executives were drawing higher salaries than Opuni had proposed to us. And in the comparative analysis we believed in all sincerity that the amount we were to pay him was justified.
“The CEO of Cocobod was managing almost about $2 billion project or industry. If it were any advanced country they will look at the quantum of money that you are managing to commensurate with your salary and when you incur debt you are sacked.”
He submitted his proposal, we investigated and came to the conclusion that there is nothing outrageous because COCOBOD contributes between 25 and 29% to the Ghanaian economy.
“When you came you said it was outrageous. Ask them if the current CEO has reduced his monthly salary. They are still enjoying from where Opuni left off,” Mr Agyekum posited.
Mr Ohene Agyekum claimed the NPP government was witch-hunting him, saying, “At COCOBOD, I am only a chairman like any other institution. This is the first time in the history of Ghana that a board chairman has been arraigned before the EOCO and charged with causing financial loss to the state.
“I am not a spending officer so I don’t authorize payments. I authorized the award of contracts. When it comes to payment it is management. Secondly, I am not a signatory to any of the board’s accounts so I don’t sign cheques. I am not a Chief Executive, so which money did I authorize to be paid which constitutes causing financial loss to the state?”
“I have regretted serving as board chairman of COCOBOD. I have served this country with a profound sense of integrity,” he lamented.
By William Yaw Owusu