Opuni Takes COCOBOD To Surgery

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On Mahama’s Order, More Yields & Revenue Expected In Few Years

Change is one thing many people everywhere find difficult to adapt to especially so, when a leader is so determined to make it happen, no matter the stiff opposition by people who may be affected by the restructuring.

The new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen K Opuni, is one leader whose commitment and determination to think outside the box has earned him enviable reputation, considering his record of achievements at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), where he exited last December as CEO.

Dr. Opuni, sometimes described as a “ no nonsense man”, has began restructuring the not so attractive COCOBOD and as expected, some people within that setup are obviously not excited and have began growing seeds of discord in the media, purposely to make him unpopular just like some tried at the FDA.

COCOBOD is Ghana’s largest industry and a major source of revenue for government.

It deals with a large number of buying agencies and intermediaries with varied backgrounds in the execution of its very important mandate.

The former Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) orthopaedic surgeon, is said to have virtually taken COCOBOD into the surgery making changes including transferring officials, who have no particular job doing at where they are stationed to get some positive results, and already this is not going down well with people involved.

Some of the workers, have stayed at one position for over 10-years and are being moved to other areas with strict mandates to be productive, but The Herald’s information is that some including, ex-workers of the COCOBOD are unhappy with the changes that is supposed to increase cocoa yield and bring more foreign exchange to Ghana.

A practice is narrated about some officers at the setup, who by their mandate are to secure loans at the banks for cocoa farmers, but for some strange reasons, these loans The Herald is told, are acquired for example at 20 per cent interest with the banks, but interestingly the officers give to the farmers at a reduced percentage.

The balance is obviously passed on to COCOBOD to settle. No wonder why the outfit is continuously going down, leaving farmers in a rather tight corner.

A scenario is also painted of officers, refusing to contract foreign loans whose interest are far lower, than what is negotiated here in Ghana.

It is speculated that, these officers indulge in this act because of some perceived ‘cut’ they get from their counterparts in the banks.
Procurements have also been problematic with figures sometimes hugely inflated.

Indeed, there is also a story of an officer of COCOBOD, who was posted from a station and had to spend years in a hotel, simply because someone was getting a cut from the huge sums that the state institution was paying to the owners of the hotel, instead of allocating him a state bungalow. The officer is said to run out of patience as he is tired of staying in the hotel.

Recently in the media, some faceless individuals, who claim to be employees of COCOBOD, have questioned some appointments, allegedly claiming that the spaces being filled with people of Dr. Opuni’s choice, could have been occupied by people who are already familiar with COCOBOD and have somewhat association with the Board.

However, what Dr. Opuni’s accusers are failing to say is that, these people they claim have association with the Board, are people who are more or less their relatives, allies, and sometimes children, wives, in-laws etc, whose names have been kept at the outfit awaiting future vacancies.

For instance, it is not uncommon to find man, wife and kids employed at the State Institution, sometimes even working in the same department.
COCOBOD insiders could not remember when last job recruitments were advertise, as there are always people already waiting to assume the position, upon an officer’s retirement.

It was explained that this practice of vacancy filling, happens in almost all State Institutions. It was said that in most cases, when these State Institutions announce recruitments, it is to deceive unsuspecting job seekers as the positions are filled with family and friends of the officers.

One of the accusations against Dr. Opuni, who took over from Anthony Fofie, last December, is that he has employed household staff and backdated their appointment and salary to December.

However, this paper’s findings, have revealed that, no such thing exists. It was explained that, Dr. Opuni only brought those staff from the FDA and according to sources, the people had been with him from the time he was moved from the FDA to the COCOBOD, and so it was only fair that they receive their salaries for the months that they had worked for him.

Having excelled at the FDA, after nearly five years, President John Mahama is said to have sent him to COCOBOD to correct the many wrongs that is making the Institution inefficient.

It is on record that, it was during his time that the FDB was raised to the status of FDA, given the Authourity the powers to initiative policies and programmes to ensure that unwholesome food and drugs did not flood the markets.

From Internally Generated Fund (IGF), Dr. Opuni constructed and furnished a permanent head office for the FDA with a-state-of-the-art laboratory, making the FDA an envy of the many food and drugs organisations in Africa, and a reference centre for World Health Organization (WHO), who sent people to understudy Ghana’s FDA.

Before he left, plans were almost completed for FDA workers to draw salaries and funds from the institution, instead of relying on state’s coffers for everything.

Meanwhile, The Herald is informed that there are plans to have more cocoa trees planted in the Western, Ashanti, Eastern and the Volta Regions, to help increase yields in the near future.

This will enable Ghana rub shoulders with Ivory Coast, the world largest cocoa producer.

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