Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Thursday April 12, 2018
Shocking details are emerging about how the Cocoa Marketing Company Limited (CMC), a subsidiary of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), mismanaged the sale of cocoa beans, leading to huge financial loss to the state.
Even the managing director appointed by the erstwhile John Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) government to the CMC, Bennett Akantoa, admitted before an ad-hoc committee - set up by COCOBOD to investigate trade and investment irregularities that occurred at CMC Limited between 2014/2015 to 2015/2016 - that he was not cut for the job.
He openly conceded that he was not conversant with the nitty gritty of the cocoa industry.
The committee has already delved into how the CMC invested heavily in private financial, as well as micro finance institutions, in clear breach of COCOBOD’s policy where almost GH¢60 million appears to have gone down the drain.
Three bigwigs at CMC - its former MD, Bennett Akantoa, Dr. Edem Amegashie-Duvon (deputy MD) and John Odametey, (deputy MD, Finance) - were put under investigation and revelations regarding ‘cocoa sales discount without authorization’ and ‘investment without authorization’ are mind-blowing.
Mr. Akantoa, who worked at the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD), was sent to the CMC on secondment for two years and had reported to the COCOBOD subsidiary on July 2013 as Deputy MD; but by January 2014, he was appointed Managing Director.
In the committee’s report, the former MD admits he had to “learn on the job to become abreast with the work.”
It turned out that from 2014 to 2015, the discount sale of cocoa cost CMC financially after it was stated that they were going to get 850,000 metric tonnes of cocoa and as a result, the sales department was tasked to sell through forward sales.
But they had to stop, although then Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD allegedly insisted they continued selling the cocoa.
The committee learnt that the RM & E Department was estimating 750,000 tonnes, but the management insisted on 850,000; and it got to a point the CMC could not meet their clients’ demands.
It went on until May 2015 when some of the five cocoa buying companies started putting their dissatisfaction into writing.
The report said one of CMC’s clients as a result of the lack of cocoa beans, started passing the cost of buying the cocoa from the subsidiary’s other clients onto the CMC and had to negotiate with them to bring the cost down to $7.5 million, indicating that COCOBOD chief executive was fully aware of the situation which had started from May 2015.
$7.5 m Payment
The committee revealed how the CMC agreed to pay $7.5 million to one of its clients for their failure to supply them cocoa beans, but the decision was taken by the chief executive, who chaired the CMC Board without the express approval of the entire board.
When asked by the ad-hoc committee whether that decision to pay the client $7.5 million was ratified by the CMC Board, Mr. Akantoa is captured in the report as saying, “The chief executive (Dr. Opuni) told me to inform him first on any issues and if he approves, I should execute it.” “This was because he was the chairman of the board. It is unfortunate that it did not appear in any of the reports.”
Mr Akantoa was again captured in the report as saying that the technical team did not give him their analysis on the extra cost that the client passed on them, yet went to London to negotiate the $7.5 million with the client and it was even done without the involvement of a legal team.
When he was questioned by the committee on how he could negotiate without the company’s lawyers, he was captured as saying, “It was an oversight.”
It turned out that during the meeting in London with COCOBOD, a proposal for £80 was made but the CMC team ended up accepting £100 from the client; and when the committee asked him, Mr. Akantoa said, “I can consider that as inexperience on my part.”
The report captured him as saying that he tried to consult the board over some of the engagements with the client but Dr. Opuni allegedly stopped it and when asked if it was on record, he said at meetings with the COCOBOD chief executive, it wasn’t possible to take minutes in front of him.
When he was asked why he didn’t send copies of the CMC’s commitment letter for the payment of $7.5 million to the client, Mr. Akantoa replied, “It was more of an oversight.”