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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ayariga Frozen

Mahama Ayariga
The Appointments Committee of Parliament on Thursday night resolved, by consensus, to recommend to the House the approval of seven of the eight Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial nominees who appeared before the committee over the past two days.

Mahama Ayariga's approval has been put on hold to enable members of the Committee conduct their own investigations into how he secured five Kubota tractors meant for farmers in deprived communities, from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

A pressure group, the Progressive Nationalist Forum (PNF), dragged Ayariga, then Spokesperson to the President to CHRAJ, arguing that he inappropriately abused his office and bought tractors that he was not entitled to.

The PNF claimed the tractors acquired by Mr. Ayariga formed part of some 2000 tractors and their accessories procured by the government of Ghana for underprivileged farmers across the country to boost food production and security.

But after examining all the evidence provided by the PNF and Ayariga, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), a day to Mr. Ayariga's vetting, said it came to the conclusion that Mr. Ayariga did not violate any regulations; and neither was there any shred of evidence to substantiate the allegations against him.

But at a close-door meeting after the rigorous three-hour vetting, the Appointments Committee said it will officially write to CHRAJ to seek explanation on the suspicion that CHRAJ's verdict on the matter might have been influenced.

Indeed, it has been rumoured that CHRAJ received some cross country vehicles around the same time that it gave the verdict on the tractors in addition to other incentives.

The committee also contended that there were some inconsistencies in Mr. Ayariga's responses on the matter and CHRAJ's report. The committee, according to a Citi Fm report, is also baffled by the timing of CHRAJ's report and wondered if it was a mere coincidence.
The Appointments Committee will present the report to the House on Tuesday February 16, 2009.

Nearly one year after he entangled himself in what has become known as the ‘Ayariga Tractor Saga’, the Presidential Spokesperson is still struggling to redeem his image, even after he has been nominated for a deputy ministerial position.

Mahama Ayariga, who incurred the displeasure of the public after he acquired five tractors for his constituency, was pinned down when the story broke.

The Progressive Nationalist Forum (PNF) asked the chairman of the Appointments Committee of Parliament to suspend the vetting and/or approval of the former Bawku MP.

A petition dated 5th February, 2010 and signed by Richard Kwesi Nyama, PNF spokesperson, stated: “On the 25th of September 2009, we petitioned the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) on the acquisition of five Kubota tractors by the then Presidential Spokesperson, Mahama Ayariga, on the grounds of abuse of office and conflict of interest in the said acquisition.”

While CHRAJ has cleared the minister-designate of abuse of office, the freshest of such controversies is a letter similar to the one Ayariga submitted to CHRAJ in his defense of the allegations, but different in content and ‘supposedly’ signed by the same person.

While the nominee presented a letter to the commission dated 24th March 2009 with reference number AGM.28/104, which requested for one John Deere 5403 tractor, another letter was dispatched with reference number AGM.30/94 and bearing the same date but this one requested a Kubota tractor.

Another noticeable difference in content of the two ‘tractor’ letters is that while the one before CHRAJ asks the MOFA accountant to pay the bank draft into a ‘tractor account’ at the Bank of Ghana, the other document has directed the AESD accountant to make payment of the bank draft into a 2KR-2007 account at the same BoG.

Both letters were signed by J.K. Boamah, a director at the Agriculture Ministry.

The original controversy over the presidential spokesperson’s tractor acquisition stemmed from a letter written to him by the Chief Director of MOFA, expressly stating the conditions for qualification to be allocated with one Kubota tractor.

The letter, dated March 24, 2009, and headlined, “ALLOCATION OF ONE (1) KUBOTA TRACTOR WITH MATCHING IMPLEMENTS” stated as follows:
“I have the pleasure to inform you that the Hon. Minister of Food and Agriculture has approved for sale one Kubota Tractor with matching implements to you. The total cost of the package is EIGHTEEN THOUSAND GHANA CEDIS. You are required to make an initial down payment of GH¢10,000 before taking delivery and the balance of GH¢8,000 is to be paid in three installments over a period of three years, starting from the date of delivery of the package to you. The installments are to be paid as follows:1st year-GH¢4,000, 2nd year-GH¢2,000 and 3rd year-GH¢2,000 with a directive that all initial payment and subsequent installment payments should be strictly by Banker’s Draft, payable to Underprivileged farmers -2KR-2007.”

One week later (31st March), Ayariga wrote to the Minister, saying he had earlier applied for two tractors and had paid some money, but would love to be considered to purchase an additional three tractors.

But not long after he got the tractors, farmers in Bawku alleged that contrary to assertions by Mr. Ayariga that the tractors were being hired for GH¢10 to plough an acre of land, they were actually being charged GH¢25.

A spokesman for the concerned farmers, Yusif Seidu Bagura, also a maize farmer, told the media that whenever one applied to hire the equipment, they would ask him whether he belonged to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) or the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), stressing that people were being turned away because of their political beliefs.

By Bennett Akuaku,Daily Guide

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