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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

AFAG exposes ‘chop-chop’ at forestry commission running into GH¢3 million

Pressure group, Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), has accused some top board members of the Forestry Commission of awarding a contract at the cost of GH¢3 million to a company, it said, had not yet fulfilled its part of the contract.

AFAG expressed utter dismay as to why the Forestry Commission and its board, totally disregarded the laid down rules of procurement under sole sourcing and “in a bizarre twist, handed a juicy contract worth GH¢3,000,000 (¢30 billion old Ghana cedis) to ECOTECH Services Limited,” a company, it said, was two months old with no previous industry experience.

It noted that even though the company had been paid already, ECOTECH Services Limited had not delivered on its obligation, calling for the immediate resignation of the Board Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission “to save Ghanaian tax payers' money from further abuse from such greedy and heartless public officials.”

A leading member of AFAG, Dr. Nana Ayew Afriyie, at a news conference in Accra on Tuesday, said “as we speak, not a single seedling has been supplied and the deadline for the execution of the project is a few days away.”

According to the group, the move was an attempt by the “Forestry Commission and three other companies to deprive the state of eight million dollars invested in mass afforestation exercise commissioned by His Excellency John Evans Atta Mills on 24th July, 2009 at Yefri in the Kintampo South District of the Brong Ahafo Region.”

This, it added, was a major setback to the fight against corruption in the country and petitioned the government not to spare anyone involved in the deal.

However, AFAG is yet to name the board members and the other two companies involved in the alleged “misuse, abuse and overuse of the public purse,” totalling about GH¢9 million, promising to name the persons involved at its next news conference to be held soon.

Documents show that ECOTECH Services Limited was registered at the Registrar General’s office on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 with an authorised business of afforestation, farming, environmental sanitation and disease control services as well as waste management.

The supply of seedlings for the National Forest Plantation Development Programme (NFPDP) formed part of the ‘Greening Ghana’ initiative adopted by the government of Ghana after the global warming conference held in Copenhagen.

“Subsequently, the then Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Collins Dauda announced government’s plans to expand the National Forest Plantation Development Programme to include areas located outside the forest reserves commencing 10th September, 2009,” the group indicated.

With its constitutional mandate as spelt out in Act 269, the Forestry Commission, which was tasked to take oversight responsibility for the successful implementation of the project, sought approval from the minister to initiate action on seedling production contracts, which seemed to have been delayed in a letter dated January 27, 2010.

The Forestry Commission Board in a letter dated February 2, 2010, according to AFAG, “requested the then Hon. Minister to waive the procurement procedures to enable large scale producers to be contracted in raising the seedlings.”

Therefore, the Executive Director of the Forestry Services Division (FSD), AFAG stated, was directed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Forestry Commission to include in the seedling production guidelines, individuals or groups to the nursery operator supplying seedlings for the programme to be recommended by the respective District Assemblies.

This directive, AFAG continued, was communicated further to all the regional managers on February 5, 2010.

But the pressure group, on the other hand, smelled some fishy deals within the corridors of the Forestry Commission, especially, when the Chief Executive Officer, it claimed, went contrary to the previous arrangements and went ahead to apply to “the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to seek approval to engage ECOTECH Services Limited, a company formed barely three months earlier to supply seedlings for the plantations.”

AFAG expressed the willingness to make available to any committee of enquiry, which would be set up to carry out investigations into the matter.

Credit: Nathaniel Y. Yankson

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