Produce Buying Company officials defend their involvement in the cocoa haulage business Featured

By Nana Yaw Dwamena November 21, 2019 3005 37 comments

Management of the Produce Buying Company (PBC) say the involvement of two of the company’s top managers in hauling cocoa has been approved by the board.

Responding to a story on the allegedly illegal activities of the duo, carried yesterday by the Daily Statesman, the PBC’s chief executive officer, Kofi Owusu Boateng, said the company’s policy allows workers to take up jobs in the haulage business.

Interestingly, only the top two officials of the company have been involved in haulage, one for the past eight years and the other for 15.

Asked if their business activities with the company do not present a conflict of interest, Mr Owusu Boateng said emphatically that there is “nothing of that sort”. He explained that once a company belonging to the worker involved is duly registered, it is allowed to evacuate cocoa beans.

“However, let me clarify that we have designated depots that are not open to anyone but just for the PBC,” the chief executive said.

The Daily Statesman reported yesterday that senior officials of the company are allegedly involved in underhand dealings which are said to be affecting the smooth running of the PBC.

The report said the two senior managers are engaging in “insider trading”, having set up transport firms and awarded haulage contracts to the companies.

Nothing underhand?

The two senior officials, who were in the company of the managing director when the Daily Statesman visited the company’s premises yesterday, claimed that their involvement in evacuating cocoa is very insignificant, considering the number of hauliers involved in the business overall.

The two officials denied any wrongdoing, insisting that their involvement could not “milk the company dry”, as is being suggested.

Pushed further to show documents to support their claims, one of the two officials said that, in the 2018/19 cocoa season, he undertook 17 trips to evacuate cocoa, bagging GHC116,433 in total, at GHC6,849 per trip.

The other senior official produced a document suggesting that he had undertaken 12 trips, also in the 2018/19 cocoa season, which had fetched GHC79,000.

Mr Owusu Boateng explained further that, as things stand, a total amount of GHC26 million is to be paid to both PBC and private hauliers. Out of this, GHC16m is for PBC hauliers alone, representing 61 per cent of the total evacuation.

“So, as you can see, the rest – GHC10m, which is 39 per cent – goes to the private hauliers, of which these two senior officials are part. So, out of the total amount of GHC10m, we have two officials of PBC who are allowed by our policy to undertake the evacuation of cocoa, just as private hauliers, having GHC195,433.

“How can someone say their activities are threatening to return the company to its knees?” he asked.

EOCO probe

Mr Owusu Boateng said he inherited extensive rot from the previous PBC management when he took over as head, a situation which made it necessary for him to call on the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to conduct a forensic audit into the company’s activities between 2009 and 2017.

“As I speak to you, the forensic audit done by EOCO is in, and some people have been indicted,” he said.

One important finding of the EOCO team is the investment of a whopping GHC50 million in a savings and loans company in 2016 without approval from the board, Mr Owusu Boateng said.

He added that short-term loans were also used for long-term projects such as building hotels, which resulted in the company’s inability to pay back the loans.

“Monies were borrowed for investment in cocoa but ended up in savings and loans,” he said.

According to the PBC boss, the company’s liabilities started rocketing as a result of this “useless” diversion of money, which has led to the PBC paying almost GHC500m in the past three years in interest alone.

Shea nut processing

Mr Owusu Boateng also revealed that another major finding in the EOCO report is that the previous management purchased a groundnut machine rather than a shea-nut processor for the company’s factory at Buipe.

For three years, the factory was buying shea nuts from farmers even though it had no machine to process them, he said. This obliged the PBC to retool the groundnut processor to enable it to handle shea nuts.

He called on EOCO to do what is needed, as a matter of urgency, and to prosecute those involved in malfeasance at the PBC, as laid out in the Office’s report.

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Last modified on Friday, 29 November 2019 15:27


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