The Ministry of Food and Agriculture, has been hit with a GH¢20million debt scandal, following the ministry’s decision to hastily procure chemicals under sole-sourcing to fight the invasion of armyworms in affected farms in parts of the country.
The chemicals, according to The Herald’s reliable sources, are ineffective as far as the fight against the dangerous worms is concerned. They are said to be for the treatment of wood and not worms as the ministry, will want to have everybody believe.
One of the chemicals called, Dursban, is used to kill termites and other wood eating bugs, insects not armyworms. This according to insiders, is not helping the fight against the Armyworms invasion, because the wrong agro chemicals are being applied by the National Taskforce.
The worms are said to be wrecking more havoc in many farms across the country, while the minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, is reportedly on official visit to Brazil.
Since March this year, the pests have destroyed more than 1370 hectares of maize, cowpea and cocoa farms. Brong Ahafo, Ashanti and Western Regions, are the most affected areas.
Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, while in opposition, lambasted every Agric Minister in the John Mahama government on everything agriculture and food calling them “incompetent”, but since the sector was handed to him, he has been found wanting, and failing to fix what he gravely criticized against.
The Ministry allegedly bought the wrong chemicals through sole-sourcing arrangement, a practice the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and it flagbearer, Nana Akufo-Addo, now president campaigned against.
The party, had vigorously spoke against the practice during the 2016 campaign and promised that if voted for, they will ensure every contract goes through competitive bidding to protect the public purse.
Dr. Akoto Afriyie, had told Accra-based Joy FM that, armyworm issue is being treated as an emergency and he has informed cabinet and the office of the president, about the need for immediate release of funds to deal with the problem.
He mentioned that, his ministry will need GH¢16 million to fight the outbreak, half of which will go into the purchase of chemicals and the remaining GH¢8 million on education, adding even before the money is released, the Chemical Dealers Association of Ghana, has agreed to release chemicals to government on credit. He is confident the chemicals, will help deal with the pests.
But The Herald is informed by insiders that, the Minister took the decision to give the contract on sole-sourcing to different companies on behalf of the ministry and has since presented documents to the Procurement Authority, to endorse the acquisition of the chemicals, even though the chemicals are unable to stop the infestation.
While this is happening in Accra, famers in the hinterlands, whose farms have been infested are crying out to the government and the agric ministry for solution.
In May this year, the government distributed agro-chemicals to various farms in the southern part of Ghana to help fight the threatening army worm invasion.
The distribution was being coordinated by a National Taskforce for the control and management of the invasion.
The chemicals were distributed free of charge, as the government treated the invasion as an emergency and disaster issue.
The armyworm invasion, has since affected maize and cowpea farms in the southern sector, but Emmanuel Asante-Krobea, the Chief Technical Advisor at the Agriculture Ministry, assured of government’s plan to contain the situation.
He noted that “chemicals were dispatched to all the regional offices in all the regions of the south, but for the northern parts, they haven’t started planting yet.”
“We are waiting for feedback from the regional directors, as to receiving it, to be able to service the farmers and already, the regions and districts have put in place spraying gangs who are going to do the spraying the grounds. So when the chemicals arrive, straight away, they go into action.”
According to the Agriculture Ministry, in 2016, the army worms destroyed 4,500 hectares of farmlands in Ghana.
Dr. Akoto Afriyie, has childhood relationship with President Akufo-Addo, and this has made him one of the untouchables in the government.