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General News of Sunday, 4 October 2009

Source: GNA

Ayariga: I am innocent in purchase of tractors

Accra, Oct. 4, GNA - Presidential Spokesman Mahama Ayariga has denied any wrongdoing in the purchase of tractors to establish a Mechanisation Centre (MC) for farmers in Bawku in the Upper East Region, saying everything he had done was above board.

"To the best of my knowledge of the enrolment procedures under Agriculture Mechanisation Centre Scheme (AMSEC), nothing illegal has happened in the processes of my involvement in the setting up of the MC in Bawku," he said in a detailed statement explaining his side of the transaction.

This follows media reports claiming he did not follow the right procedures and the filing of a petition against him at the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).

Mr Ayariga said following the government's importation of tractors and other agriculture equipment to be made available to Ghanaians under affordable arrangements, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) devised the AMSEC, under which anyone intending to provide tractor services to farmers was allowed to enter into an arrangement to purchase five tractors which would be used to establish a MC in any district of Ghana.

"The MC is obliged to provide tractor services to any farmer within its catchment area at fixed rates per acre. The person who entered into the arrangement with MOFA is, however, responsible for ensuring that over a period of five years the total cost of the tractors is paid to MOFA," he said, adding that MOFA, however, had supervisory powers over the MCs and constantly monitored their operations.

Mr Ayariga said he was unaware of this scheme when he applied to acquire two tractors for use by farmers in Bawku to have access to tractor services at the most affordable cost.

He said his application for two tractors was approved and he was asked to make the deposit payment of 9,000 Ghana cedis for each of them whilst the rest would be paid over three years.

"I paid the deposit for one of them and was raising funds to pay for the other when I chanced on the Minister of Agriculture at the Presidency who asked me what I wanted those tractors for. He had seen my name among the list of applicants.

Mr Ayariga said when he explained the scheme he was putting in place in Bawku, the minister mentioned the AMSEC project and said it would enable the scheme to have more tractors, whilst the terms of payment was better suited for the purpose.

He said he subsequently applied to have his initial arrangement to purchase two tractors converted to the AMSEC scheme.

The application was approved by the Director of the Agriculture Engineering Services Division of MOFA who asked that he made an additional payment of 1,000 Ghana cedis to meet the 10,000 Ghana cedis minimum deposit requirement to qualify for release of the tractors under the AMSEC scheme.

Mr Ayariga said the 1,000 Ghana cedis was paid on April 15, 2009 and on April 16, 2009 he signed the agreement with MOFA under the AMSEC scheme "binding myself to comply with the terms of the AMSEC scheme and ensure that the tractors are paid for in accordance with the payment schedule".

He said the total cost of the tractors under the AMSEC scheme was 90,000 Ghana cedis whilst the tractors must be paid for within a five- year period.

Mr Ayariga said the Management Team (MT) that he set up the tractor services, commenced business in Bawku on May 15, and ran throughout the ploughing period of the season.

He said a report of the MT indicated that about 500 farmers comprising farmers' groups of varied political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds in Bawku East, Bawku West and Garu-Tempane had benefited from the programme and a total of 1,046 acres of land were ploughed within a period of two months.

Mr Ayariga said 797 acres were ploughed in Bawku, 16 acres in Pusiga, 39 acres in Binduri, 85 in Garu Tempane and 109 in Bawku West. He said the cost of tractor service per acre provided by the Mechanisation Centre in Bawku was 12 Ghana cedis per acre, describing it as "the cheapest in the whole of Ghana this year".

"A market survey revealed that the average cost of procuring the service from other tractor operators in Bawku was 25.00 Ghana cedis per acre.

Mr Ayariga said he had not made any profits under the scheme and his motive had not been to provide tractor services to farmers with the aim of financial gain.

He reiterated that nothing illegal had happened during the formal processes and "the responsibility to ensure that within five years the total cost of the tractors, which stands at 90,000 Ghana cedis, is paid to MOFA still remains mine and mine only".