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xxxxxxxxxxx of Friday, 17 June 2016


NPP collapsed Pwalugu Tomato Factory - NDC

The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) has asked Ghanaians to hold the New Patriotic Party (NPP) responsible for the collapse of the Northern Star Tomato Company (NSTC) at Pwalugu in the Upper East region.

This is not the first time controversy involving the two parties over the breakdown of Ghana’s only tomato-processing factory in the North has come to the fore. But this is the first time blame has been heaped upon the NPP for its collapse.

The Upper East regional executives and supporters of the NPP held a news conference last weekend in Bolgatanga, the regional capital, strongly faulting the NDC government for failing to “revamp” the factory among other alleged botched promises.

But regional executives and members of the NDC countered it Wednesday in the same capital. They did not only rubbish the issues raised by the NPP as “politics of lies and deceit” but also grabbed that opportunity to spell out some developments they touted as unmatched achievements of the Mahama Administration since 2013.

“Those who are asking for the state of the factory had the opportunity to provide us with answers when they were in government but they did not do it,” the NDC Regional Secretary, Donatus Akamugre, said.

“An attempt was made to revamp the factory in 2005 when an Italian company was negotiated to refurbish the factory and operate to produce semi-concentrate for Trustee Food Ghana Limited, a factory in Tema, to buy and further process into a final product for the market. The company produced for two seasons namely 2006 and 2007 crop years and abandoned the project in May, 2008. It is not under NDC regime that the tomato factory project was abandoned. It was abandoned in NPP’s regime in May, 2008,” he added as members of the party enthusiastically backed the claim with applause inside the mini conference hall of the Sacred Heart Catholic Social Centre.

NDC on state of the factory

Mr. Akamugre, who is also the board chairman of the company, further explained that the NDC, after recapturing power in 2008, engaged Ghanaian experts to produce semi-concentrate (the product often referred to as tomato paste or purée) but the Tema-based company “refused to buy it”.

Government, following that refusal, then, decided to have the factory itself process the purée into finished goods and package them for retail markets. So, the Ministry of Trade and Industry ordered re-tort and seamier, the machines required for the processing.

But some limitations, including erratic supply of raw materials (tomatoes), destabilised operations and eventually put production on hold.

He disclosed that government had contracted the Worldwide Investments Company, a transaction advisor, in what he described as a public-private partnership (PPP), to help chart a more viable path for the smooth running of the factory.

“This has been completed and is currently before the Chief Director of the Ministry of Trade and Industry for further actions,” the Regional Secretary concluded.

NPP fights back

The revival of that factory in the middle of the last decade is a landmark intervention the NPP has been flaunting nationwide as one of the credentials that distinguish the party as a greater deliverer of jobs and a better handler of the country’s economy than any other party.

Guiding that feat jealously, even more so in an election year brimming with boiling issues that have shifted parties to the edge, the NPP has refused to bow to the NDC’s claim that the same factory it resuscitated vigorously in 2005 slumped back into operational coma in 2008 under its doleful watch.

“Even in 2009 and beyond, they (the NDC) were still producing the purée. From 2009 onwards, the purée was abandoned. They left it at the factory. They never exported it and they did not even order tomatoes again. So, the factory, then, grounded to a halt. And the purée got rotten and maggots took over the whole place. That didn’t happen in 2008. It happened in 2009. And how come the factory was getting market for the purée under the NPP but they (the NDC) could not get market for it? You can go to the factory and find out. The factory collapsed after 2009. The records are there,” the head of the NPP’s communications team in the region, Edward Awuni, told Starr News.

Projects President Mahama is coming to show

The NPP at its news conference jeered at President John Dramani Mahama who on his “Accounting to the People” campaign circuit so far has toured four regions including the Volta, the Central, the Western and the Brong Ahafo regions.

The President, in the NPP’s judgement, was due to take the tour to the Upper East Region in the first week of June, this year, but the trip was shelved indefinitely because his government had done nothing there to publicly account for.

The NPP pointed at a number of derelict major structures still weeping for reconstruction in the region as a proof of failure and neglect on government’s part. Mention was made of the Bolgatanga-Bawku Road and the meat factory at Zuarungu among other dilapidated amenities. And an inventory of some projects the Mahama-steered government was said to have promised but failed to deliver was laid bare at the conference. Those include the Bolgatanga Airstrip, a new regional hospital, two hundred day second-cycle schools, a market at Zebilla (capital of the Bawku West District) as well as a polyclinic and a sports complex for the regional capital.

The NDC’s regional executives replied in no small measure, cataloguing a number of physical projects a number of which they said were ripe for outdooring on the President’s anticipated visit.

At least 49 structures, according to the NDC, have been provided across the region’s thirteen municipalities and districts. The structures comprise classroom blocks, dormitories, Community-based Health Planning Services (CHPS) compounds and improved ventilated pit latrines (KVIPs). Six bungalows for teachers and health professionals have been constructed and four complexes are near completion.

Rehabilitation of the Toende Irrigation Dam and the Sapeliga Small Town Water System in the Bawku West District, construction of Small Town Water System at Pwalugu, rehabilitation of a bungalow for Ambulance Service at Tongo, construction of bitumen-surfaced road between Winkogo and Tongo and provision of furniture for students were mentioned.

The party also itemised the upgrading of Soe Township roads (3.72km) between Soe and Zaare, partial reconstruction of Estate Roads (4km), upgrading of the roads within Bukere, Atulbabisi and Ministries Area (3.9km) and campus road network with provision of streetlights at the Bolgatanga Technical Institute (BOTECH) among the developments seen so far in the regional capital .

Government, the executives said, had drilled 324 boreholes in the region, expanded the Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) to cover no fewer than 20 schools and paid 49,117 beneficiaries of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) a total of G¢2,754, 810.00.

NDC delivers more jabs to NPP

Questions persistently raised by the NPP were met with answers from the NDC at the counter conference. The NDC’s statement kangarooed extensively, from issues of alleged ethnocentrism, unemployment, the National Health Insurance Scheme, the Bolgatanga-Bawku Road, postponement of the President’s tour to the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).

“The postponement of the President’s visit to the Upper East Region was due to more national pressing issues of great concern which is well known and effectively communicated to the good people of the region. Also, the inability of the Vice President to grace the Farmers’ Day celebration in the region is widely known [to] every Ghanaian to be as a result of a sudden bad weather condition which would not allow aircraft to take off and land because of poor visibility.

If these vital coincidences are seen by NPP as swerves because of nonperformance of government in the region in terms of development, we want to ask NPP to tell us the reason why President Kufuor did not take part in the celebration of Ghana’s Independence Day in 2002,” the statement explained.

It added: “In, 2002, President Kufuor was [in] Australia for the Commonwealth Heads of States Conference. The conference ended on 5th March, 2002, but the then presidential spokesperson, Kwabena Agyapong, responded to the concerns raised that as per travelling arrangements Kufuor could not come back to Ghana to celebrate the event that made it possible for him to become president. Does the NPP want to get Ghanaians to believe that it was because of poor performance that Kufuor did not come to celebrate the Independence Day?”

The NDC also brushed off the NPP’s “ethnocentric” tag on President Mahama, saying the President had not contested any election as a northerner but as a Ghanaian.

“Statistical evidences illustrate that the presidential voting pattern in the Upper East Region points contrary to the NPP’s claim. It is important to note that President Jerry John Rawlings’ percentage of votes, 68.99% (in 1996), in the region is even higher than President John Dramani Mahama’s 66.43% (in 2012).

“Before the NPP left office in 2009, the total number of active members under the National Health Insurance Scheme was highly insignificant. However, under the reigns of the NDC, the active membership shot up to 561,359 in 2012; 643, 264 in 2013; 627,659 in 2014; 617, 479 in 2015 and 163, 008 as at March, 2016,” the statement pointed out.

SADA, despite the challenges confronting it, according to the NDC, has, under its Millennium Village Project (MVP), delivered roads in the West Mamprusi and Builsa South districts, CHPS compounds at Gbedembilisi and Wiesi in the Builsa District and rehabilitated the Fumbisi Health Centre in the same district. The Youth Employment Agency (YEA), the party added, had recruited 5,144 youth set to begin work in the various modules by the end of August, this year.

On the Bolgatanga-Bawku Road, which had been in the hands of some contractors tasked to re-gravel the stretch and provide culverts and drainage systems, the NDC disclosed that a new contractor had been awarded the job to reconstruct the highway "and has started moving the equipment to the site". Ripples of reactions from the NPP in the region are bound to trail the NDC's counter conference in the coming days.