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Opinions of Friday, 7 April 2017

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Open an investigation into salary scale of COCOBOD executives

By: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe

If COCOBOD is a state institution, as its newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, maintains, then it goes without saying that the salary scale and perks of the management staff of COCOBOD must be regulated by Article 71 of the country’s 1992 Constitution (See “COCOBOD CEO Earns GHC70,000 Monthly Salary – Hackman Owusu-Agyeman” / 3/28/17).

What we had under the just-ended tenure of Dr. Stephen Opuni was the sort of executive slavocracy that did not even exist under the erstwhile British colonial regime, whereby the prime producers of the bulk of the country’s wealth went to bed virtually famished and unable to pay the school fees of their children, grandchildren and relatives, while a few suited and airconditioned Accra-resident state employees of the country’s main cocoa buyer and exporter lived scandalously high on the proverbial hog.

There must be a state agency that determines the salaries and perks of Article 71 employees. I suppose it is called the Public Services Commission (PSC), although just a couple of days ago, I came across a news headline in which the operatives of a so-called Salaries Commission (SC) claimed to have had absolutely no hand in the COCOBOD Affair.

This is where investigations into how the Opuni Gang’s salaries came to be pegged at a significantly higher scale than all the rest of the Article 71-governed state employees, including the President of the Democratic Republic of Ghana, must begin. We are also told that the salary of the COCOBOD CEO only began to double and triple about 3 years ago.

And so we need to know precisely who authorized the doubling of the salaries of these employees during the time in reference and for what reasons, since the new COCOBOD CEO has informed the nation that during the same period that the salaries of his predecessors were exponentially increasing, productivity at the country’s largest produce-buying agency annually registered red-ink marks in its ledgers.

Put simply, COCOBOD has been operating in the red or on a gaping deficit at about the same period that Dr. Opuni and his managerial associates were taking home unprecedented salary packages and bonuses.

Any talk of witch-hunting, the knee-jerk mantra of the Mahama Posse, is sheer hogwash. The Ghanaian taxpayer needs to get to the bottom of this epic scam.

Indeed, if all we needed at the COCOBOD headquarters were new slave masters with black faces and skin colors, then I am sorry to say that Ghanaians did ourselves great injury and harm by sending the British colonialists packing back home.

At least, the old colonial regime offered us a decent semblance of accountability in some form of measurable material development on the ground. With the Opuni Gang, the Ghanaian cocoa farmer’s fortunes were deliberately, viciously and systematically inverted to suit the private needs and comfort of those primarily hired to ensure the remarkable improvement of the same.

The talk ought not to be facilely about slashing the salaries of these scandalously overpaid airconditioned thugs, and then going back to business as usual.

Rather, a rational and systematically logical and input-appropriate salary structure must be promptly established and studiously policed. This also means that those who so willfully corrupted the status-quo-ante must be promptly and swiftly brought to book.

And the latter punitive measure may very well entail a justifiable combination of the seizure of the ill-gotten wealth and assets, as well as the prosecution and imprisonment of those found to be most guilty of taking the Ghanaian taxpayer to the cleaners, in the original and classical New York sense of the term.