THE PUBLIC Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament says management of the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) Fund is weak and directed the Authority to retrieve GH₵ 186,372 from Mr Gilbert Iddi, former boss of the Board.
The amount is in respect of a trip to Turkey in 2012 which PAC, sitting on Monday, described the expenditure as wasteful.
The directive of the Committee, chaired by Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, MP for Dormaa Central, was to enforce a recommendation by the 2013 Auditor General’s Report that the GH₵ 186, 372 expended on the trip be surcharged on Mr Iddi, who authorised the payments.
Mr Charles Abugri, the current Chief Executive Officer of SADA, attempted to justify the actions of Mr Iddi against the recommendations in the Auditor-General’s Report.
Outlining the benefits of the trip, Mr Abugre said the eight district assemblies received commitment from the Turkish authorities to support them in local government training and scholarships to students from the districts.
He said the trip also explored opportunities in the establishment of a bus assembling plant and an equipment plant pool.
Mr Samuel Atta-Akyea, the Vice Chair of the Committee, however, said the SADA CEO could only challenge the findings of the Auditor-General’s Report in the High Court.
Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said per the Auditor-General’s Report, the monies spent on the officials on the trip, including Mr Iddi and a former Minister of State, Alhaji Dr Mustapha Ahmed, “were not productively used.”
Managers had also been cited for spending GH¢ 250,000 on trips to Birmingham, Berlin, and Istanbul, without approval by the Board of the Authority.
The trip also included a marketing trip organised by Kasmed Seed to explore opportunities for the sale of butternut squash in which three SADA staff participated.
Speaking to journalists later, Mr Abugri admitted that his outfit had not been doing enough to recover state funds that were wrongfully expended by the past management.
“No we haven’t done enough. We have to keep working at it… some things we are recovering. Some efforts, we are making. We probably need to give a bit more effort in one thing or the other, but some of these legal things are complex,” he said.
He expressed reluctance in using the legal route to recover the monies saying, “courts are not cheap so sometimes you have to find other ways to resolve the problem other than court to get our money back and try and build the relationships going forward. That doesn’t mean that we have ruled out court. These are all possibilities.”
Mr Atta Akyea, in a chat with newsmen, expressed dismay at the malaise at how monies meant for SADA were misappropriated during the tenure of the previous management.
“It is the most disgraceful report that I have ever seen and read since I became a member of the Public Accounts Committee. The shameful dimension to this whole thing is that it seems to me that there are people who want to do cover ups,” he added.
The report indicated that SADA had refurbished the Ghana Cotton Company offices in the Northern Region at a cost of GH₵ 598, 500 without a Memorandum of Understanding for use as office accommodation, even though Wienco Ghana Limited now controlled the facility.
He said SADA now had a tenancy agreement with Wienco Ghana which spelt out that SADA would not pay any rent till 2017.
SADA was set up in 2010 as an independent agency for co-ordinating a development agenda for the northern savannah ecological zone of Ghana: Upper East, Upper West and the Northern regions, and the northern parts of Brong-Ahafo and the Volta Region.
The Agency, however, came under severe scrutiny and criticism over an exposé on misappropriation of funds by management. Some analysts have called for the total dissolution of SADA since it was not serving the purpose for which it was set up.
Following the revelation of funds mismanagement, President John Mahama ordered the termination of certain contracts under SADA in consultation with the Attorney General.
The contract terminations affected a guinea fowl rearing project and afforestation and tree growing project.