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Northern Ghana Deserves Better

Late Professor John Evans Atta Mills won the 2008 elections. True to his promise, he set up the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).

The budgetary allocation to SADA was 25million Ghana Cedis in 2011 and 20million Ghana Cedis in 2012.

The government also issued a bond of 200million Ghana Cedis in 2012. This was to serve as the seed capital for SADA.

One of SADA’s early projects was the SADA Mango Project which was undertaken in partnership with some private plantation keepers known as sevice providers.

Many farmers went into this project with large amount of monies which yielded to nothing. SADA had failed to mechanise the boreholes that will provide water to support the plantations as has been agreed.

Alhaji Sumaila planted 20 acres of mango, his efforts got wasted because the borehole drilled in his farm was not mechanised. Ibrahim Iddrisu also planted 20 acres of mango. He was not even lucky to get a borehole let alone ask for mechanisation.

SADA cleared the land and provided farmers with the seedlings. SADA was also supposed to drill mechanised boreholes to water the plantation. The farmers were to provide labor and pay back SADA’s investment after harvesting the mangoes.

SADA however, failed to mechanize the boreholes, thereby crippling the project.

Former CEO of SADA, Gilbert Seidu Iddi said, in all, 120 boreholes were drilled, each one cost 25000 Ghana Cedis  making a total of 3million Ghana Cedis. Clearing the land, supplying of fertilizer and other inputs as well as labor expenses put the cost of this project into several millions of dollars. But SADA’s failure to mechanize the boreholes has negated the viability of the project.

SADA is not the first organization to undertake mango project in the north. There are many success stories of mango plantation in that part of the country.

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The SADA service provider whose project failed because SADA did not  provide water took Manasseh Azure to his own private plantation with a limited budget. He  developed an impressive 50acre mango plantation a few kilometers from the field of SADA project.

In June 2012, SADA awarded an afforestation contract to ACI Construction Limited  to plant five million trees in the SADA zone. Investigation has revealed that this company is a building and construction firm. It had no record of undertaking any tree planting project.

An investigation into the project  more than a year after the trees were planted  showed a high level of failure. In the three regions, only a few of the regions had appreciable level of survival.

The afforestation sites  that had high level of survival  were close to water and were relatively small.

So, is the SADA afforestation program a success story?

Some part of the SADA zone has a fixed vegetation cover. The northern region for instance, houses Ghana’s biggest wild lives forest, the Mole National Park. These areas clearly do not need afforestation projects but it was found out that forest were cleared to make way for the afforestation project in some of the locations.

At Blema in the Northern Region, economic trees such as the shear had to be felled to make way for the project.

Does it make sense to clear trees and plant trees?

In 2012, SADA entered into a joint venture with Asongtaba cottage industry and exchange program to commercialize the production of guinea fowls. A joint venture company was formed; the SADA Asongtaba guinea fowls production and marketing company limited. The joint venture was to employ 1,500 workers and produce 250,000 guinea fowls in a year for sale.

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The guinea fowl project was to be implemented in the five SADA regions. The project had stopped and SADA was unable to retrieve its investment. The reason for the failure of the guinea fowl project is not difficult to find; the joint venture was a murky transaction that lacked transparency. Even thought SADA  paid 15million cedis to the private company, it could not tell whether the company paid its share of 56.4 equity into the joint venture.

Gilbert Iddi was in office for more than one year after the joint venture company was established. He personally signed a cheque  to pay SADA share of the money  into the joint venture. Strangely, he paid the money to the private company instead of the joint venture account.

Gilbert Seidu Iddi

The joint venture company failed to live up to its promise. SADA has not been able to retrieve its investment as directed by the Auditor General’s report in 2013.

The Auditor General also faulted SADA for not adhering to transparent procurement processes in the award of contracts.

Gilber Iddi would not admit any wrong doing of failure on the part of SADA.

It defended the decision to do sole sourcing in awarding contracts instead of open competitive bidding.

 The 2013 Auditor General’s report said, SADA breached the procurement law by handpicking ACI construction for the afforestation project. The report says, the money should be surcharged to Gilbert Iddi or ACI construction.

Indeed, there are question marks about the persons SADA handpicked for the projects.

The SADA afforestation project was awarded to a company owned by Roland Agambiri. The guinea fowl project was also awarded to a company owned by the same person.

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Earlier investigations into a corruption scandal at the Youth Employment Program revealed that four companies belonging to Mr. Agambiri were involved in that scandal.

Agambire

The Auditor General also indicted SADA management for wasteful and expensive trip to Europe, huge payments to consultants and investing in projects with very little or no prospect of recouping its investments. There were no actual works beyond the billboards advertising them.

It was discovered that equipment procured  for the project were abandoned even though it was the time of the year to do the project.

More than a year after the Auditor General published the report indicting officials of SADA  and businesses, no one has been prosecuted and no money has been refunded.

Attempts are being made to rebrand SADA, it is not clear what the future will look like but one thing is clear, the authority that was setup to give hope to the people of Northern Ghana was hijacked by government officials and businesses connected with the government.

Millions of dollars were misused and no one has been held accountable.

Economic rain of SADA has fallen heavily but the ground it was supposed to nurture is still dry.

That is the story of the sad SADA saga

Credit: The Sad SADA Story by Manasseh Azure Awine, 2015

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