Parliament, by a majority decision has passed a legal proposal to shift ministerial oversight responsibility of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) from the Ministry of Trade to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.
Although, ministerial responsibility is already being exercised by the Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), this is yet to be approved by an Act of Parliament.
The Ghana Cocoa Board (Amendment) Bill, 2017 seeks to amend Section 39 of the Provincial National Defense Council (PNDC) Law 81, which established COCOBOD, to vest ministerial responsibility of the activities of the Board in the hands of the Minister of Food and Agriculture.
Under PNDC Law 81, the Minister of Trade and Industry exercises ministerial responsibility over COCOBOD, but that responsibility, in practice was handled by the Minister of Food and Agriculture.
The Government of Ghana is of the view that it has become imperative to secure legal backing to Food and Agriculture Minister in handling the responsibility of oversight of the Ghana COCOBOD.
Mr Ben Abdallah Banda, Chairman of the Committee on Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, presenting the Committee’s report recalled that the Ghana Cocoa Board (Amendment) was laid in Parliament on 27th February, 2018 by Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation on behalf of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice in accordance with Article 106 of the 1992 Constitution.
Mr Banda justified the amendment, and said the intended change in ministerial responsibility under the law is to properly focus cocoa production as the foremost function of the Board.
He said the fact that cocoa production was under the remit of the agriculture sector makes imperative for the Minister of Agriculture to have oversight responsibility over the Ghana Cocoa Board and related matters pertaining to the production of cocoa as an agricultural product.
He said cognizant of the fact that the function of the COCOBOD went beyond production of the cash crops; the Board is also responsible for the processing and marketing of these crops.
Mr Banda said the production of the crop is the primary or core duty of the COCOBOD and therefore justified the proposal to vest ministerial responsibility over the COCOBOD with the Minister for Agriculture.
Furthermore, the COCOBOD, per its objects under the law, is mandated to play an important role in Ghana’s economy by employing about 800,000 people and generating about US$2 billion annually. Cocoa is also a major contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
He said the amendment is also in line with the objective of government to achieve the target of one million tons of cocoa production annually.
Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, Ranking Member on the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, complained that the Minority members of the Committee had great difficulty understanding government’s rationale for the amendment.
According to him, the amendment proposed was simply to redefine the “Minister” to mean Minister for Agriculture.
He cited Article 106(1) (2a) to argue that no Bill shall be introduced in Parliament unless it is accompanied by explanatory memoranda, setting out in detail the policies and principles if the Bill, adding the amendment being proposed did not meet that requirement.
Alhaji Fuseini also stated that the Ministry of Trade and Industries was designated to the supervisory Ministry by PNDC Law 81 more than 35years ago, and that COCOBOD was operating under the ministry all these years without defects.
“So, when the Bill was laid by the Attorney General and referred to us, it appeared to us there were other considerations other than the marketing of cocoa, which was informing the realignment of this ministry,” he said.
The Ranking Member also indicated that during the Committee hearing one of the Chief Executives of the COCOBOD present actually said in their operations, they had no difficulty with the present arrangement.
“So, the only conclusion we came to is that this current amendment does not meet the requirement of Article 106(1) (2a) or motivated by defects in the existing arrangement. That is why we cannot support this amendment,” he added.