Chief Executive of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA), Charles Abugri has told Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee reports that trees were not planted in the infamous Afforestation Project were untrue.
He has also affirmed the report of independent auditors from the University of Development Studies (UDS) that an average of 85% of Savanna Accelerated Development Agency-sponsored trees planted within the Northern Savannah Zone of Ghana survived.
The trees were planted by ACI Construction Limited. The plantations followed a June 2012 contract signed between ACI Construction Limited and SADA, an independent State agency responsible for coordinating a comprehensive development agenda for the northern savannah ecological zone in Ghana.
The SADA boss is meeting the lawmakers over the Auditor-General’s and media reports on the project which cost the nation Ghc32 million whose contract had to be terminated midway as a result of public uproar.
President Mahama in January 2014 ordered the discontinuation of the tree planting contract following which an independent audit was conducted to ascertain allegations that the contract was not properly executed.
Since coming into office as new SADA CEO, Mr Abugri had insisted that even though the trees were planted, proper care to nurture its growth was not properly done, a position confirmed by the UDS Report which said, “Generally, the percentage survival of the seedlings was good but require good cultural and management practices such as regular weeding, beating up, pest control as well as effective monitoring to enhance the general health of the plantations,”.
Quoting from the report, he said “The average percentage survival of all the planted species in the SADA plantations were very high (85%) with the highest (88%) recorded in the Eastern Zone and the least (76%) in the Southern Zone,” and adds that “a total of 145 plantations were surveyed in all the four afforestation zones encompassing 45 political districts in 5 regions. Eight tree species were planted in the various operational zones namely; Tectona grandis, Senna siamea, Albizia lebbeck, Khaya senegalensis, Mangifera indica, Anacardium occidentale, Eucalyptus spp. and Moringa oleifera.”
As a result of the issues, state subvention to the authority has dwindled… “We have been relying on international financial institutions, debts we collected, the remainder of our set-up funds as well as proceeds from liquidated assets to run”.
Asked about whether he thinks the dwindled subvention is not an indirect vote of confidence in the authority by government, the SADA boss said that was not the case.
Questioned about justifications for opting for sole-sourcing for the selection of the contractor, SADA responded that it applied to the Public Procurement Authority which approved it.
Some members of the committee took a swipe at both SADA and the contractor for planting the trees at what they describe as an inappropriate time which was the dry season.