The Former President and Presidential candidate for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) John Dramani Mahama has said that he will sack employees of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) who were recruited under the current government.
In a leaked recording of an interaction between the Former President and some party faithful at a meeting, Mr Mahama called all those who were employed as staff of COCOBOD within the past four years of the present government, as “party apparatchiks of the NPP who will be gotten rid of in a retrenchment exercise”.
He is then heard moments after admitting that such an act will be “unfortunate”, yet his government will go heard to execute it. “We will get rid of those workers first, and that is unfortunate, but we can’t do anything about it,” he stated.
On the tape, he is further heard putting the workers and the staff unions, which represent the senior and junior members of staff on notice, that his government will adopt what he calls the “last-in, first-out” policy to lay off workers.
So, with last-in, first-out, Mr Mahama said, what will happen with the workers and the union is that all those political apparatchiks the NPP brought to COCOBOD; that they recruited for their political reasons will go first, and so the union should take note of that.
The Former President was speaking on the broader subject of how to find jobs within the state apparatus for party faithful when he becomes president again. The purging exercise at COCOBOD provides an avenue for recruitments thereafter of NDC party folks.
The current administration of COCOBOD has recruited thousands of workers. The overwhelming majority of them are contract workers spread across the cocoa-growing areas of the country.
They have mostly been engaged as extension officers providing essential extension services to cocoa farmers and hand pollinators helping farmers increase their yields. Others are members of spraying gangs, skillfully trained pruners, technical assistants, and labour staff for the cocoa rehabilitation programme, among others.
Threats of these jobs going way were first made in various statements by members of the NDC, who mentioned that the Mahama government will not be interested in continuing the various initiatives called the Productivity Enhancement Programmes, which the current administration introduced to improve the nation’s cocoa production capacity.
These threats of job losses for the field workers, and permanent staff as well, has now been confirmed in this latest leaked recording of the Former President.
Due to the unique position held by the cocoa industry as an enduring and reliable revenue earner for the state, matters of the cocoa sector and particularly, of the cocoa regulatory body often become subjects of political interest and sometimes interference.
It is also a common occurrence that the top brass of COCOBOD will be changed upon a change in government and the Board of Directors also reconstituted.
These changes as they occur across the civil service and state institutions at large, often draw criticism from civil society organisations who point to the negative impact it has on the continuity of state business.
However, what Mr Mahama is heard in the recording threatening to do will be far more consequential. It threatens to purge COCOBOD of technocrats and other senior and junior ranking support staff, who have been meritoriously recruited within the past four years.