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PBC staff demand full-scale probe into alleged financial mismanagement, salary delays

The aggrieved workers have also questioned management's silence and their perceived failure to provide explanations or actions to rectify the situation 

Staff of Produce Buying Company (PBC) are demanding a full-scale probe into the company’s financial mismanagement, which they claim has led to a complete halt of operations at the country’s biggest licenced cocoa-buying entity.

The staff’s grievances stem from a revelation that PBC owes the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) an amount of GHC280 million. This debt is tied to an undeclared cocoa stock amounting to over 5,000 tons from the 2022-2023 period.

The aggrieved workers have also questioned management’s silence and their perceived failure to provide explanations or actions to rectify the situation. Clad in red bands employees of PBC stormed the head office of COCOBOD in the Ashanti Region on Wednesday (29 May), to drum home their demands.

“Our enquiries from COCOBOD had come out to suggest that we have a stock which is yet to declare to them. Management did not say anything about this only for COCOBOD CEO to lambast us over this issue. Now we are asking management about the whereabouts of this money. If management is not doing anything about it, we want the government to charge NIB and EOCO to investigate the company”, Seth Adusei, vice chairman of the Workers’ Group at the PBC told the press.

“Recently we found out that management had begun auctioning some of our properties. When we inquired, we were told the money will be used to settle utility bills…We want management to come and explain to us how much have been accumulated in a recent operation in Niger and which account is this money sitting and why are they not using the money to settle these bills rather to fall on auctioning of the company’s assets. We will never accept it”.

Persons of interest

The workers also called on state security to investigate former officials whose activities contributed to the woes of the company. They include Nana Agyenim Boateng a former operations manager, Kwabena Tinyaase Akwaba former board chairman among others.

“We want these men who had had the opportunity to work with the PBC to be invited to investigate these issues in order to save the company from collapse”, the union stated.

Salary disputes

The employees are also demanding immediate payment of their salaries and other pension funds which currently spans for about six years and 10 months.

“Our Tier 3 is still hanging. For a period of 10 months now we are yet to be paid. Some management members are receiving their salaries while we are yet to be paid. This is cheating and disheartening”, Adusei said while reminding the office of the President to intervene.

“We have been left to our own fate. This breaking us and we are losing some of our staff over this situation”, he added.

PBC woes

In 2023 it was reported that the country’s biggest indigenous cocoa-buying company faced collapse following its steep decline in market share from 30.88 per cent to 8 per cent over the last five years.

In January last year, the management of the company hinted at downsizing its staff because it was unable to meet financial and operational obligations to its workers.

In August 2022, management issued a memo it was unable to pay salaries to staff. It’s now a tale of huge debts, fallen revenue, tonnes of cocoa beans stuck in the farms and produce clerks engaged in double trading to survive.

Intervention

Spokesperson for COCOBOD Fiifi Boafo had said in an interview on Accra-based JoyNews that the regulator was taking rapid steps to ensure the survival of the company.

“COCOBOD is ensuring that PBC is able to get seed funds. COCOBOD provides them with seed funds such that they’ll be able to go to the market and buy cocoa…. we have a special arrangement; a special dispensation has been created between Ministry of Finance and SIGA where we give them the seed fund without them providing guarantee. If they’re not providing guarantee, it means that they’re able to save some money because by raising that guarantee from the bank will come at a cost. So that cost is also taken off of your cost of running your business.

“Apart from that we also realised that they were also having some challenges with the banks for example. So even raising money or even when monies were paid into their account it has its own challenge. So a special arrangement in connection with PBC has been made where the amounts are able to get to their district offices and then their agents out there to be able to buy cocoa for them.

“Of course, when they raised their CTROs that is the receipt for cocoa purchases, a special arrangement has also been put in place to ensure that they’re able to get payment for that as early as possible in order for them to turnaround the money available to them.”

He continued that while the PBC still owes COCOBOD some money, “there’s still the need for us to ensure that they’re able to go out there and do business.”

Thus, COCOBOD is also assisting PBC “streamline some of their activities and we talked about how Golden Beam was making profit.

“This was not the case but because we realised that it was one of the things that was haemorrhaging the institution, there was the need to have some understanding that will bring them back to the profit line such that they would be able to make profit and they will not have to now send money to the hotel in order for the hotel to operate whereas they could be making profit to support their business.”

He had earlier stated that the PBC losing such large market share was partly due to strong competition from independent cocoa buying companies.

Reporting By Jonathan Ofori, Asaase Newsroom, Kumasi

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