June 10, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Members of the Parliamentary Committee on Transparency and Accountability last Friday accused senior officials of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS) of practically manipulating the functions of Agricultural Business Centres (ABCs) across the country.
This came after the committee requested that a briefing be given to it on the activities of agricultural companies across the country, following concerns raised by citizens.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Claude D.M. Kamanda said “We need thorough explanation on the distribution of fertilizers and how ABCs are given out as the ministry is practically manipulating these activities. We want to know how the funds provided were utilized as people must account for monies expended. The construction and equipment bought should be explained thoroughly,’’ he demanded.
Hon. Kamanda said the committee would be going on an oversight visit to all ABCs across the country in order to find out their mode of operations and to see how far those responsible are undertaking the contractual agreement.
However, Permanent Secretary of MAFFS, Edward Kargbo, said the location of ABCs was determined by community land owners and not the ministry as “We are only trying to make farmers to be independent as that was why we gave them tractors for which payment was considered at 60% for them to have ownership over them.’’
Head of Agribusiness Promotion in the ministry, Aiah S. Thollie, said the private sector was doing well in the promotion of agriculture in the country, although the sector continues to face challenges.
He said fertilizers were made available to farmers at the cost of Le100, 000 per bag in all 14 districts, and not given free of charge because such was contrary to donor policy. He said some of the ABCs were fully operating while others are not.
The Committee resolved that the ministry should avail to them memoranda of understanding signed with Agricultural Companies operating in each ABC, their operation, location and how seeds, money, construction of market, feeder roads, surface rent on land used are utilized, adding that the latter should provide MOUs signed with funding agencies supporting agriculture and a comprehensive three years update on fertilizers supplied to farmers across the country.