Food suppliers picketing: Speaker directs 3 ministers to appear before House
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has directed the Business Committee to schedule three minsters to appear in Parliament to brief members on the cause of delays in the payment to National Food Suppliers Association members for the past two years.
He said the Ministers of Finance, Education and Food and Agriculture should come and tell the House the cause of the challenge so that Parliament would assist the Executive to solve the problem.
Addressing Parliament, Mr Bagbin recalled a surprised visit he paid to the Buffer Stock Company in June 2022, a visit he said unnerved some people who thought he was taking over their function.
“No as the leader of this House and the Head of the institutions, it is important that I keep drawing your attention as the representative of the people so that you can properly represent the interest of your constituents.
The Speaker’s directive followed an application the National Democratic Congress MP for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, when the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, presented the business statement to the House.
Mr Ablakwa said the delayed payment of funds to members of the National Food Suppliers Association which was of national interest should have found space in the business statement but did not.
He cited the picketing and demonstration at the National Buffet Stock Company by food suppliers over the past four days.
“These people have been at the mercy of the vagaries of the weather and are sleeping rough,” Mr Ablakwa said.
The North Tongu MP also informed the House of a video the Minority Leader shared with him showing how the affected women were” rolling on the floor on the premises of the NBSC.
“Mr Speaker, I was so depressed and went to bed last night really troubled,” he said, recalling how the Speaker paid a visit to the Buffer Stock Company last year on June 23, 2022 and warned of the deteriorating food situation at the Buffer Stock Company.
“Now the situation is totally out of control.
So Mr Speaker I want to appeal that the ministers of Finance, Education and Food and Agriculture should be programmed to appear before this House urgently,” Mr Ablakwa prayed.
The North Tongu MP informed the House that there were reports that the Minister of Education made a request to the Finance Minister to make a release which had not been acceded to.
“These are our mothers and children who are starving and we cannot gloss over a whole week next week,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minority Caucus, led by the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, yesterday paid a visit to the National Food Buffer Stock Company to interact with management and the affected food suppliers to find solution to the challenge.
“We are more interested in the solution and how the situation could be resolved to get the Finance Minister to pay release you,” he said.
The four-member team also gave out food to the food suppliers who carried placards some of which read “Buffer Stock is the cause of food shortages in schools”, “Mr President please order Buffer Stock to pay us”, “Buffer Stock has devalued our money.
Pay us with interest” and “Why have you paid some people January to December but other nothing at all.”
The Minority MPs exchanged pleasantries with picketing food suppliers before proceeding inside to engage the Deputy Chief Executive of the company.
While seeking answers to what had triggered the delayed payment, Dr Acheampong also arrived and questioned the motive for such unannounced visit.
Unperturbed by the posture of the minister, Dr Forson said once he was present questions should be directed at him.
But the minister accused the Minority MPs of causing what he called “inorganic picketing.”
“You were a former Deputy Finance Minister.
What do you know about paying people or payments that have been made,” he questioned Dr Forson.
Jumping to the defence of Dr Forson, the MP for Juaboso, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, said “You (minister) should be the last person to get angry because we are finding solution.
If you have solved it we would not have been here.
What you have done is disrespect.”
The minister, who is also the MP for Abetifi, and his Minority colleagues later agreed to go inside for a closed-door discussion from where they emerged with their differences resolved.
The spokesperson of the National Food Suppliers Association, Kwaku Amedume, narrated the ordeal the food suppliers had endured for the past two years and appealed to the government to pay them their outstanding money.
In a response, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Bryan Acheampong, who also came to the National Buffer Stock Company, assured food suppliers that the government was taking every step to pay them their outstanding money.
“We have addressed the issue and I know that very soon the suppliers are going to be paid,” he assured.
Dr Acheampong told the press that he met the suppliers and assured that whatever work was being done to reconcile the amount owed them to get them paid would be expedited.