The Executive Chairman of the Schools Feeding Programme Dr. Amoako Tufuor has asked the Upper West Regional Minister Ambrose Dery to stay off the implementation of the programme in the region.
Dr. Tufuor has warned he will not sit unconcerned whilst the Minister plays politics with the programme.
His comments follow reports carried by Joy News about a power struggle in the region which threatens the successful implementation of the programme.
Mr. Dery is alleged to be backing one Erick Tiku for the position of Regional Coordinator instead of the substantive appointee, Salifu Siita.
Even though the Regional Minister denied the allegation, he told Joy News he was not willing to work with Mr. Siita. The Regional Coordinating Council subsequently locked Salifu Siita out of the office he was supposed to operate from.
In an interview with Joy News, Dr. Amoako Tufuor said the programme needed to be spared any undue political interference and asked the Minister to back off.
“This programme is being implemented by us at the Accra State House, so the instructions and everything come from there. It must be very clear the Regional Minister is not the executing man. It is the District Chief Executive that we work through. What is at stake here is that we have appointed Siita as the Regional Coordinator and that must be respected by everybody, including the Minister.”
“We won't allow anybody to play power politics with it. Children are hungry and we have to feed them. There are processes that we have to deal with and we don't expect the Regional Minister to get involved on a day-to-day basis, he has a lot of important things to tackle.”
Dr. Amoako Tuffuor admitted that Ambrose Dery had written to object to the appointment of Siita to the post but said the Regional Minster had no right to object.
“The Regional Minister has no right whatsoever to reject him one way or the other. I don't have a right whatsoever to go to Wa to tell him how to run his office. He cannot reject Siita.”
Asked what his office was doing about the office accommodation for Siita, Amoako Tufuor said usually the Regional Minister should help the programme by providing Siita an office at the Regional Coordinating Council for him to operate from there, “but if the Regional Minister does not want to cooperate on that, Siita can work from his bedroom”.
Dr. Amoako Tufuor said Eric Tiku, the Regional Monitoring Officer of the programme who was backed by the Minister and currently occupies an office provided by the Minister, was supposed to take instructions from Siita and if he failed that, he would be fired.
“Structures must be respected, we work with structures. Do you know how far we've gone with this programme? In less than one year Ghana became number one in Africa because we set up very workable structures and we have very competent people and we are working very hard. Nobody gives any instruction except the President. If anybody interferes he is going against the President. That is as far as that, that is the President's legacy and you cannot destroy it at the local level.”
Dr. Amoako Tufuor assured that the programme was up and running in the region with every district already covered, however, there was need to ensure that its implementation was effective.
“We must make sure the poor children eat. That to me is the most important thing, anybody who crosses me on that I cross him. Children are being fed, yes, but I don't want bureaucratic problems and delays and power politics in it. The business is about feeding kids, period! I don't want to do or say anything that jeopardises the Regional Minster's work or respect or whatever and that is why I have kept quiet in this and I am hoping that the letter I wrote to him is enough for him to sit up, look at it, leave the programme alone, let us work the way we work it.”
Meanwhile the Upper West Regional Minister has also told Joy News he does not take instructions from anyone except President Kufuor in respect of any programme being implemented in his region.
Ambrose Dery said with regard to the school feeding programme he only agrees to decisions of the Regional Coordinating Council which he chairs.
“A letter was written, addressed to the Regional Minister, I want you to take note of this. A letter was addressed to me, Regional Minister, indicating that Siita had been appointed Regional Coordinator for the School Feeding Programme. At the time they did that, Siita was working and as far as I know still working as Zonal Coordinator of NADMO. As far as I know the laws of this country, you cannot occupy two public offices at the same time. But here was I, the head of NADMO in the region was informed that this man again without notice had been appointed.
“I thought as a public officer it was my duty to point out reasons why I thought the situation was unusual. Number one, they had not written to me to say the interim arrangement we had put in place was unacceptable, number two, they were recommending to me a person that I knew, from my position as head of NADMO, was not in my view competent to occupy that position.”
Admitting that decisions and directives on the School Feeding Programme emanated from the National Secretariat, Dery said that prerogative would not include illegal decisions and since he was privileged to know the illegality, it was his duty to point it out.
He disagreed with a suggestion by Dr. Amoako Tufuor that the Regional Coordinators of the Programme worked with District Chief Executives and not the Regional Ministers, saying while he was not aware of any such arrangement, he also found it difficult to fathom that such an arrangement for any programme would rule in a decentralised dispensation as currently exist in the country.
“I'm not aware of that. The decentralisation system that we have now, I find it difficult to fathom how any programme would have something to do with the District Chief Executive and have nothing to do with the Regional Minister. What I expect is that if Dr. Amoako Tufuor says that I don't have any hand, I also know that he does not have, it is the Castle that has control over me and I am waiting for the Castle to direct me what I should do.”
Asked if he was going to allow Siita to work from the offices of the Regional Coordinating Council, Ambrose Dery said there was no way he was going to do that.
“No, as far as I know, what you told me explains it. Dr. Amoako Tufuor says that he is going to let him work from outside the office, then he might need some other District Chief Executive because the District Chief Executive is going to work under me anyway.”