Deputy Minority Leader of Parliament, Dominic Nitiwul, has challenged claims by officials of the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority that they planted 5.5 million trees.
He says the claims have no basis and cannot possibly be true.
He said the evidence available contradicts the unsubstantiated claims of officials of the Authority.
SADA, set up by government as a special initiative designed to bridge the yawning development and wealth gap between the northern and southern parts of the country, entered into a contractual agreement with ACICL, a subsidiary of the AGAMS Group in June 2012, to plant five million trees in the savannah zone.
The contract sum of GHc32,498,000 was paid in full to ACICL.
But almost two years after the project took off, the exact number of trees planted by the company has yet to be ascertained and the survival rate of the trees planted remain a subject of debate.
Joy News investigations revealed large tracts of land earmarked for the project were bare, plain land.
Manasseh Azure Awuni reported that in some cases, economic trees such as shea, were cleared and replaced by seedlings that could not stand the vagaries of the harsh weather in the north.
Director of Integrated Development Programmes at SADA, Dr. Emmanuel Abeere-Nga, also speaking on the morning show, rejected the submissions by Mr. Nitiwul and Manasseh.
He quoted the contractors as saying that five-and-a-half million trees were planted, even though he had not independently verified the figure.
Mr. Nitiwul said it was a mark of extreme negligence and irresponsibility to award a contract to a private company and not be able to independently verify the work of the company.
This is exactly what the University for Development Studies (UDS) was commissioned to do, Dr. Abeere-Nga shot back.
The Deputy Minority Leader, who is also the Member of Parliament for Bimbilla in the Northern Region, said even the UDS report Dr. Abeere-Nga was referring to does not exonerate the management of SADA.
Quoting the UDS report (which Dr. Abeere-Nga admitted is inconclusive), Mr. Nitiwul said the areas to be planted with trees were zoned – Central, Southern, Western and Eastern – with each zone made up of 149.5 hectares, 144.89 hectares, 204.06 hectares and 140 hectares respectively, totaling 638.45 hectares.
“Trees planted per hectare in any plantation range between 1,000 and 2,000 maximum. If we assume that all the 638.45 hectares were planted with the maximum of 1,200 trees, then 766,140 trees were planted,” he argued.
This number, according to him, is not even a quarter of the five million seedlings for which SADA made full payment.
No responsible organization, properly managed, will dissipate public funds in such a reckless manner and go unpunished, he insisted.
Dr. Abeere-Nga contested the figures, but could not tell the acreage of trees planted. Contributing to the discussion, Manasseh Azure Awuni, said there were contradictions and inconsistencies in SADA’s response to the UDS report.
He said even though Dr. Abeere-Nga had said that a final UDS report had been submitted to SADA in December 2013, information he obtained from the acting CEO of SADA, Dr. Charles Jebuni only four weeks ago was to the contrary.