The acting District Chief Executive (DCE) of the Bawku West District, Victoria Ayamba, is reported to have unilaterally sacked an accredited Ghana School Feeding Programme (GSFP) caterer and reallocated her contract to the wife of a former Member of Parliament (MP) for Zebilla, Grace Fuseini Adongo.
About 600 children went hungry for four days after she stormed the Yikurugu Primary School to throw out the caterer, Ramatu Yaro, from the public school and threatened that she would not be paid for her services even if she continued to feed the children.
The unilateral dismissal suffered by the caterer comes after the Office of the President had warned all acting local-government appointees to not take any decision “involving a policy issue” in a letter dated 11th January, 2021, and signed by the Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare.
Besides, the GSFP’s national secretariat came up with a press statement last month in strong disapproval of attempts by some assemblies to recruit new GSFP caterers and it directed all caterers already at work to remain at their various posts.
But a few days after the GSFP had issued that cautionary statement, some unfamiliar faces emerged on the premises of the Yikurugu Primary School to prepare food for the schoolchildren whilst the familiar caterer, who had been feeding the pupils since 2018, was busy at the school’s kitchen. Authorities at the school told the strangers they were unaware of their engagement and turned them away.
The following morning, the strangers returned to the school with five men described as “thugs”. The alleged thugs threw water on a fire the accredited caterer had set to prepare a meal for the schoolchildren and scattered the kitchen utensils being used. Whilst those men were warning the caterer to stop cooking and to stay away from the school’s grounds thenceforth, the school’s authorities got involved again.
This time, the authorities at the school told the ‘intruders’ to provide a document to show that the government had appointed them to feed the school. They could not provide the requested document. But they told the school that they had been sent by “the wife of the former MP” to take over from Ramatu Yaro. As the authorities stood their ground against their mission, they left and the troubled caterer resumed cooking.
Acting DCE descends on school premises with six police officers
The same people returned a third time with two more strongmen in their company. They were met on arrival by some men who had been informed about the caterer’s troubles and had readied themselves to defend her.
A serious scuffle erupted. Teaching and learning came to an abrupt halt. The schoolchildren watched with fright from a distance presumed to be relatively safe. Outnumbered and outdone, the ‘trespassers’ retreated to the perimeter of the main highway that leads from Bolgatanga to Bawku for a brief discussion and then left the area.
About thirty minutes later, the acting DCE showed up at the school with the Bawku West District Police Commander and six other police officers. Whilst briefing the police about the GSFP-related conflict at the basic school, the school’s authorities cited Ramatu Yaro as the only caterer known to the school and supported their claims by providing a logbook that showed records of the services she had rendered to the school since 2018.
But the stand-in DCE, according to a police source, interjected by saying that the catering contract actually belonged to Grace Fuseini Adongo, wife of the immediate-past MP for Zebilla, Frank Fuseini Adongo. The caretaker DCE is quoted to have stated further that Ramatu was made to front the contract for Grace and that the contract documents also were made to bear her name (Ramatu Yaro) as the caterer in a bid to protect Grace from exposure to possible conflict-of-interest issues considering her status as a wife to a policymaker.
Accredited caterer dismissed by acting DCE shares experience
That meeting ended with the “government-recognised” caterer being told by the provisional DCE to stop cooking with an open threat that she would not receive any payment from government for any subsequent services if she ignored her order.
The acting DCE was also caught on tape telling the accredited caterer that “Ghana School Feeding Programme at the national level says when you finish cooking today, you should stop cooking.”
The caterer obliged and the underprivileged schoolchildren, in whose interest the policy was generally introduced in the country against hunger as well as malnutrition and extreme poverty, had nothing to eat for four days at the school.
Subsequently, the transitional DCE forwarded two names to the school (Akoloba Akulsum and Afaneg Apasiba) as its new cooks and announced Grace Fuseini Adongo as its caterer. She also instructed that the cooks should start cooking from Tuesday February 2, 2021.
The ousted caterer, now distressed, told Starr News that the former MP for the area secured the contract for her family and, after she returned from a training programme organised for caterers recruited by the GSFP, the former MP’s wife (Grace Fuseini Adongo) imposed herself on her as the person to supply at all times any foodstuff to be prepared for the school. She said she did not like the arrangement but had to comply as it was evident that Grace was taking advantage of her as a beneficiary of her husband’s efforts.
“I was given only 300 Ghana cedis a month since 2018”— Evicted caterer
The evicted caterer said the contract document bore her name (Ramatu Yaro) but Grace had managed to take it away from her by asking for it some time ago on the pretext of taking it home to read.
The only material yet to be taken from her, she says, is the e-zwich account card which also bears her name and through which payments for services rendered are made.
“Since I started cooking for the school in 2018, whenever government pays into my e-zwich account at the end of the month, I would go and withdraw a very huge sum of money and hand it over to the former MP’s wife and she would give me only Gh¢300 at the end of the month since 2018.
“The men who came to attack me at the school told me, ‘You will see’. These men collaborate with some thugs in the constituency. Those issuing the threats are loyal to the former MP. The DCE stood in front of me and said they would change the details on my e-zwich card. Now, they are asking me to surrender my e-zwich card and my voter ID card. I feel cheated. I feel threatened,” Ramatu told Starr News.
When contacted for her side of the story, Grace Fuseini Adongo deferred her response in a Starr News interview, saying “I will call you back”, but she never did. Calls placed to the interim DCE initially went unanswered. But she responded upon another attempt to reach her about twenty-four hours later, saying that the former MP’s wife was the rightful caterer for the school.
“That school belongs to the MP’s wife. That school belongs to someone called Grace Adongo since 2018. It was Grace Adongo who introduced the caterer but because the husband [was] an MP, she didn’t want to use her own name on the e-zwich [account]. I did not sack any caterer,” the acting DCE told Starr News.
By Edward Adeti, Upper East Region, Daily Mail GH