The Minister for Gender, Children and Protection, Sarah Adwoa Safo, thought she was that powerful until she run into a head on collision with the widow of the late Major Courage Quashigah, ex-Minister of Health, as well as Food and Agriculture in the John Agyekum Kufuor presidency, and was shown the limit of her influence.
Within hours after sacking Gertrude Quashigah, as the National Coordinator for the Ghana School Feeding Programme, the minister was forced by the Presidency, to issue a statement dated May 20, withdrawing the dismissal letter and reinstating the lady to the position, leaving everyone in shock.
The development came barely 72 hours after the Minister, terminated the appointment of Madam Gertrude Quashigah. The order to reinstate her is said to have come from the Presidency.
In the latest letter, headed “withdrawal of termination appointment”, the Minister said the dismissal was “as a result of administrative error,” which she did not explain.
Sounding rather apologetic, the minister wrote “I write in respect of the above subject matter. This is to inform you of my decision to withdraw my earlier letter dated 18th May 2021. I wish to state that my earlier letter was as a result of administrative error,” read the statement signed by the Minister for Gender, Children and Protection.
Many have asked why Sarah Adwoa Safo, would not resign from her position as a minister, having been rendered useless to a point that she cannot take administrative decisions to correct administrative and technical lapses with the running of the School Feeding Programme.
Some of the issues had seen caterers embarking on protests in the home of the President, Nana Akufo-Addo, alleging maladministration, malfeasance and nonpayment of bills by the Programme.
Though no reason was given for the termination of the contract, Asaase.com, quoted a source at the Gender Ministry, who leveled a number of allegations against Gertrude Quashigah, some of which are recurring.
“There are a lot of issues bedeviling the programme under her watch including non-payment of caterers, poor working relationship with directors of the programme and her deputy, taking unilateral decisions without consulting the minister,” the source said.
Mrs. Gertrude Quashigah, was officially named national coordinator of the programme in March 2020, after taking over from Dr Kwame Adu-Nsiah, who was also fired. She was already serving as an acting coordinator for about a year before she was given the role officially.
However, in the new letter, Adwoa Sarfo, wrote saying “This is to inform you of my decision to withdraw my earlier letter dated 18th May 2021. I wish to state that my earlier letter was as a result of administrative error.”
In the earlier letter that announced her dismal, the National Coordinator for the Ghana School Feeding Programme was expected to “be paid one month’s salary in lieu of notice as stipulated in your contract agreement.”
Her dismissal letter which is in circulation and has since been published on Asaase.com, disclosed that the appointment of Gertrude Quashigah was terminated by the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.
It was signed by the Minister of Gender and Social Protection, who doubles as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Dome-Kwabenya in the Greater Accra Region.
Ms. Sarfo, has since instructed Mrs. Quashigah to hand over all documents and government property in her custody to the Chief Director of the Gender Ministry.
“You will be paid one month’s salary in lieu of notice as stipulated in your contract agreement,” the letter said.
“We appreciate your support towards the execution of the mandate of the Ghana School Feeding Programme during the period,” it added.
Meanwhile, the Volta Region chapter of National School Feeding Caterers Association, has petitioned the presidency, through the Chief of Staff, demanding immediate removal of Volta Regional Coordinator of the School Feeding Programme, Rejoice Afi Agyagbo from office, to salvage the programme from possible collapse.
The caterers, who also demand a thorough investigation to be conducted into the activities of the Regional Coordinator, accused her of engaging in dubious dealings including “financial malfeasance, embezzlement and negligence in discharge of duties”.
These among other dirty deals by their Regional Coordinator, they said is making the Akufo-Addo government very unpopular in the region, and should be addressed as soon as possible to forestall unity among supporters of the governing New Patriotic Party.
In a petition, dated March 22, 2021 and received by the presidency on March 26, 2021, they accused Madam Rejoice Afi Agyagbo of making some illegal deductions from payments made to caterers in the region; but when confronted, she claimed her action was a directive from the presidency for her to do the deductions to support the 2020 elections campaign.
“Rejoice Afi Agyagbo the Regional Coordinator has surreptitiously deducted GH₵1 out of GH₵3:50 pesewas student per day from payments for hot meals for final year students paid to some caterers, [claim] the said deductions were ordered from the presidency to support the 2020 elections campaign,” excerpts of the petition stated.
They described Madam Rejoice Agyagbo as a very arrogant and disrespectful personality who had been abusing caterers with insults in the past two years she has been in office following the sudden demise of the former Regional Coordinator.
According to them, she constantly threatens Caterers of taking over the contract from them and reallocated the schools to her favorite person who are her collaborators.
“Caterers have had to contain with daily insults from Afi Agyagbo for the past years. She is arrogant and disrespectful. She constantly threatens Caterers of taking over schools from them and reallocating schools to her collaborators,” they alleged.
The petition was jointly signed by regional executives of the Association including; the Chairman –Suhaihi Muhammad, Vice Chairman – Richard Botsyoe, Secretary– Millicent Sonkro, PRO – Winfred Nelson, Treasure – Ms Agnes Nkansah and Deputy Organizer –Mr Francis Torsu.
It was copied to the President, the Chief of Staff, National Coordinator of School Feeding, the Volta Regional Minister, Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection as well as the President of National School Feeding Caterers’ Association.
They said, Madam Rejoice Agyagbo “flagrantly disregards directives from the National office of the School Feeding Programme and does her own things”.
They revealed that, “whiles the School Feeding Secretariat issued a press release against recruitment of new caterers and reshuffling of caterers, Afi Agyagbo, the Regional Coordinator has gone ahead to issue appointment letters to some new caterers and heads of schools in Kpando Municipal, North Tongu district etc”.
According to the Regional School Feeding Caterers, “We recount with much pain how a physically challenged and long-time women organizer of our great party from Have, had her School Feeding contract terminated by Afi Agyagbo and handed over to her cronies without justification and approval from the National Coordinator”.
The group also narrates how the Regional Coordinator uses her personal Mobile Money Momo account to make payments to caterers, which is against standard administrative practice.
“We were surprised as to why caterers should be paid through the Regional Coordinator before she in turns pay School Feeding Caterers for the hot meal via her momo Afia Joy, when that is not the norm but rather the standard practice is payment for School Feeding Caterers are done through (GHIPSS) Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems, hence we are surprised by these irregularities” they noted.
These, among other activities by the Regional Coordinator, the Caterers say is making the programme fast losing its intentions, if the government through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection do not step in to correct the negative developments could affect the chances of the ruling party in the region.
The petition stressed that, “The aforementioned and her lack of basic administrative skills is fast eroding the reputation of the Government and creating disaffection and discord among women in the region. It is sad to see Caterers fighting before school pupils as to who cooks for the kids and in some cases, meal prepared is poured”.
“We hereby call for a thorough investigation into these concerns of School Feeding Caterers in Volta Region”, they demanded, adding, “We also appeal for a replacement of Afi Agyagbo as the Regional Coordinator as from all intents and purposes she has nothing good to offer except to divide the front of caterers, fox her cronies and make her money by cheating caterers through manipulation of payment data”.