The purchase of some 100,000 bags of fertilizer called “Cocoa Nti” at a cost of US$3.5 million by the current management of the Ghana Cocoa Board led by Joseph Boahene Aidoo, with a forged scientific report, prepared by a soil scientist, has popped up again at the ongoing trial of Dr. Stephen K. Opuni and Alhaji Seidu Agongo, with the scientist’s credibility hanging in the balance.
The forged scientific report generated by Dr. Alfred Arthur, a key witness of the Attorney General in the case against Dr. Opuni, a former COCOBOD boss, led to a probe in 2016, in which the soil scientist was suspended over the forgery and driven out from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) for attempting to swindle his superior officers into certifying and purchasing an untested fertilizer.
Surprisingly, in less than a year after the probe, suspension and the ban slapped on Dr. Arthur, the current management of COCOBOD, used his forged scientific report on ‘Cocoa Nti’ granular fertilizer to get Enepa Ventures Ltd to supply 100,000 bags of the fertilizer at a price of US$3.5 million through sole sourcing.
It was discovered that ‘Cocoa Nti’ fertilizer manufactured by Morocco-based OCP Group, had not gone through the required testing procedure at CRIG. Contrarily to the procedure, the samples used in the testing went directly to Dr. Arthur instead of CRIG as an institution.
Interestingly, Dr. Arthur is in court as witness for the state, and had insisted that Agricult Fertilizer was not tested by CRIG ahead of its purchase by the COCOBOD under Dr. Opuni.
The soil scientist had also claimed that that the Agricult Lithovit Fertilizer he saw at CRIG, was a powdery substance and not liquid as claimed by Dr. Opuni and Alhaji Agongo.
Dr. Arthur’s claims, have been rejected by the two defense teams who have produced documents, including certificates, reports, invoices and receipts from CRIG, showing that Lithovit fertilizer was duly tested, certified and recommended to COCOBOD for purchase. The CRIG documents had severally described the Lithovit as liquid contrary to Dr. Arthur’s claims.
On Monday, the Accra High Court trying Dr. Opuni and Alhaji Agongo, overruled an objection raised by the prosecution against documents on the Cocoa Nti fertilizer, including email correspondence, reports of the committee which investigated Dr. Athur’s conduct and took disciplinary action against him, to be tendered through him.
Mr Benson Nutsukpui, lawyer for Alhaji Agongo Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agricult Ghana, who is cross-examining Dr. Arthur, is seeking to tell the court that the Soil Scientist cannot be trusted.
The court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, said upon hearing objection against tendering of the documents, he was of the opinion that the second prosecution witness, had participated in most of the documents sorted to be tendered.
He said under the circumstances that the document, including emails, letters and test reports and its attachments were relevant to the case and should, therefore, be allowed to be tendered through the prosecution witness as they
Mrs. Yvonne Attakora-Obuobisa, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) representing the state in her objection, said the documents counsel for the accused seeks to tender through the witness, were made up of letters, emails and test reports.
She said some of the documents were obviously not signed by the witness and they were not documents he has seen before and could not answer questions on them.
She explained that the Prosecution was not against the tendering of documents signed by the witness or emails sent to him or copied him.
She said the objection raise were on documents the witness did not author and have not seen before.
The Prosecution said it has issues with a document titled “Submission of final testing report on Cocoa Nti fertilizer signed by Dr.Anim Kwarpong.
Mr Nutsukpui, said these documents were coming from CRIG’s custody and indeed the witness identified that they were filed pursuant to the orders of the court by the Lawyer for COCOBOD on behalf of the then Executive Director, Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah.
He said they have demonstrated that all the documents were relevant to the Cocoa Nti issue and the witness while laying foundation admitted that each and every one of the document related to the issue.
He said it was their submission that the witness should not be the authored of an official document to tender same through him.
The Defence Counsel said it was opened to the witness to answer questions on official documents, he knows about.
He said these were official documents filed at the court registry on the orders of the court and explained that interestingly the document has the same heading running through all.
He said these documents are a letter dated 26/11/2016 signed by Dr. Anim Kwarpong with heading ‘Submission of final report on the testing of Cocoa Nti fertilizer, another letter dated 26/10/2016 signed by Francis Oppong also had the same heading re-submission of final report on the testing of Cocoa Nti fertilizer’.
Dr. Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail.
The trial judge, who is sitting as an additional High Court Judge adjourned the trial to Monday, February 25, for continuation.