Details continue to emerge on the controversial 100,000 bags of Cocoa Nti Granular Fertilizer purchased by the current management of the Ghana Cocoa Board, this year, using a forged scientific report generated by a soil scientist at the Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG) by name Dr. Alfred Arthur.
According to proceeding from the Opuni trial, the fertilizers were bought for US$3.150 million and not US$3.5 million. A company called Agriculture Manufacturing Group (AMG) was awarded the multimillion dollar contract under sole sourcing by the current COCOBOD management led by Joseph BoaheneAidoo in May, this year.
It was also revealed that there are two conflicting scientific reports on Cocoa Nti fertilizer done by the same Dr. Alfred Arthur, which are two years apart. While the first one was done in 2013, but submitted in 2016, the second report which eventually led to the US$3.150 million contract was made in 2018.
Interestingly, the 2016 scientific report, was found to have been forged by Dr. Arthur, leading to his suspension from CRIG for an “unethical” conduct, after an investigation by a team of his superior officers established that he had traveled to Morocco on a private trip with the suppliers of Cocoa Nti fertilizer; Agriculture Manufacturing Group (AMG) to visit the manufacturers of the fertilizer in 2013. AMG, has sometimes been known as Enepa Venture. It was previously based in Kumasi
Despite a ban slapped on Dr. Arthur not to test any fertilizer at CRIG following the probe, the new management team both at COCOBOD and CRIG, lifted the ban and recalled him to the research institution in 2017, and handed him the same Cocoa Nti fertilizer to test, and submit his second scientific report approving the product for purchase by COCOBOD.
Dr. Arthur, who was answering questions under cross examination in the trial of Dr. Stephen Opuni former Chief Executive Officer of the COCOBOD and Alhaji Seidu Agongo owner of Agricult Ghana Limited, on Monday, confirmed his two scientific reports and also made some shocking admissions.
The scientist acknowledged the two reports he did and admitted they had conflicting testing site and were signed by two different officers at CRIG.
While, the 2016 report was rightly signed by the then Executive Director of CRIG, Dr. G.J. Anim-Kwapong, the 2018 scientific report was signed by a junior officer by name; Winifred Kumi, who had identified himself as a Research Scientist.
This was in spite of the fact that, Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, had at the time been recalled from retirement to head CRIG. It is unclear, why he did not sign the report as expected.
It once again came up that, aside Dr. Amoah, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah and Dr. William Mensah, who were also on retirement, were recalled to COCOBOD to take up key decision-making positions, as a Deputy CEO in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, a Deputy CEO of Finance and Administration, respectively.
During a previous cross-examination by Dr. Opuni’s lawyer, Samuel Cudjoe, it was shown that Dr. Arthur, was suspended by CRIG in 2017 for presenting the forged scientific report in 2016 recommending the use of Cocoa Nti fertilizer to COCOBOD, claiming he had tested the chemical in 2013, although samples of the said fertilizer were presented for testing to CRIG by COCOBOD in 2016.
Benson Nutsupkui on Monday, said the returned retirees, were also made members of the Akufo-Addo transitional team on COCOBOD during the transitional period after the 2016 elections. This, he asked Dr. Arthur, if it was just not convenient that he was also recalled to the soil science division of CRIG, after his suspension.
The former Ghana Bar Association (GBA) President, further asked Dr. Arthur, if he was aware that all the officers were members of the transitional team, he responded that all the mentioned retired officers were recalled back to COCOBOD, but he was not aware of they being members of the transition team.
Dr. Arthur, who is state’s second prosecution witness in the Opuni-Agongo fertiliser trial, also told the Accra High Court that Lithovit Folia Fertilizer, which is the subject of the trial was fully tested on cocoa seedlings in December 2013.
According to Dr Arthur, he was assigned a specific role by lead scientist at the time, Mr A.A. Afrifa, which was fully completed awaiting test on mature trees.
Dr. Arthur also told the court presided over by Justice C.Y. Hornyenuga that Lithovit Folia Fertilizer, was at the time used as standard for testing on seedlings since its performance was already known.
Dr. Arthur, said the Division did not re-evaluate fertilizers, agro-chemicals and spraying machines in the 2016 crop season but this was discounted by Mr Nutsukpui, who insisted that there was re-evaluation on fertilizers, including Lithovit, and report was submitted to the Executive Director, Dr. Anim-Kwapong, but in response Dr. Arthur said, he hadn’t seen the said report.
The witness said in 2015 crop season, certificates were approved without any re-evaluation of the fertilizers, agro-chemicals and spraying machines, but again Alhaji Agongo’s lawyer, rebutted that saying there were bills submitted by CRIG to suppliers to prove that re-evaluation was done in the 2015-2016 season.
Mr Nutsukpui also pointed out that there was a letter from CRIG, confirming that the re-evaluation report was handed over to COCOBOD by an executive director of the research institute but Dr. Arthur said “My Lord, I have not sighted that report and I do not know when in 2016, the re-evaluation was done.”
On whether all correspondence to COCOBOD were signed by the Executive Director and the Deputies, the witness said not exactly correct, because not all correspondence required the signature of these personalities in question, adding after a report has been vetted by the Committee for Testing Chemicals and Machinery, it becomes a property of CRIG.
When asked, whether based on his report a certificate was issued to Agriculture Manufacturing Group on Cocoa Nti fertilizer in 2018, but the witness said if the report was approved by COCOBOD definitely, a certificate would be issued to cover the product.
Asked, who assigned the 2016 study on Cocoa Nti to him, the witness responded by saying, it was usually done by the Head of the Division.
It was pointed out to Dr. Arthur who had claimed Lithovit was a powdery substance that Mr A.A Afrifa, whom he had confirmed as assigning him Lithovit Fertilizer to work on, was the one who later demanded powered formed of the fertilizer after a liquid one was handed.
Alhaji Agongo and Agricult Ghana Company Limited, had always maintained that Lithovit was liquid, and Mr Afrifa is also said to have written in his police statements that the Lithovit he received from COCOBOD and worked on, was in a liquid form.
It was also suggested to Dr. Arthur that in all his eight statement to the police and Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), testimony before the Adu-Ampomah Committee and the arbitration proceedings, he never mentioned that Mr Afrifa had told him that Dr. Opuni, wanted him to shorten the trial on Lithovit and had over the report to COCOBOD, and that this new claim in court, was an embellishment.
There was a standoff between Mr Nutsukpui towards the end of the proceeding when a Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, suggested that he had smuggled a document into the case, as the document shown the witness, bearing his name and signature, had no letter head of CRIG, but this was resolved when the judge brought out his pile of documents and the said document was found among the documents submitted to the accused persons and the court by the Attorney-General’s Department.
Justice Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge, adjourned the case to Monday, December 3, for Mr Nutsukpui to continue his cross-examination of the witness.
Dr. Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Company Limited, are facing 27 charges of willfully causing financial loss of GHS217million to the state, through three separate fertilizer supply contracts between 2014 and 2016.
The contracts were GHS43.1million (2013/2014 cocoa farming season), GHS75.3million (2014/2015 cocoa farming season) and GHS98.9million (2015/2016 cocoa farming season) totaling GHS217million through sole-sourcing, the state claimed, adding that procurement procedures for sole-sourcing were not followed.
According to the charges, the consignments of Lithovit Foliar were produced locally, contrary to an agreement between COCOBOD and Agricult Ghana Company Limited that it be sourced from Germany.
Also, the Attorney General claims the fertilizers were manufactured without registration, thereby, flouting the Plants and Fertilizer Act 2010.