Opuni Cannot Be Held Liable For COCOBOD’s Procurement– AG’s witness

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A witness of the Attorney General in the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Stephen Opuni, has maintained that the CEO of COCOBOD, cannot be held liable for any purchase sanctioned by the procurement unit of the Board.

Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who is a former Deputy CEO in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, reiterated this position in court on Tuesday, January 21, 2020, that every product that goes through the procurement process of COCOBOD, means it has been “validly procured” and hence not questioned.

He has been testifying against Dr. Opuni and Alhaji Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, accused of causing financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state due to the distribution of “sub-standard” fertiliser to cocoa farmers.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who is the third prosecution witness on January 9, 2020 repeatedly told the court that certification from Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) is enough reason to believe that products are duly tested and found blameless.

“Sir do you know whether or not a sample of the Asontem liquid fertilizer has ever been tested by CRIG?” Nutifafa Nutsukpui, who is holding brief for Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Agongo, asked during cross-examination. Dr. Adu-Ampomah then replied “my Lord, so long as a CRIG certification was accompanying it, it is assumed it was tested.”

Mr Nutsukpui then put it to him, “Will I be right to say any one in your position and CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board has done no wrong to rely on CRIG certification to award contract on fertilizers and agrochemicals.”

Dr. Adu-Ampomah answered, “My Lord ideally yes”.

Following the same trajectory, Dr. Adu-Ampomah on January 21, stressed on the inculpability of any Chief Executive of COCOBOD, who bought any agrochemical product that has been certified by CRIG and the procurement process approved by the procurement unit.

The witness was showed a letter dated June 16, 2017 which he himself signed for COCOBOD to award WA Green OK Company Limited a contract for the supply of 200,000 liters of Green OK fertilizer. After it has been tendered in evidence and marked as Exhibit 46, he was asked when Green OK organic foliar fertilizer came to the attention of COCOBOD, which he said “I wouldn’t know my Lord”.

He was then asked if CRIG, really tested it and his answer remained “I wouldn’t know my Lord”.

“Now look at exhibit 46. What commended COCOBOD to award the contract?” counsel for the second accused asked. He replied, “my Lord the procurement process has been explained to the court already, so this contract went through the same process”.

The lawyer then told him, “Please tell the court every product that goes through COCOBOD procurement process would mean that they have been validly procured”.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah responded, “Yes my Lord”.

The counsel, also touched on the Elite fertilizer which he said COCOBOD, procured on two occasions –in February 2013 and June 2013 – prior to its certification by CRIG in 2014.

The trial took another interesting turn, when Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, admitted in court under cross-examination that not even a single farmer complained about the alleged ineffectiveness of the agrochemical prior to the investigations by the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO).

Interestingly, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, had claimed that the lithovit foliar fertiliser purchased by COCOBOD in the 2013/14 crop year, did not improve crop yield, the state’s third prosecution witness.

In his evidence in chief, as well as previous cross-examinations, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, noted that his committee, which was established after the NPP won the 2016 elections, discovered some procurement anomalies at COCOBOD, adding that the lithovit fertilizer, which was procured did not contain the requisite nutrients for plant growth, although it had certification from the CRIG and was also authorized for purchase by the Procurement Unit of COCOBOD.

The state’s second prosecution witness, Dr Alfred Arthur, who is a soil scientist at the CRIG, made similar assertions about the efficacy of the Lithovit Fertilizer, but could not point to a single complaint by any farmer, who had used the product.

Indeed, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, admitted that there were no farmer complaints about the use of the lithovit fertiliser prior to the EOCO investigations into the lithovit procurement process, although dissatisfied farmers were to lodge complaint against any agrochemical found unsuitable with officers of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) or the CRIG.

Despite the absence of these complaints, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, said that during the EOCO investigations, some farmers complained that lithovit fertiliser was like water and sometimes they drunk it when they had no water.

It also emerged during the cross-examination by Mr Nutsukpui, that COCOBOD, per their usual operations, did not probe certificates awarded agrochemical tested by CRIG ahead of their procurement.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah stressed that once a certificate is issued, it is indicative that CRIG had duly tested the agrochemical, a sharp contradiction to his earlier stance on lithovit that despite being issued a certificate, the product had not been tested by CRIG.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah, currently the Special Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture on Cocoa Affairs admitted to not necessarily knowing when CRIG carried out tests on some agrochemicals he personally procured during his tenure as Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD.

In almost all such cases, COCOBOD procured the agrochemicals he dully authorized without questioning the CRIG certificates.

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