A former Director of Finance at COCOBOD, Charles Tetteh Dodoo, went berserk in court as he tried to turn the heat on prosecution for suggesting his evidence was not credible.
The witness, who served on the board of COCOBOD for eight years, as well as its Entity Tender Committee, bluntly told a Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson about his strong conviction that the case against former COCOBOD boss, Dr Stephen Opuni, was trumped up.
Mr Dodoo, was responding to questions under cross-examination by the prosecution as the first defence witness on Monday, April 25, 2022, in a highly politicised criminal trial presided over by Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting with additional responsibilities as a High Court judge.
Evelyn Keelson after strenuous efforts to discredit the evidence of the witness, put it to him, “you have only come to help the first accused as your former boss and not based on personal knowledge”.
Mr Dodoo retorted and rather accused the prosecution of framing up charges against the first Accused.
“My Lord I disagree,” the witness asserted, “My lord having heard the charges as read and explained to me by the lawyers of the first Accused [Dr Opuni], and having provided the lawyers with information which has documentary evidence which shows that the charges as explained to me has been concocted-”
The trial judge quickly stepped in to truncate the witness’ submission with a piece of advice.
“As to whether it is concocted or not, leave it to the court to decide,” Justice Honyenuga cautioned the witness.
Mr Dodoo, therefore apologised for his attempt to usurp the duties of the court.
Mrs. Evelyn Keelson, did not ask further questions as prosecution concluded the cross-examination of Mr Dodoo on that note.
Early on, the witness spent time re-emphasising the norm at COCOBOD that the chief executive does not write letters, and also disputed position by the prosecution that his evidence is based on assumptions and not on facts.
The Chief State Attorney has held that there is an “overwhelming evidence that as at 21st January 2014, there was no Deputy Chief Executive, A and QC at COCOBOD.”
The witness replied, “My Lord as per the practice at COCOBOD, if a Deputy Chief Executive is not at post, the other deputies will act. The chief executive will not assume the role of an absentee deputy chief executive.
“Let me also state that this court has plethora of documentary exhibits which demonstrate that letters which are addressed to the chief executive always come down the chain of action.”
The witness also pointed out that Exhibit B, a cover letter on Exhibit B1 which is the scientific report on lithovit fertilizer, was not addressed to the chief executive but the Deputy Chief Executive A and QC. He stressed, “For the first Accused (A1), a letter not addressed to him, he will not see and act on it”.
Prosecution however insisted that in this particular case, A1 saw exhibit B and reviewed exhibit B1 and wrote exhibit C indicating management’s approval of exhibit B1.
But Mr Dodoo disagreed, “No my lord and I will explain. A1 does not write letters but letters of that nature going out of COCOBOD will have to be signed by A1. My lord, COCOBOD is a big organisation and has established procedures so A1 does not just pick letters and sign. My lord, in any case A1 has no computer or anything in his office for letter writing. So looking at COCOBOD procedures which I know, it will be preposterous for anyone to think that the chief executive writes letters.”
The witness further disputed claims that at the time COCOBOD wrote to PPA on 19th February 2014 on exhibit M asking for approval to sole source the procurement of a number of fertilisers including lithovit fertiliser, COCOBOD had no price quotation from Agricult Ghana Limited, the 3rd Accused person.
“My Lord, that is not correct. As I have explained earlier, lithovit is not the only product written to PPA. The CODAPEC and HITEC units were the units which coordinate the purchases of agrochemicals. As part of their coordinating activities, they serve as the interface between COCOBOD and suppliers so they get the prices which is then given to the procurement unit. The procurement unit was to seek approval from PPA they write to the codapec and hitec units. My lord there are records in this court to show that when the arrangements changed, letters to PPA were not copied to the codapec and hitec units.”
Prosecution then stated, “I am again putting it to you that your evidence is not based on any facts but on assumption.”
Mr Dodoo replied, “My Lord I disagree. And I will explain. When the procedures changed I was the director of finance and so all letters written to PPA for approval were not copied to CODAPEC and HITECH units because the procurement unit now obtained the prices from the suppliers.”
Prosecution went further to put to him that, “all the letters signed by A1 were authored by him”, but the witness said that claim was absurd.
“My Lord this assertion is absurd. As a governance expert, I know that no chief executive heading a company of COCOBOD’s stature will be wasting his time writing procurement letters or any other letter.
“My lord I must say that their own speeches on occasions are written for them let alone letters of a formal nature.”
Dr Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited are facing about 25 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
The case has been adjourned to May 9, for continuation.