It has been disclosed in court that the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD actually has a report which concluded that Lithovit liquid fertiliser was effective.
CHED is in charge of monitoring how fertilisers and other agrochemicals are applied in the field and compiles annual report on their activities under the CODAPEC and HI-TECH programme.
The former board chairman of COCOBOD, Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum who made the disclosure on June 10, said based on information available to him, he found claims that Lithovit liquid fertiliser was worthless strange.
The former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo have been accused of, among others, causing financial loss to the state. It is the case of prosecution that Lithovit liquid fertilizer purchased under the tenure of Dr. Opuni between 2014 and 2016 was a waste of resources, because the state did not get value for money.
Under cross-examination on Friday, the counsel for Seidu Agongo, lawyer Nutifafa Nutsukpui asked Ambassador Ohene Agyekum, his reaction to finding by the court that Lithovit liquid fertiliser the board of COCOBOD and the Entity Tender Committee approved and bought by COCOBOD was worthless.
“With all due respect, emphasis with all due respect, I find the court’s finding rather strange. My lord, my reasons are as follows:
“One as a board chairman, I am very much aware that there was a unit within COCOBOD which I referred to in my earlier submission, that is CHED. I’m very much aware that that division was responsible for monitoring how the fertilisers and other agrochemicals were applied in the field and that there was or should be a report by CHED monitoring team at cocoa board.
“My lord, I am aware my passion for the farmer and the farming industry as a whole that the CHED proceeded to train the cocoa farmers on the proper application of the fertiliser and so my lord I am saying that there was a report by CHED or there should be such a report which concluded that litovit liquid fertiliser was effective.”
Lawyer Nutifafa then asked the retired diplomat, how he got to know about that the CHED report.
“My Lord I have so much passion that some of the things were not discussed formally, I will go and ask questions from those in charge of the program. In any case, it was a policy of the board that you don’t simply purchase fertilisers and distribute them to farmers and subsequently fold your arms and not try to find out about whether a particular fertiliser is effective or not.
“It may be of interest to the court that we also had a representative of the cocoa farmers association, I believe his name was one Nana Damoah or also, I believe from Brong Ahafo. So my lord, occasionally we shared information in terms of the benefits or otherwise of the programs and the implementation of the policies that we as a board have adopted.”
INSULTING THE BOARD’S INTELLIGENCE
The seventh prosecution witness, Chief Inspector Thomas Mercer Prempeh last year told the High Court that except the 1st Accused, none of the board members as well as the ETC members knew about the kind of fertilizer (Lithovit) they approved for purchase.
But Amb. Ohene Agyekum, who early on said both members of the board and ETC “were aware of the goods and services they were granting COCOBOD approval to procure, told the court that the testimony of the CID investigator was an insult to them.
“My lord my reaction will be that, that evidence is tantamount to insulting the intelligence of the members of the ETC. We knew what we were about. My lord with all due respect we were not a bunch of ignoramuses. Even if we were not experts, we were literate enough, knowledgeable enough and intelligent enough to read or appreciate the distinction between solid material and a liquid. And in this particular case, the technical presentation by the experts from CRIG, we clearly understood both the liquid and solid fertilisers that we approved.”
The witness was also asked, based on his experience in chairing the board and the ETC, how easy was it for an individual to game or otherwise rig the procurement process for a particular fertiliser?
He replied, “my Lord that is absolutely impossible. My lord I cannot imagine; it is inconceivable that any particular individual can or could rig or influence the choice or decision to award a contract in favour of a particular person. It is simply impossible and it could not happen under my watch or during my tenure as chairman.”
Amb. Ohene Agyekum was further asked if the first accused ever influenced the procurement process to benefit the second and third accused persons.
His response was that “as far as I am aware, the first accused never acted in a way that could have influenced the decision of either the board or the Entity Tender Committee. And in my dual capacity as chairman for both the board and the ETC, such a thing never happened.”