An ex-Director of Finance of the Ghana COCOBOD, considered one of the institutions best brains in its history, is out untying some of the knotted points in the criminal trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, who is on trial causing financial loss to the state.
Charles Kwao Tetteh Dodoo, suggested that infractions attributed to Dr. Opuni, cannot be supported by the operations and procedures at COCOBOD because Chief Executives Officers (CEOs), never write letters but signs what been generated to them by departmental heads.
He told the Accra High Court presided by Justice Clemence Honyenuga that CODAPEC and HI-TECH unit under COCOBOD, made up of scientists from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) approved and indicated which fertilizers were to be bought by COCOBOD for distribution to farmers.
According to the witness, the Procurement Unit of COCOBOD, had written letters soliciting for quotations of fertilizers to be bought with the input of CODAPEC and HI-TECH unit before it goes to the Chief Executive to sign.
Speaking on a letter written which sought to suggest procurement breaches on sole sourcing for quotation as per a letter written to COCOBOD, Mr. TettehDodoo, who is the first defence witness testifying for Dr. Opuni, denied the alleged breaches, saying it was incorrect.
“In my earlier submissions, I explained the role of CODAPEC HI-TECH unit in the procurement of fertilizers and other Agro-Chemicals. I informed this court that CODAPEC HI-TECH act is specialised unit with scientists from CRIG. They are the ones who indicate the type of fertilizers, and Agro-Chemicals to be applied.
Led in evidence by Dr. Opuni’s counsel Samuel Codjoe, he explained that, “they (CODAPEC and HI-TECH) indicate the name of fertilizers, company dealing in it. They will indicate the quantity and provide the price per unit, because they deal with the suppliers.”
He told the court that, “with their (CODAPEC HI-TECH) knowledge, from CRIG and their continuous interaction with CRIG, they provided the list of approved fertilizers and other agro chemicals with their relevant prices.”
He added that, the “Procurement unit will pick the data and write to PPA that prices are available to the procurement unit. That is why, when the procurement unit deals with fertilizers and other agro chemicals, they copy CODAPEC/ HI-TECH unit.”
The finance director told the court that, an exhibit “N” which was a letter dated February, 2014, was written by the procurement unit of COCOBOD.
He had earlier stated that discussions on Lithovit by Agricult company limited, which is at the heart of the trial, had long been ongoing before Dr. Opuni was appointed CEO of COCOBOD.
According to the witness, the letter was addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of PPA, seeking approval to sole source a number of fertilizers like Asase Wura fertilizers (Wienco), Cocoa Master (Louis Breyfus), Cocofeed (Chemico limited), Sidalco 10:10:10 (Sidalco Limited), Sidalco 6:0: 20 (Sidalco Limited) and Lithovit (Agricult company limited).
Responding to the prosecution’s claims that, the letter exhibit “N” was written by Dr Stephen Opuni, the First accused person, the witness parried the allegation.
“This letter was written by the procurement unit with inputs from CODAPEC HI-TECH unit. The Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD will only sign. From my personal knowledge, the (Chief Executive Officer) do not write letters and this particular one that I am holding falls in the same vain,” he told the court.
Asked by counsel if he had seen that letter until today, he said “I was shown this letter when the lawyers for the first accused person invited me to their office. I looked at the letter and I recalled that, at about the same time, a number of letters similar to the one I am holding covering other Agro-Chemicals were written.”
He said, “The lawyers showed me other letters and I informed the lawyers that, there should be more letters which I have not seen.”
Asked about Exhibit “Q” which was a reply from PPA which according to the prosecution, when the PPA wrote exhibit “P” A1 responded by exhibit “Q” and misled the PPA with respect to the value for money announces.
The witness said, “Exhibit ‘P’ which called for the value for money analysis much as it was addressed to the CEO, it will be sent downwards, that is, it will come down the ladder of the management hierarchy and when you look at the response which is Exhibit ‘Q’, the distribution list, the procurement manager is down the list.
This tells that, the letter was written by the procurement manager and signed by the Chief Executive.”
Asked by counsel of he remembered the first time Lithovit fertilizer was purchased by COCOBOD, the witness answered in the negative, adding that, “because there is a number of fertilizers get introduced along the operational chain.”
2013/2014 budget review
Mr. Dodoo, told the court that, his tenure on the board of COCOBOD, which started from 2009, was extended on 2014.
“A new board was put in place on January 2014, the staff of COCOBOD made me continue to serve on a new board. So, I was sworn-in together with new members, so I served a second term on the board.
After the swearing-in ceremony, the board conveyed a meeting and took a look at the 2013 and 2014 budget which had been prepared earlier on,” he told the court.
He added that, “It took a review of the 2013/14 budget and requested for an expansion of the coverage area for the application of fertilizers and other Agro-Chemicals, subsequently, CODAPEC HI-TECH unit, submitted a list of fertilizers and other Agro-Chemicals that will support the expansion the board required.”
Touching on the list of the expanded coverage area of the application of the fertilizers, he told the court that,.. “when the lawyers showed me the letters that went to PPA, I recalled that, it fits into board of directors discussions for the expansion.”
On Exhibit 60, which is a letter dated Feb 25, 2014 and was written by the procurement unit, the witness said, the letter sought to address the value for money analysis in question by the PPA with respect to Fungicides and insecticides sole sourcing.
For Exhibits ‘N’ an application for approval to sole source fertilizers for Cocoa Hi-tech program 2013/2014 dated Feb 19, 2014.
Exhibit ‘P’ he said is from PPA with the “Re: Application for approval to sole source fertilizer for Cocoa Hi- Tech program 2013/2014 and it is dated Deb 20, 2014.
On Exhibits ‘Q’ from Cocobod “Re: Application for approval to sole source fertilizer for Cocoa Hi-Tech program 2013/2014 dated Feb 25, 2014.
Touching on Exhibit ‘S’, which was a request for a quotation dated Feb 25, 2014, which the prosecution argued that, it is evident that, at the time exhibit ‘P’ which is the application to PPA to sole source the purchase of Lithovit fertilizer, there was no price quotation from Agricult, but the witness disagreed.
“When the lawyers showed me this letter in their office, I asked them where are the other letters. I told the lawyers that I recalled that, there were similar letters written to other companies,” he told the court.
He added that, “I explained to them that this letter headed request for quotation is only soliciting information to help the procurement unit prepare the notification of contract award to suppliers and so l, there should be more than one letter.”
He told the court that, he “further explained to the lawyers that, when they look at the content of the letter, it asked for delivery period, delivery site, terms of payments and the letter further requested for response by the close of the next day, the letter dated 25 Feb, 2014 and it asked for response by close of work on Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014.
He said, exhibit ‘S’ was sent and properly addressed was sent to Wienco Ghana Limited, Louis Breyfus, Chemico limited, Sidalco Limited and Sidalco limited again in addition to what I am holding as exhibit “S.”
The case has been adjourned to tomorrow, December 9, 2021 for continuation.