A governance expert, Mr. Charles Tetteh Dodoo, has slammed a Chief State Attorney for repeatedly making “absurd” and “preposterous” assertions that Dr. Stephen Opuni wrote letters whilst at the helm of affairs at COCOBOD.
Mrs. Evelyn Keelson was insisting in court that former COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni personally wrote letters to award contracts on behalf of the institution.
But having rose through the ranks to become the Director of Finance at COCOBOD, Mr. Dodoo who is also a Certified Internal Auditor, time without number, told the Court that COCOBOD’s chief executives don’t write letters.
It is, perhaps, for that reason why he finds the entrenched position by Evelyn Keelson that Dr. Opuni wrote letters as “absurd”.
He explained that as the “practices and procedures” at COCOBOD, though the chief executive does not write letters, certain letters are signed by him based on their “significance”.
“My Lord the first accused does not write letters. The first accused signs letters,” Mr. Dodoo who served on the board of COCOBOD for 8 years as well as its Entity Tender Committee told the High Court presided over by a justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga on Monday.
The defence witness was testifying under cross-examination led by Evelyn Keelson in the trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo accused of, among others, defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
“I am putting it to you that all the procurement letters on the procurement of lithovit as exhibited in this court were signed by first accused in his capacity as chief executive officer,” Evelyn Keelson insisted.
“My Lord, procurement letters as alleged to be written by the first accused is totally false, but signed by the first accused, I agree,” the witness stressed.
Prosecution went further to put to the witness that, “all the letters signed by the first accused were authored by him”.
But Mr. Dodoo strongly rejected that: “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.”
Meanwhile, the former Director of Finance has suggested that the charges levelled against Dr. Stephen Opuni were trumped up.
Evelyn Keelson after strenuous effort 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”.
But Mr. Dodoo retorted: “My Lord I disagree. My lord having heard the charges as read and explained to me by the lawyers of the first Accused, and having provided the lawyers with information which has documentary evidence which shows that the charges as explained to me has been concocted-”
But Justice Honyenuga had to rein in the witness: “As to whether it is concocted or not, leave it to the court to decide.”
Mr. Dodoo therefore had no choice but to apologise for being judgemental.
Mr. Dodoo had earlier disagreed with the prosecution that Dr. Opuni reviewed the scientific report on lithovit fertilizer and wrote a letter to approve same.
He emphasized, “No my lord and I will explain. The first accused (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.”
Read excerpts of the proceedings
Q: Mr Doodo, exhibit B and B1 was delivered to A1 as chief executive.
Ans : no my lord and I will explain. The executive director of CRIG cannot and I emphasise cannot directly submit a report to the chief executive because he doesn’t work under the chief executive. The executive director of CRIG works towards the deputy chief executive A and QC and it is clear on the face of the exhibit that he has appropriately addressed the report to the deputy chief executive A and QC. All letters coming from CRIG comes in a parcel and it is delivered at the chief executive secretariat. This is the established procedure. So my Lord as stated in my earlier evidence, A1 will not see these letters. The secretariat having received these letters will send it to the appropriate quarters.
Q: I am putting it to you that your evidence is based on assumptions and not on real facts as happened on 21st January 2014 because there is an overwhelming evidence that as at 21st January 2014, there was no deputy chief executive A and QC.
Ans : my Lord as per the practice at COCOBOD, if the 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 documentary exhibits which demonstrate that letters which are addressed to the chief executive always come down the chain of action.
Q: I am putting it to you that there was nothing on exhibit B that this report was minuted to any other officer at COCOBOD.
Ans : my Lord, it is correct on the face of the document but it does not obviate the fact that there will be an officer to act for absentee deputy. For that reason, A1 a letter not addressed to him will not see and act on it.
Q: I am putting it to you in this particular case, A1 saw exhibit B and reviewed exhibit B1 and wrote exhibit C indicating management’s approval of exhibit B1.
Ans : 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 have 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.
Q: your work as director of finance was to make sure that what was signed for in the contract was what was delivered.
Ans : no my lord. My work as director of finance starts on procurement from the time management agreed to purchase, gathering of relevant information, fee pay approval if required, all approval process, all process to contract preparation and signed up to when the product is delivered.
Q: Mr Doodo, contrary to your evidence in this court, I am putting it to you that as at the time A1 wrote to PPA on 19th February 2014 on exhibit M asking for approval for sole source procurement of a number of fertilisers including lithovit fertiliser, COCOBOD had no price quotation from A3.
Ans : 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. When 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 that showed that when the arrangements changed letters to PPA were not copied to the codapec and hitec units.
Q: I am again putting it to you that your evidence is not based on any facts but on assumption.
Ans : 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 hitec units because the procurement unit now obtained the prices from the suppliers.
The case has been adjourned to May 9 for continuation.