.. By Ex-COCOBOD Deputy Executive Director
A former Deputy Executive Director of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, Peter Okyere Boateng, has revealed that it was based on his recommendations that COCOBOD, increased the litres of Lithovit liquid fertilizer it purchased in 2015.
He also maintained that he was not influenced by anybody when he made those recommendations, adding that it was also not done to favour anybody.
Mr Okyere Boateng, the seventh defence witness, was giving his testimony under crossing-examination at the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, accused of willfully causing financial loss to the state and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser between 2014 and 2016.
The witness explained that, the recommendations contained in the field report were solely based on observations made by the CHED technical team, led by himself, as well as requests from cocoa farmers and district cocoa officers.
He told the court yesterday, Tuesday, November 7, 2023, that following field visits to farms in some cocoa districts from 7th to 25 April 2015, he included in the team’s report that the purchase of lithovit liquid fertilizer for the ensuing cocoa season should be increased from 700,000 litres to 1 million litres.
The witness, who was in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation at CHED, had previously told the court that farmers lobbied him for more Lithovit because it “performed magic” and their farms had “produced beyond imagination”, adding that his regional and district cocoa managers also prevailed on him for increment in their share of the product.
“So Sir, the recommendations for the increase in the Lithovit purchase was not done as a favour to the second and third accused persons, was it?” Lawyer Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo asked the witness.
The witness replied, “My Lord, I did my work, and from my observations and comments received from cocoa farmers who had applied the lithovit, I made the recommendations for management, so as far as I know it is my recommendation that was upheld, but as to whether somebody is being favoured or not, my Lord I cannot speak to it.”
Counsel then asked for clarity, on whether when the witness made the recommendations, he was doing the second and third accused persons a favour.
“My Lord, I was doing my official duty as the Deputy Director in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation, and nobody had influence in my work.
“So therefore no, I was not doing anybody a favour. I didn’t even know the Second accused person,” the witness asserted.
Mr. Okyere Boateng also identified in court, pictures from farms the team visited as captured in their report compiled for management’s action.
Read excerpts of November 7
Q it is true that field visits by management staff to cocoa regions and districts are a very regular feature of the operations of CHED of COCOBOD
A. My Lord yes, field visit is a regular feature of all the divisions of COCOBOD including the head office, this is done most especially by the monitoring and evaluation departments, then the audit section and the other technical department or unit
Q. Sir is it also true that normally reports are prepared for management after these visits
A. Yes my Lord, reports are prepared on every field visit for the attention of management
Q. You were the deputy executive director, monitoring and evaluation understand CHED, is that the case.
Q. Specifically 5th April 2015 Field visit by the monitoring and evaluation team was also assessing field preparation for the year’s distribution of fertilizers and agrochemicals (HITEC CODAPEC)
A. MY LORD yes, farms were being measured to guide proper allocation and distribution of farm inputs including fertilizers. In addition, my lord, farms that were being prepared to receive a raised cocoa seedlings were also assessed
Q. Sir, and it is also true that the team engaged the field staff of the distribution of fertilizers, agrochemicals and seedlings
A. Yes my Lord
Q. And Sir it’s true that the team engaged the field officers on the effective application of the foliar fertilizers from (Lithovit and Sidalco)
A. My Lord, the district officers and the extension officers have all gone through training in the usage or application of all types of fertilizers including the foliar fertilizers. Therefore during myself and team visit to the field we monitored how effectively they are implementing the knowledge they have acquired and address any problem if there be one. So during the visit it was meetings that were held to discuss the general operations of the division
Q. Sir, and it is true that during this visit, you monitored the application, not only of the foliar fertilizers but also Sidalco, that is also correct
A. My Lord yes. In July 2022 when I gave evidence, I mentioned the fact that in going around we passed through different farms that have been applied with different types of fertilizers and that as we went along we monitored the performances of these farms alongside those applied with the Lithovit liquid fertilizer. My Lord I remember I said that at Dormaa the farmer who we met at his cottage had different farms and had applied different types of fertilizers on them. But he was insisting that I help him to get more of the Lithovit liquid fertilizer
Q. Sir while on the field you also visited farms that applied the granular fertilizers
A. My Lord, I said we visited different farms applied with different types of fertilizers. These different types of fertilizers include granular fertilizer, so yes, we inspected or observed farms applied with granular fertilizer
Q. You also watched out for and discussed diseases affecting the cocoa trees with the farmers and c
A. My Lord, in my report, I gave the objectives that we set for ourselves for the field visit and these include looking out for blackpod disease problems and cartipillar infestation of the farms, so yes, the agenda included inspection for disease and pest damage. And my lord pictures of those events are in the report
Q. Now you just said you even took pictures which are in your report to your management
A. Yes my Lord that is correct
And the pictures, did it include the cocoapod
A. Yes my Lord
Q. It is also true that you labeled some of the pictures which depicted the performance of the various cocoa trees that you saw, that’s also correct
A. Yes my Lord, every picture was placed there
Q. Now look at the picture in ID3,
Prosecution: My Lord, there is no indication showing that it is ID3
Counsel: My Lord when we came I asked for ID3 and that is what was given
Q..is it that the cocoa picture tree taken which was fertilized by lithovit
Prosecution: my lord I have an objection. My objection is on the basis that this document technically speaking is not an exhibit before the court, the witness before this court today, in July gave extensive evidence on some Field visits he embarked on and informed the court that the team which embarked on the visit issued a report. My Lord the report was shown to him under crossing-examination by counsel for A2 and A3, that’s the current counsel, and he identified the court as the said report that he spoke about and was marked as ID3, my lord since it is only an ID3 and it is not an exhibit before this court, he cannot speak to the content in this court. My Lord, an attempt was made by counsel A1 to tender same document, objections were raised and the document was withdrawn, if counsel wants to speak to the content of the document, the proper thing is that is to put into evidence
Court: I think the objection is premature at this stage
A. My Lord, there are two pictures of cocoa trees, the first one carrying heavy loads of cocoa pods, labeled under it young Cocoa farms in the central region lithovit fertilized last year. The second picture also has a certain level of cocoa pods on the trees but as much as can be observed in the first picture. Under it is the label, young cocoa farms, Boaku, Western North, fertilized with Sidalco
Q. Sir, it is true that the report that was eventually prepared also showed trees infested with cartipillar
A. Yes my Lord
Q. Please look at this picture 9 and 8 of the report
A. Yes my Lord
Q. What pictures are they
A. The two pictures showed single cocoa trees carrying pods at different stages of growth and the label below these two pictures is, pods situation in a cocoa farm sprayed with lithovit liquid fertilizer
Q. The report that was presented to management also impressed upon management, urgent need for operational vehicles for CHED especially in the newly created districts , that is correct
A. My Lord yes, that was one of the recommendations that was made for management’s attention
Q. And the reasons given for it, it will enhance the efficient performance of their duties by the CHED officials
A. My Lord yes, in CHED mobility of the field staff is very paramount in our daily operations
Q. Sir, it is also true that the final report sent to management made recommendations on the use of some chemicals were they were needed
A. Yes my Lord, in our technical operations, timely supply of inputs is very paramount
Q. And that is why the report recommended that fungicide for blackpod should be readily available to the farmers before the onset of the rains to protect the cherelles and the mature pod
A. My Lord yes, because the blackpod disease is not curable, so all stages of the pod will always have to be protected before the disease will set in, and the disease starts immediately there are rains, that is why it was recommended that fungicide should be made available earlier and before the start of the rains
Q. Sir, it is true that the report which came out of CHED on the 7th to 25th April, 2015 field trip also had assessed the incident of black pods in some areas
A. Yes my Lord
Q. Indeed, the report also dealt with the incident of black pods in some farms in the western north, that is correct
Objection: the witness said he only went to the Bechem district of the Brong Ahafo region, he also said he didn’t see the final report of
Counsel: when did he say that?
Court: objection overruled
A. my Lord yes, that is correct
Q. Sir, the report which you collated and sent to the executive director and those of other teams, which were all put in the report for management were done immediately after the trip, that is correct
A. My Lord yes, it is a requirement that when any officer takes imprest from the division, for field trip reports would have to be produced on the field visit
Q. Kindly put a timeframe on the length of time after the trip that normally the report are presented
A. Within three days after returning from the field a report would have to be churned out.
Q. Would I be right when I said the report would almost always be contemporaneously the truth
My Lord yes, objectives are sent so that the report should be exactly in line with the objectives
Q. Sir is it a comprehensive department report of the field visit of 7th to 25th April 2015 that the request for increasing the lithovit purchase from 700,000 litres to 1 million litres was made, that is correct
A.. yes my Lord
Q. So Sir, the recommendations for the increase in the Lithovit purchase was not done as a favour to the second and third accused persons, was it.
A. My Lord, I did my work, and from my observations and comments received from cocoa farmers who had applied the lithovit, I made the recommendations for management, so as far as I know it is my recommendation that was upheld but as to whether somebody is being favoured or not, my Lord I cannot speak to it.
Q. Now, when you made your recommendations, you were not doing second and third accused persons a favour that’s true
A. My Lord I was doing my official duty as the deputy Director in charge of monitoring and evaluation, and nobody had influence in my work. So therefore no, I was not doing anybody a favour. I didn’t even know the Second accused person.
Counsel: my Lord that would be all for the witness
Cross-examination by the prosecution led by Stella Ohene Appiah
Q. Sir in July 2013 you were the research manager in charge of the child labor desk at COCOBOD head office is that right
A. Yes my Lord, that is right
Q. And in August 2014 you became the deputy chief executive in charge of monitoring and evaluation and you were subsequently transferred to CHED
A. My Lord I’m sorry I have never been a deputy chief executive
Q. You retired on 8th March 2017 from COCOBOD is that so
A. Yes my Lord