General News of Thursday, 23 May 2019
Lawyers of Dr. Stephen Opuni, ex-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board and Alhaji Seidu Agongo, are waiting with bated breath to subject the Attorney-General’s third prosecution witness to another bout of grueling cross-examination in the ongoing criminal trial involving the two.
Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, a retired Deputy CEO of the COCOBOD, who was brought from statutory retirement, and reappointed to his former position by the Akufo-Addo government until recently, on Monday, made his second appearance before the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Court of Appeal Judge, sitting in as an additional high court Judge.
Dr. Opuni and Alhaji Agongo’s lawyers are to grill him on his knowledge of the procurement processes, his membership of the Akufo-Addo transition team in 2017, a probed he chaired on the activities of Dr. Opuni, upon his reappointment to COCOBOD, nearly four years after leaving office and many others issues.
He is also to respond to some inconsistencies in the accounts of two other prosecution witnesses the former head of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah and a soil scientist also at CRIG, Dr. Alfred Arthur.
But continuing his evidence in chief on Monday, Dr Adu-Ampomah, who was being led by Mrs. Evelyn Keelson, a State Attorney, told the court that Dr. Opuni as CEO of COCOBOD in 2015, awarded a contract to Agricult Ghana Limited to supply one million litres of fertilizer.
He mentioned that the cost of the one million litres of the lithovit liquid fertilizer supplied to COCOBOD was $27.5 million.
Curiously, even though Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who had handled the case so far was in court, Mrs. Keelson, who is her subordinate, took over the evidence in chief.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who has since been moved to the Agric Ministry as a Special Advisor in charge of Cocoa Affairs to the Minister of Agriculture, said the same Dr. Opuni, as CEO, also ordered 700, 000 litres of the same fertilizer at a cost of $19.250 million.
The Witness said there were no records at COCOBOD indicating that any of such liquid fertilizer, has been tested by CRIG.
“That is why we requested for the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS),” he said.
Asked why the transition team chaired by him requested for the MSDS, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, said it was because of the report submitted bythe research scientists from CRIG described the product as a grayish powder.
He said per the MSDS attached to the product had information like the two active ingredients present in the product; which were calcium carbonate was 84.5 per cent and the magnesium carbonate was 4.6 per cent.
The Prosecution asked the witness to tell the court the significant of the MSDS of which, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, said the MSDS is from the original manufacturer of the product and it gives details of the chemical composition, mode of application and the physical status of the product.
The witness said because of the anomalies observed, the team reported the matter to Economic and Organised Crime Oganisation (EOCO) and also wrote to Agricult Ghana Limited to suspend the supply of the 2016 contract awarded pending further investigations.
“We also wrote query letters to the scientists involved in the testing of the fertilizer, while EOCO was conducting their investigation,” he added.
He said EOCO approached COCOBOD to give them samples of the fertilizer, which was given them with a covering letter to be sent to the Ghana Standard Authority (GSA) and the University of Ghana, Chemistry Department for testing to ascertain its efficacy.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who was one time the Deputy CEO of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, said the report from the GSA indicated the Calcium Carbonate presences in the liquid fertilizer was 0.0002 per cent compared to 84.5 per cent powdery fertilizer on the MSDS.
With regards to the Magnesium Carbonate, the former Executive Director of CRIG said according to the report it had 0.0002 per cent compared to 4.6 per cent in the powdery.
He said the report concluded that the product could not be classified as a fertilizer and that it could not be applied on any matured Cocoa to increase yield.
He said the University of Ghana, Chemistry Department report also concluded that the two ingredients present in the liquid fertilizer were insignificant and it could not be applied on matured Cocoa to increase yield.
He said after receiving the report, COCOBOD in October 2017 constituted an investigation and disciplinary committee to investigate the anomalies that have occurred in CRIG during the testing of agro-chemicals and make a recommendation.
Dr. Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretenses, causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢ 300,000.00 each self-recognizance bail.
The case continues today.