The sixth prosecution witness, in the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD boss and two others, was forced to recoil as he finally admitted that a signature on a questionable contract, he initially denied being his, at least on three occasions, is actually his own signature.
This was after lawyers for the accused threatened to have the signature of the witness, Peter Osei Amoako, examined forensically by the Ghana Police Service.
Mr. Osei Amoako, who is the Director of Finance at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), first denied his own signature under cross-examination on Tuesday, November 17, 2020.
The witness was shown a contract between COCOBOD and Kumark Ghana Limited for the supply of 200,000 litres of Number 1 Fertilizer in 2017.
Samuel Cudjoe, lead counsel for the former Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni, asked Osei Amoako if he witnessed the contract dated 17th May, 2017.
“My lord, looking at the contract, I cannot say I witnessed this contract,” he denied.
The witness was then pointed to a signature on the contract and was asked, “Is that your signature?”.
The witness replied in the negative, “No, my lord”, and went further to state “to my knowledge I do not remember” COCOBOD ever purchased the Number 1 Fertilizer under him as the then Acting Director of Finance and now as the substantive Director of Finance.
Still under cross-examination, two days later, on November 19, 2020, the witness, Peter Osei Amoako stood on his ground and discredited the contract document shown to him in court.
Lawyer Samuel Cudjoe at this juncture decided to orally apply for the document to be referred to the police CID “for examination to determine whether the signature [on the document] is that of the witness or is forged”.
Prosecution led by Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson tried to object to the application by the defence counsel raising issues with the document. She had claimed the document was not the same as it was filed in court by the Attorney General’s Department.
The trial judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a Supreme Court Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge had to compare the document of prosecution and that of the defence together with the court’s own.
It was realized that the documents were the same.
The judge then stood down the case for about 10 minutes and later announced to the court that the Chief State Attorney and counsel for Dr. Opuni have consented that the court admits a copy of the document with the court for the witness to be cross-examined on. It was marked as Exhibit 52.
Subsequently, the first question lawyer Samuel Cudjoe asked Osei Amoako was: “Is that your signature on the Exhibit 52?”
The witness was this time forthright, “Yes my lord”.
It was later revealed in court that Exhibit 52 that the witness tried to run away from did not have a critical document required for any credible contract with a supplier so far as COCOBOD is concerned.
The contract COCOBOD entered with Kumark Ghana Limited in 2017 for the supply of Number 1 Fertilizer as documented in court did not have a CRIG certificate that vouches for the efficacy of the product being procured as fit for purpose.
Read excerpts of the cross-examination on Thursday below
Q. Can you have a look at Exhibit 37, is a letter from Cocobod Isn’t it
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. And is in connection with what? give us the details.
A. My Lord, this is a notification of award for the supply of 200,000 of Number 1 Liquid Fertilizer is dated 17th May 2017 and addressed to the Managing Director, Kumark Ghana Ltd.
Q. Can you look at this contract I showed you. Did you say you were not aware of the contract between Cocobod and Kumark for the supply of the 200,000 litres of the supply of number 1 fertilizer which was shown to you at the last adjourned date in which you said it was not your signature.
A. My Lord, I said that the document that was shown to me had some documents attached and there were other documents that were also not attached. So My Lord, on the basis of what I have said, I am unable to confirm that this is the document I witnessed.
Q: Is that your signature on the contract.
A. My Lord, I cannot confirm because the document I am holding does not contain some of the documents I expect to see in this contract.
Q. I am putting it to you that the signature on the contract is your signature.
A: My Lord, on the basis of what I said, I disagree.
Lawyer Cudjoe for the first accused:
My Lord. I hereby apply orally under your inherent jurisdiction and also to prevent failure of justice that this honourable court would order that the document which the witness has claimed contains a signature which is not his should be referred to the Police CID for forensic examination to determine whether the signature is that of the witness or is forged. My Lord, this is more so when this document a copy of which is on the court docket was given to us by the Attorney Generals Department as part of the discovery process.
My Lord, the seriousness of what has happened is that if indeed, as the witness claims his signature is forged or it is not his then we cannot vouch for the other documents which the Prosecution has given to ourselves and your honourable court. If on the other hand it is his signature on the document then the implication as My Lord has rightly stated known.
Evelyn Keelson for Prosecution:
My Lord, I oppose to this application. My Lord, my opposition stems from the fact that the application is not relevant. My Lord and also on the fact that the application is founded on a wrong premise. My Lord, the witness has stated that he cannot confirm that the document counsel had given to him is the document he signed because it does not contain some of the documents he expects to see. He has not said a signature had been forged. His problem is the nature of the document counsel is seeking for him to identify.
My Lord, on the last adjourned date and even today counsel had indicated that the document is one of the documents we disclosed to him as part of the disclosure. I don’t see the basis of this whole application. They had lose sheets at the end in the last adjourned date.
CASE STOOD DOWN
BY COURT: By consent of both the learned Chief State Attorney and the learned counsel for the 1st Accused and upon comparison of the court document to the document shown to the witness, the document being the court’s copy is hereby admitted into evidence and marked as Exhibit 52.
Q. Is that your signature on the Exhibit 52
A. Yes My Lord.0
Q. Have a look at this and see whether it is your signature
A. Yes My Lord
Lawyer Cudjoe. My Lord. I want to tender it through him
Prosecution. My Lord, we have no objection.
By court: Document tendered not objected to admitted and marked as Exhibit 53.
Q. Mr. Osei-Amoako, in your evidence in chief, you informed this court that the Chief Executive always signs contracts for Cocobod, if he is around and available.
A: Yes My Lord.
Q. But the contracts for fertilizers are prepared by the Procurement Department and vetted by the Legal Department
A. Yes My Lord.
Q . So that have a look at Exhibit 52 which is a contract you also witnessed. I believe Just like Exhibit 53, you would have assumed that the Procurement Unit which prepared the contract and which was vetted by legal would have complied with all the requirements of the contract
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. Do you have a CRIG certificate attached
A. My Lord. I do not have a CRIG certificate attached to this document My Lord, I believe the certificate is available
Q. But definitely your Audit Department together with the user departments namely, CODAPEC and HI-TECH would definitely ensure that at the time of delivery the fertilizers would be fit for use Isn’t it
A. My Lord, the inspection team will make sure the fertilizer has not expired.
Q. Mr. Osei-Amoako, when letters are written for negotiations by Procurement for price quotation, the letters are written in bulk to all companies who are to supply fertilizers. Isn’t it.
A. My Lord, letters for quotations are written to companies whose fertilizers are tested by CRIG for the minimum two-year period to submit quotations.
Q. And when the letters are written the letters request for quotation for a specified quantity isn’t It
A. My Lord, I have to abreast myself first but I believe that is so.
Former CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Company Limited, are facing 27 charges of willfully causing financial loss of ¢217 million to the state, through three separate fertiliser supply contracts between 2014 and 2016.
They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are on self-recognition bail of ¢300,000 each.