It was revealing when it turned out in court that claim by the Director of Finance of COCOBOD, Peter Osei Amoako that all fertilizers purchased by COCOBOD have to go through a minimum of two years testing was inaccurate as COCOBOD’s own document thrashed that assertion.
It was also discovered in court that the 6th prosecution witness himself appended his signature as a witness when COCOBOD purchased three different fertilizers in 2018 that did not go through the two-year testing regime he professed. One of the fertilizers was not even tested at all, the court heard.
Testifying in the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni and CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited Seidu Agongo, Peter Amoako in his evidence in chief said COCOBOD terminated the 2016/17 contract with Agricult for the supply of Lithovit fertilizer because the product did not meet the minimum two years testing period.
Whilst under cross examination, the witness stuck to his gun as he repeatedly told the court the official testing period at CRIG, a division under COCOBOD, was two years minimum.
But on November 30, 2020, still under cross-examination, stand-in lead counsel for Seidu Agongo, lawyer Nutifafa Nutsukpui showed the witness the outcome of an investigation conducted by COCOBOD in 2017 on matters relating to testing of agro chemicals, which is an exhibit in court.
Queries were sent to scientists at CRIG to find out what the testing protocols were.
In response as contained in Exhibit 70, Rev. Father E.K.O. Oddoye, the Deputy Executive Director of CRIG pointed out his outfit’s stance on testing of chemicals, which the witness was made to read out in court:
“Your memo dated 20th September 2017 on the above subject refers. There are no laid down protocols as such with the advent of testing of chemicals and machines at CRIG, scientists in the various scientific divisions involve their own protocols based on standard scientific proceedings. These methods differ in various scientific divisions and have not been static. They are reviewed from time to time based on inputs from Ghana Cocoa Board.”
The witness was also shown Exhibit 41 which talks about a contract between COCOBOD and Omnifert fertilizer. The documents indicated that sample of Omnifert was received for testing on 16th February 2017 and by 19th May 2017 a confirmation was sent to COCOBOD by CRIG that Omnifert could be used on matured cocoa only after laboratory verification.
Lawyer Nutsukpui pointed out to the witness that from 16th February 2017 to 19th May 2017 did not meet the two-year testing protocol and for that matter was not tested on seedlings before the recommendation, but Peter Amoako disagreed.
The witness, Peter Osei Amoako was also shown another exhibit detailing a contract on the purchase of Cocoa Nti fertilizer in 2018 when there was no proof that the product had even been tested by CRIG before.
CRIG’s “final report on Cocoa Nti Fertilizer” in 2016 stated emphatically that it has no records that COCOBOD submitted Cocoa Nti fertilizer to CRIG for testing.
The witness tried to contest that and was made to read out that report dated 21st November 2016 which stated in part, “…there is no record (evidence) at CRIG to support the assertion of the authors that a test of fertilizer combination was concluded in 2014/15…”
Meanwhile, Peter Osei Amoako has told the court that prior to the purchase of Lithovit fertilizer for the 2014/15 cocoa season, the legal department of COCOBOD validated the contract as being legal before COCOBOD entered into that contract with Agricult Ghana Limited.
Find excerpts of the cross examination below
A: My Lord, working with Cocobod for 16 years what I know front CRIG is a testing period for a minimum of two years
Q: I am putting it to you that there is no such minimum requirement for the testing of fertilizer at CRIG
A: My Lord, that is the minimum numbers of years I know from CRIG
Q: And certain situations CRIG does not even find it needful to test fertilizers, I am putting that to you
A: My Lord, I am not aware of that
Q: Sir, have you ever heard of Cocoa Yield Liquid Fertilizer
A: No, My Lord
Q: You see Cocobod by a letter dated 31st May 2017 and referenced DCE/AQC/FT/CG/50 forwarded a product by name Cocoa Yield Liquid Fertilizer for testing. You might be aware, Sir
A: My Lord, that name is not familiar to me.
Q: You see on the 8th of June 2017, CRIG responded stating that because the formulation of the Cocoa Yield Fertilizer was similar to the formulation of Sidalco Balance and Lifert A liquid fertilizers which it had already approved it did not find it necessary to conduct a test on Cocoa Yield Liquid Fertilizer. did it ever come to your attention, Sir.
A: My Lord, no Sir,
Q: you told this court that on the 10th December 2014, Cocobod sought approval to procure Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, is that correct
A: Yes my Lord
Q: And that on the 31st of December there was a valid CRIG certificate. that is correct
A: Yes. My Lord.
Q: And by the 31st of December. 2014 when PPA granted the approval that CRIG certificate was still valid. that is correct
A: Yes. My Lord
Q: Now as you told this court after the PPA approval procurement does the drafting of the contract to be reviewed by legal and other departments at Cocobod, is that correct
A: My Lord, the contract is reviewed by legal.
Q: And Sir. it is only after that internal review process when Cocobod’s Legal Department would have cleared the draft that Cocobod and the supplier would sign the agreement, that is true
A: Yes, My Lord
Q: Now Exhibit Z is the contract in respect of which that approval had been granted by PPA on the 31st of December, 2014, that is correct.
A: Yes, My Lord.
Q: It was only when Legal considered that it was proper that the parties signed that particular contract that is also true
A: My Lord, that is true
Q: Sir. do you know when the Products in respect which Exhibit Z was signed by the Parties were delivered to Cocobod
No, My Lord
As you told this court the Internal Audit Department Cocobod would have confirmed delivery before payments are made for same, that is true.
Yes My Lord
Now sir, during your review of these files in respect of these contracts that you are testifying, did you come across any such delivery inspection report by your Internal Audit Department
A: Yes, My Lord. I came across audit inspection report for Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer,
Q: Sir kindly take a look at Exhibit FF. I believe that was what you tendered as proof part payment for the supply of Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer to the subject matter of Exhibit Z. is that correct.
A: Yes, My Lord.
Q: Now Sir, is there a delivery inspection report attached,
A: Yes, My Lord.
Q: Please what is the date of that report.
A: My Lord there is a stamp of 14th April, 2015.
Q: And is that report signed.
A: Yes. My Lord.
Q: And it is based on this report confirming that Cocobod had received the quantity of the products indicated in that report payment was made. is that correct
A: Yes, My Lord My Lord. I have to explain My Lord, the audit inspection report was based on the contract awarded for the supply of 700,000 litres of Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer. My Lord, on 27th of November an Exhibit was shown to me which indicates that the product that was tested for less than two years was Lithovit powder and the author of that report made it clear that if the product was approved a copy of the report should be sent to the supplier My Lord, Cocobod do not invite suppliers to test their products at CRIG. suppliers on their own accord present their products to CRIG for testing, so at the point of testing the supplier is aware of the product that should be supplied. In the case of audit they do not have the CRIG report, what they have is the contract based on which they conduct their inspection
Q: So how did you come by the position that suppliers deliver the samples to CRIG for testing.
A: My Lord, I said they submit their products to Cocobod for testing and the only institution in Cocobod that does the test is CRIG.
Q: Sir, Cocobod does not prefinance these products, do they
A: Cocobod does not
Q: In the case of Agricult the position was not different, that is correct
A: yes, My Lord
Q: And Cocobod paid for what they had contracted Agricult to supply, that is also correct
A: My Lord, the supplier knew what he had tested was Powder not liquid
Q: Director what Cocobod contracted Agricult to deliver. he had delivered it to Cocobod. that is true
A: My Lord, the two signatories, the CE and the supplier knew from the report that was issued by CRIG that it was powder that was tested less than two years and they signed it
As Peter Osei Amoako tried to be evasive and not forthcoming with his answer whether Yes or No, lawyer Nutsukpui paused and asked him, “What is your level of Education”, but before he could answer hearing was adjourned.
Dr Opuni and Mr Seidu Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a 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 self-recognisance bail each.
The Case is adjourned to December 2, 2020.