Dr Opuni requested 700, 000 litres of fertilizer from Agricult – Witness

Accra- Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, a Prosecution Witness in the trial involving Dr Stephen Opuni and one other, has said then CEO of COCOBO signed a letter requesting Agricult Ghana Limited to supply 700,000 litres of the liquid fertilizer.

The cost of the 700,000 litres supply of the fertilizer was $19.250 million.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is the Special Advisor in charge of Cocoa Affairs to the Minister of Agriculture said this when he was led by Mrs Evelyn Keelson to give his evidence in chief said even though the product supplied to COCOBOD was liquid, the fertilizer sample submitted for testing to Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) was described in the Material Safety Data Sheet as powdery substance.

He said at COCOBOD when a Division decides to purchase fertilizer or any agro-chemical, it makes a request to the CEO and if it was within their budget, the CEO would instruct the procurement department to place an advertisement in the dailies with a specified product.

He said the advertisement would also contain what the Board wants from the companies to provide for the bidding process, which includes Company registration certificate, Tax payment documents, Certificate from EPA and Valid Certificate from CRIG.

He said when the companies have submitted their bidding documents, an entity tender committee would be constituted to review the application and this committee was chaired by the CEO with members from other user departments, procurement, and legal.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is the third prosecution witness, said after the review of the documents, the committee writes a report and submit it to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) detailing how, the process was carried out and the winning company.

The witness, who is also a Former Executive Director of CRIG, said when the PPA approves the bid, then the contract was awarded to the company to supply the products.

Asked, why a valid Certificate was required from CRIG, the witness said it was because, Cocoa as a food item, it was important that any chemical applied to it does not affect the quality and also when the product was applied to it, it should be efficacious.

if the product is to increase yield, it should increase yield and if it is to control pest, it should be able to control pest, he added.

He said for this reason, COCOBOD and CRIG has come out with a protocol to ascertain the effectiveness of these agrochemicals and it was CRIG that was tasked to test these chemicals, after which a certificate would be issued to the company.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who was one time the Deputy CEO of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, said the Certificate was to show that the product could be used on Cocoa and this comes with a fee with and a year’s validity.

He said the renewal of the certificate would depend on how CRIG ascertain the use of the product in the previous year, whether it was effective or not and it was based on that, that a renewal would be done.

Asked, whether, he knew Dr Opuni, he responded yes, and said it was back from his days at the FDA and also, he met him in at a couple of meetings, when he was consulting for some Dutch and American NGOs on the improvement of livelihoods for farmers.

On Seidu Agongo, the second accused person, the witness said when he was invited to join the COCOBOD transition, they were reviewing some anomalies in the procurement process of some agrochemicals by the previous management and he was invited.

He said they realised that some of the agrochemicals have not gone through the full cycle testing, however, these products have been procured by the previous management of COCOBOD.

We thought their efficacy can be compromised, so we invited the Companies affected for discussions on the issues and it was then that Seidu came to the meeting to say that he is the Managing Director for three of the products, he said.

Asked, whether, he knew the company Agricult Ghana Limited, the witness answered in the affirmative, saying on May 10, 2013, he was then the Deputy CEO of COCOBOD, when management of the Company submitted a sample of fertilizer with a letter to my office and a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product to be tested on Cocoa by CRIG.

He said the MSDS accompanying the fertilizer was from the original manufacturer and it was lithovit fertilizer, which was powdery and this letter from the Company was addressed to him.

He said the MSDS was prepared by the original manufacturers and it described the product in its physical state and it also showed the chemical composition, mode of application and its effect.

The Special Advisor to the Minister said, after he received the letter and the sample, he wrote to the then Executive Director of CRIG and forwarded everything to commence testing, and that normally testing of fertilizer takes two years and it was around the same time that he retired.

He said he later got to know at the transition meeting that in February 25, 2014 barely nine months after the sample was submitted, a certificate was issued for the product and the then CEO of COCOBOD signed a letter requesting the company to supply 700,000 litres of the fertilizer.

Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully 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 GH300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail.

The case has been adjourned to Monday, May 20 for continuation.

Source: Ghana News Agency