Friday, 19 July

COCOBOD trial: Osafo Marfo, COCOBOD 'ignored' recommendations to retest lithovit for confirmation

General News
Stephen Opuni

It has emerged that former Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Marfo, who petitioned the police CID to investigate the purchase of lithovit liquid fertilizer by COCOBOD, apparently ignored experts’ advice to carry out further test on lithovit prior to the prosecution of former COCOBOD Chief Executive and two others.

That advice was part of some recommendations made by scientists from Ghana Standards Authority and the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana to resolve the “conflicts” surrounding the efficacy of lithovit liquid fertilizer.

This was because three separate laboratory tests on the same lithovit fertilizer had produced three different results about the efficacy of the product, Mrs. Genevieve Baah Mante, Head of the Material Science Department at the Ghana Standard Authority told the High Court trying the infamous COCOBOD case on Wednesday, June 12, 2024.

These recommendations were given at the office of Mr. Yaw Osafo Marfo, following a meeting he convened in the second half of 2017 to ascertain why the three tests produced different results.

Mrs. Baah Mante, a subpoenaed witness, has been testifying in the ongoing trial of former Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, producers of lithovit liquid fertilizer, who have been facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer between 2014 and 2016.

According to Mrs. Baah Mante, the experts, during the meeting also recommended to Mr. Osafo Marfo and officials from EOCO and COCOBOD “that the samples could be flown outside Ghana to an accredited lab to be tested” for confirmation.

Shedding more light on the issue, the witness told the court presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh what transpired in that meeting.

“He (Osafo Marfo) wanted to find out why the reports were different.  Three reports, two from Ghana Standards Authority, one from the University of Ghana. So we spoke about the different methods used in the analyses. The way the sampling was done, the probable different batch numbers sent to all the three labs, the environmental conditions under which the tests were conducted,” she stated. 

She was then asked by counsel for Mr. Agongo, lawyer Benson Nutsukpui to explain what she meant by the "way the sampling was done”.

The witness clarified, “We were made aware that it was quite a voluminous amount of samples so picking just one was not representative of the whole lot so we requested that we are allowed to enter the warehouse of COCOBOD and pick at random as well as develop a composite sample that is mixing them up and then we would come together and discuss all the analyses and select one method to be used for the analysis.” 

“What did the meeting say to the analysts' recommendation that the sample could also be flown outside for a confirmatory test?” counsel asked the witness.

“We gave them the suggestion. I don’t remember anything said,” she recalled in her evidence in chief.

Mrs. Mante added that the analysts of the three test results were not also given any instructions in respect of the confirmatory test they recommended, and neither is she aware of any further sample delivered to Standards Authority to conduct the confirmatory test.

She was further asked whether the Standards Authority was contacted by EOCO to conduct a confirmatory test to resolve the conflict.

“No, I am not aware of any such”, the witness replied, pointing out that her department was also never contacted by the police CID to conduct the confirmatory test that the analysts suggested.

When asked if she was ever invited to any meeting in respect of any further testing in her capacity as the head of the Material Science Department, she simply said “no”.

It would be recalled that in 2019, the prosecution tendered in evidence a report of a committee chaired by the third prosecution witness, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, and was marked exhibit H. Curiously, Dr. Adu-Ampomah who chaired that committee had months earlier petitioned the EOCO to investigate the same issues his committee was investigating.

Surprisingly, despite having full knowledge of the existence of the three laboratory test results – two from Ghana Standards Authority and one from University of Ghana, the committee’s report conveniently excluded the third report that does not support the case currently being prosecuted in court.

The excluded test results conducted at the General Chemistry laboratory of the Standards Authority had confirmed the efficacy of lithovit liquid fertilizer, which is at the centre of the trial. 

It is the case of the state that the lithovit liquid fertilizer was substandard, and that the state did not get value for money when COCOBOD purchased it, leading to a charge of causing financial loss to the state being levelled against the accused persons.

Interestingly, the CID investigator Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer when he appeared in court, as the seventh prosecution witness, claimed he was not aware of the existence of the second test from GSA.

“Sir you see, I am putting it to you that the only reason that that 2nd test report of July 2017 from GSA is not part of the documentation before this court is that it defeats your narrative that you have built for this case,” Nutifafa Nutsukpui who was holding brief for Benson Nutsukpui told the witness in March 2021.

But the CID man replied, “My Lord that is never so at all.”

However, Mr. Paul Agyei Gyang, the then Head of Organised Crime Unit at EOCO, early this year (2024) told the court that the docket his outfit handed over to the police CID included the second test result from GSA, contrary to what the investigator told the court.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Mante also told the court that at the meeting in Mr. Osafo Marfo's office, the analysts who prepared the three reports discussed them.

"You have seen the Quartey-Papafio’s report (the first test result by GSA) and that of University of Ghana. Take a cursory look at Exhibit H and see if you can find your report Exhibit 133 there," the witness was asked.

Mrs. Mante went through the Adu-Ampomah Committee report (exhibit H) briefly and answered in the negative, "no".

Counsel Nutsukpui further asked Mrs Mante, "All I want you to tell this Court is, all the three of you (analysts) did not agree on all the nutrients and trace elements in all the three tests," 

The head of the Material Science Department of the Ghana Standards Authority said "yes".

"From the Exhibits H and 133, it is true that the results on all the elements and nutrients were different. That is also true," counsel enquired.

"Yes my Lord. The samples are very different. GSA received a liquid sample but I see a powdery sample for University of Ghana, meaning they are very different samples," the witness told the court.

She also told the court that throughout her years at Ghana Standards Authority, the GSA has never been requested to determine the suitability of any fertilizer on cocoa.

"In terms of determining the suitability of fertilizer on cocoa, are there any standards for Ghana Standards Authority that they have used in the years gone by?" Benson Nutsukpui asked the witness.

Her answer was "I am not aware of any."

Source: Classfmonline.com