Sunday, 14 July

Evelyn Keelson’s lackluster cross-examination raises eyebrow in high-profile COCOBOD trial

General News
Stephen Opuni

The lackluster cross-examination of defence witnesses by the prosecution in the ongoing trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive and two others at the High Court in Accra, keeps exposing significant gaps in the prosecution's strategy.

For instance, on Tuesday, June 18, 2024, Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson struggled to challenge the testimony of Mrs. Genevieve Baah Mante, the head of the Material Science Department at the Ghana Standard Authority (GSA).

In about an hour cross-examination, Keelson attempted to discredit the witness by highlighting perceived inconsistencies in a Standard Authority’s report that confirmed that Lithovit liquid fertilizer indeed has all the ingredients required in a fertilizer.  

However, Mrs. Baah Mante consistently provided clear and detailed explanations that refuted the prosecutor's assertions.

The subpoenaed witness had testified about the authenticity of a test result conducted by the general chemistry lab under her department as well as an earlier GSA test result on lithovit fertilizer tested in the wrong laboratory meant for testing narcotics, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics as well as medical devices including condoms. 

She also spoke copiously about a meeting convened by former Senior Minister, Mr. Yaw Osafo Marfo, which was attended by officials from EOCO, COCOBOD, Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana and Ghana Standard Authority to discuss “discrepancies” in three test reports on the same product.

Although she said the test result, marked Exhibit 133, by her department was “never challenged and or set aside”, the meeting failed to resolve the “conflicting” reports, necessitating a recommendation to Mr. Osafo Marfo for another test by analysts involved in the three reports or take a sample abroad for confirmation.  There is, however, no record that the advice from the experts were adhered to, the witness told the court

Mrs. Keelson tried to question the content and completeness of the report (Exhibit 133), but the witness explained that multiple parameters were tested, including identification of the substance, composition information, physical properties, and toxicological information.

“The report you approved i.e. Exhibit 133 only responded to the first item i.e. the identification of the substance by simply stating that the sample is fertilizer,” the prosecution told the witness.

The witness insisted, “No.  4 things were conducted here.  i.e. a, b, i and k.  a. for identification of substance, b for composition information, i for physical properties and k for toxicological information.” 

Unsatisfied, Keelson again challenged her, claiming the report lacked toxicological information and did not address all requested parameters. The witness however countered, stating that the toxicological information was attached and that they had informed EOCO of the parameters they could not test.

Mrs. Baah Mante also explained the GSA's standards and procedures, including why certain remarks were omitted and the limitations of their testing capabilities.

Keelson's attempts to argue that the report (Exhibit 133) should have indicated the GSA's testing capabilities and limitations were met with a procedural explanation that such details are not included in standard reports.

“Our activities are based on standards and we do not have standards for the other parameters indicated on the request. Secondly, we as part of our procedures,  we explain to clients what we can do and what we cannot do before we take in samples to analyse so I believe the  EOCO official was informed about the parameters we cannot do and what we can do before he submitted the sample,” the witness asserted.

“The Ghana Standard Authority does not even have the capacity to test first aid measures and fire fighting measures as well as exposure control and the others.  We tested what we had the capacity to do,” the witness asserted. 

The witness further provided a thorough comparison of the chemistry laboratory report with that of the Forensic Science Laboratory, and maintained that the differences were due to the distinct testing parameters and samples.

Despite Keelson's persistent questioning, the witness maintained a consistent and credible stance throughout the cross-examination. The defense's witness demonstrated thorough knowledge of the GSA's procedures, thereby exposing the prosecutions limited understanding of reports she was supposed to query and discredit.

Observers noted that Keelson's performance failed to challenge the witness's credibility or the integrity of the GSA's report that confirmed the efficacy of lithovit as a fertilizer. The prosecution's inability to effectively counter the witness's testimony raises questions about the strength of the prosecution's case.

Read excerpts of the cross examination led by the prosecution

CROSS EXAMINATION OF DW5/A2 AND A3 BY PROSECUTION

 

Q:You are the head of the Material Science Department of the testing Division of the Ghana Standard Authority.  Is that correct?

 

A: Yes.  We now call it Testing Directorate, former Testing Division.

 

Q:You have never worked at the Forensic Science Laboratory of the Ghana Standard Authority.

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: In July, 2017 when a liquid substance described as lithovit was submitted to the Material Science Department for testing, you were that acting head of the Division?

 

A: Our records indicates that the sample was received on 30th June, 2017 and I was acting head of the Department and not Division.

 

Q: The test or the testing of this sample was conducted by Miss Fiona Gyemfi.  Is that correct?

 

A: No.  She was the laboratory manager at the time and it was assigned to an analyst in the laboratory.

 

Q: So the analyst was the one who tested the sample.  Is that correct? 

 

A: Yes.

 

Q:You were not that analyst.  That is correct?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: So you never tested this liquid substance yourself.  That is correct?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: The letter from   EOCO requesting for the test to be conducted i.e. Exhibit 132 for A2/A3 requested the authority to test and analyse the substance for 11 things to be done.  That is correct?

 

A: Yes.  A number of parameters were requested there.

 

Q: The last item requested for other information.

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: The report you approved i.e. Exhibit 133 only responded to the first item i.e. the identification of the substance by simply stating that the sample is fertilizer.

 

A: No.  4 things were conducted here.  i.e a, b, i and k.  a. for identification of substance, b for composition information, i for physical properties and k for toxicological information. 

 

Q: There is no toxicological information in your report.  That is correct?

 

A: No that is not correct.  I can show you a copy of it.

 

Q: I am putting it to you that Exhibit 133 has not got any toxicological information.

 

A: No.  The second page of the report indicate see attached toxicological information so there is an attachment indicating the toxicological information. 

 

Q: I am putting it to you that there is no attachment.  The report is page 3 out of 3.

 

A: As per our procedure, attachments are usually subcontracted work and we do not indicate the total number of pages but we indicate “please find attached” as an additional report.  Subcontracted reports are usually reports from other laboratories which are attached to the original report.

 

Q: Your report aside not addressing all the issues requested for in Exhibit 132 did not indicate any remarks. That is correct?

 

A: Our activities are based on standards and we do not have standards for the other parameters indicated on the request. Secondly, we as part of our procedures,  we explain to clients what we can do and what we cannot do before we take in samples to analyse so I believe the  EOCO official was informed about the parameters we cannot do and what we can do before he submitted the sample.

 

Q: You do not know as a fact that any such explanation was given to   EOCO. 

 

A: That is our norm by procedure.

 

Q: I am putting it to you that the explanation you have given to the Court is no reason why you would not have remarks for such an examination conducted. 

 

A: For remarks of a report are based on Ghana Standard, International Standards or Client specifications.  At the time of generating this report, we did not have a Ghana Standard for fertilizer hence no remarks were made.

 

Q: I am putting it to you that the request to you for testing was not just about testing for a fertilizer so this explanation you have given is not born out of Exhibit 132. The fertilizer aspect was only 1 out of 12 things to be done.

 

A: The Ghana Standard Authority does not even have the capacity to test first aid measures and fire fighting measures as well as exposure control and the others.  We tested what we had the capacity to do. 

 

Q: I am putting it to you that your report aught to have indicated your capabilities and incapabilities since you do not know what EOCO was investigating. 

 

A: We have a technical manual for our operations and there is no directive to request you to indicate what you cannot do.

 

Q: Did you see the sample which was submitted yourself?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: Do you remember what was written on the sample?

 

A: I do not remember.

 

Q: Your test did not find urea in the sample you tested.  That is correct?

 

A: We did not test for urea. 

 

Q:In lay man’s language, you did not test for urea because there was no urea in the substance.

 

A: We did not test for urea in the sample.

 

Q: You have indicated that you checked the composition of the sample.  Is that not so?

 

A: Not composition on the label but the composition of the fertilizer being NPK, the secondary components and the trace elements.

 

Q: So the test you conducted was not about the composition of the liquid substance which was submitted to you.  Is that what you are saying?

 

A: If you receive a request for fertilizer, you will look at the primary and the secondary components as well as some trace elements and test. 

 

Q: You were asked by EOCO to test and analyse by Exhibit 132 the content of the sample which was submitted to you.

 

A: We analysed what we had the capacity to do and we tested for the primary composition, the secondary and the trace element of fertilizer.  That is what we do for all fertilizers.  If we want to analyse the individual we might not have the capacity for special components but the basic thing is if it is a fertilizer it must have NPK.  Assuming we analysed and we did not find NPK then we will state that it is not a fertilizer.

 

Q: I am putting it to you that nobody from EOCO requested you to test a fertilizer. The request was to test a liquid substance which was given to you.

 

A: We have series of discussions at the reception point and I cannot guarantee the discussion between the EOCO official and the person who received the sample but for the EOCO official to append his signature to the contract form means he has agreed in principle that we should test what we did because parameters are discussed with clients before we proceed. 

 

Q:I am putting it to you that your report unfortunately is completely flawed because it failed to analyse the content of the sample which was handed over to GSA.

 

A: I disagree.

 

Q: Your report Exhibit 133 simply described the sample as liquid substance (lithovit) without a detailed description of the sample and who submitted it contrary to the testimony you gave under cross-examination.

 

A: There is a procedure for the generation of the report and always you put the name of the substance and the brand name in bracket.  I have the technical manual here and we have source/purpose, we have   EOCO/Quality evaluation and for the description of the sample, we normally have granular, powdered or liquid suspension to describe the sample.  

 

Q: I am putting it to you that contrary to your testimony to this Court, it is rather the report from the Forensic Science Laboratory from the Ghana Standard Authority which gave a detailed description of the sample which was received and who submitted it.

 

A: We also have here further description of the sample by describing the solubility, the PH value and the density.

 

Q: You know that that is the description for the test conducted.  The description I am referring you to is the physical description of the substance in the way it was received and even who submitted it. 

 

A: They are different laboratories.  Each lab has its own technical manual and what is expected to be put down.  As per our procedure, we do not put lengthy descriptions; you just put the name in bracket and name of sample and indicate it where it is received from against the source.  

 

Q:So you can’t say by any stretch of imagination that the description in your report is more detailed than the description in the report by the forensic lab of the Ghana Standard Authority.

 

A: It cannot be more detailed than our report.  Referring to Quartey-Papafio’s report, I recall only three parameters; calcium, magnesium and urea as the only parameters tested.  There could be more but this is what I can remember outright.  I am referring to the only three parameters as being inadequate.

 

Q:You do not know the sample which was tested in the Quartey-Papafio’s report.

 

A: It is described here as lithovit.

 

Q: You did not see the sample which was submitted in respect of the Quartey Papafio’s report.

 

A: No I did not see the sample and I have never seen it.

 

Q: You also did not test the Quartey Papafio’s sample.

 

A: No.

 

Q: The sample which was tested by the University of Ghana Chemistry department.  You did not also see that sample.

 

A: No I did not see it.

 

Q: You also did not test that sample.

 

A: No I did not.

 

Q: In fact you do not know the condition under which any of the three samples were before it came to you.  Your department, the one that came to your department, that went to the forensic department and what went to the Chemistry department.

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: Quartey Papafio’s report was approved by Madam Janet Aidoo who was the head of department.  That is correct?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: And the report was forwarded to EOCO by the director testing division, C.E Frimpong.  That is correct?

 

A: No. as per procedure it is not the director that forwards, it is signed and clients collects it at the reception except the client indicated and alternate means of collection

 

Q: But the Quartey Papafio’s was signed by C.E Frimpong, the Director Testing Division.

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: You are not privy to the request that was sent to Ghana Standard Authority by EOCO in respect of the test which resulted in the Quartey Papafio’s report.  That is correct?

 

A: Yes but the same letter given to us was sent to Legon so I guess it would be the same.

 

Q: When you say us what do you mean?

 

A: Material Science Department, GSA.

 

Q: My question is on a request sent to Ghana Standard Authority forensic department you were not privy to any request to that department.  

 

A: No.

 

Q: You were cross-examined on Exhibit H which is the Dr. Yaw Adu Ampomah committee report.  You did not appear before this committee.

 

A: No.

 

Q: Your report as in the report from the Material Science Department was not contained in Exhibit H.

 

A: I have not read the whole report.  I just saw it here.

 

Q: So you are not in a position to pass any judgment on any aspect of Exhibit H because you have not read Exhibit H.

 

A: I disagree because the aspect concerning the job of Ghana Standard Authority contains rules and regulations and you make comments based on specifications in standards

 

Q:Exhibit H did not make any reference to your report.  Are you aware?

 

A: I have not read the whole report.  I cannot comment on it.

 

Q: I am putting it to you that you do not know why the report did not make reference to your report.

 

A: You are telling me now that it is not in the report so I do not know anything about the Dr. Yaw Adu Ampomah’s report until I entered this room.

 

Q: You told the Court that there were Cocobod officials present at the meeting in Honourable Osafo Marfo’s office but you cannot remember those who were present.  That is correct?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: The meeting did not ask any of you scientists to change your report.  That is correct?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: So the report you had before the meeting in Honourable Osafo Marfo’s office is the same as Exhibit 133. That is correct?

 

A: Yes.

 

Q: I am putting it to you that the reports from the forensic Department of the Ghana Standard Authority, the material Science Department of the GSA and the University of Ghana Chemistry Department cannot be described as conflicting because you tested different samples.

 

A: I did not describe it as conflicting but K. K. Amoah of EOCO thought so because he did not understand why the same institution should produce conflicting reports.  That was his statement.

 

Q: But you did not or even now you had no idea what EOCO was investigating. Your department just tested a sample.  That is correct?  

 

A: No we had no idea before the sample came to us.  

 

PROSECUTION: My Lord that will be all for the witness.

Source: Classfmonline.com