Thursday, 30 May

It's a fallacy that the amount of any fertiliser used equates yield – COCOBOD’s RM&E Dir. pooh-poohs prosecution's attempt to downplay Lithovit's efficacy

General News
Litovit fertilizer

The Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at COCOBOD, Dr. Francis Baah has dismantled the prosecution’s claims that the application of Lithovit liquid fertiliser failed to add a significant increase to cocoa production in the 2013/14 and 2015/16 seasons.

The Research, Monitoring and Evaluation Director on Tuesday, April 16, 2024, offered further education to the Accra High Court on why the claims by the state can not stand. 

Dr. Baah has, in the previous sittings, told the court that he is “not aware of such study” conducted in the past by COCOBOD on the effect of Lithovit liquid fertiliser or any other fertiliser on the production of cocoa in any particular production year from 2013/2014 cocoa season till date.

The Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at COCOBOD has been giving evidence in court in relation to the trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo who are facing various charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

Dr. Francis Baah, giving evidence under cross-examination led by counsel for Dr. Opuni, Mr Samuel Codjoe, told the court that it would be a fallacy for the prosecution or their witnesses to suggest that the rise or fall in yield can be attributed to a particular fertiliser.

Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, had, on March 20, 2024, reminded the court that what prosecution was concerned is the fact that there was no significant increase in cocoa yield during the period COCOBOD spent millions on Lithovit liquid fertiliser.

Mr Codjoe on April 16, therefore, asked the witness, “The prosecution in their opening statement and in the fact, stated even though COCOBOD has spent huge sum of money to purchase Lithovit liquid fertiliser in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 cocoa seasons, there wasn't any appreciable increase in cocoa production, and this was a loss, are you aware of that.”

Dr. Francis Baah answered in the negative, “My Lord, I'm not aware.”

The witness, previously worked at CRIG cumulatively for over 23 years, and was also the Executive Director of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, as well as Office Manager at the Office of the Chief Executive serving during the era of Mr. Anthony Fofie and in the early stage of Dr. Stephen Opuni.

“As a staffer and expert in the production of cocoa, I'm putting it to you that is a wrongful statement to state that Lithovit liquid fertiliser purchased in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 on its own, as a stand-alone, did not have any impact on the production of cocoa for these years,” Mr Codjoe told the witness.

Dr. Baah, in his response, pointed out, “My lord, I will not go the tangent to explain the relationship between fertiliser and yield as PW3 [Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah] has said. The fact of the matter is that, my Lord, fertiliser application impinges on output or production moderated by factors such as the nature of the cocoa trees, critically the weather, pest incidents, and diseased pressures. 

“My Lord, these are the factors that moderate the effect of fertiliser on cocoa yield. So, my Lord, I would not subscribe to any assertion that any fertiliser or group of fertilisers equates to the yield, that is a fallacy.”

Meanwhile, the Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation has been unpacking in court identical documents ripping apart charges borderinglfl on breach of the procurement act.

These documents exposed the fact that other companies went through the same procurement processes as the third accused, Agricult Ghana Limited, but were never prosecuted.

It was revealed in court that the purchase of fertilisers such as lithovit by Agricult, cocomaster from Louis Dreyfus, Cocofeed by Chemico, and Sidalco 10:10:10 were prepared on the same date with one letter covering all of them. 

This, therefore, begs the question as to why one of the companies was singled out for prosecution for breaching the procurement act, when in fact it was treated the same way together other companies.

Dr. Francis Baah confirmed in court that apart from information as to the price, the type of fertilisers and the quantities, the information on all the documents on these fertilisers which are in exhibits are identical, including even the font size and the page numbering.

“Can you confirm that this particular fertiliser, cocoamaster, is the subject matter of Exhibit L, which is the letter dated 16th of February to cabinet for approval. Exhibit M, which is a letter dated 13th February 2014 to the minister of finance for approval, exhibit N which is the letter from COCOBOD seeking approval from PPA, exhibit P which is the PPA letter seeking further information before approval and exhibit Q which is the value for money analysis explanation letter from COCOBOD dated 25th February 2014,” the witness was asked about one of the fertilisers and his response was, “Yes my Lord”.

Counsel further asked the witness, “Having worked in the chief executive's office as the office manager during the tenure of the predecessor to the first accused and the first accused, you are aware that contracts of this nature executed by COCOBOD are rightful and legitimate contracts after due process have been observed, that is so?”

Dr. Francis Baah reiterated, “Yes my Lord, that is so”.