Monday, 06 July

Opuni trial: AG’s witness runs from own evidence

General News
The state’s third prosecution witness, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who has been testifying against the former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo – who are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of GHS271.3 million to the state through the alleged distribution of ‘substandard fertiliser’ to cocoa farmers – recoiled under cross-examination on Wednesday as he shied away from some claims he made during his evidence-in-chief that contracts between COCOBOD and Agricult Ghana Limited from 2014 to 2016 were investigated by a committee he headed.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who has contradicted himself in court on some occasions, especially on sole-sourcing, was categorical in his evidence-in-chief on 20 May 2019, by specifying three different contracts he claimed COCOBOD, under the first accused (Dr Opuni), awarded to Agricult Ghana Limited, the third accused, to supply Lithovit Liquid fertiliser.

However, during Wednesday’s cross-examination by Mr Samuel Cudjoe, who is Dr Opuni’s lawyer, Dr Adu-Ampomah denied that COCOBOD investigated documents on the contracts from 2014 to 2016.

This is what he said during the evidence-in-chief in May about the outcome of his committee’s “preliminary enquiry” into COCOBOD’s affairs: “On the 5th of March 2014, Cocobod awarded a contract to Agricult Ghana Ltd to supply 700,000 litres of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser at a total cost of US$19,250,000. Then in 2015, the Chief Executive also awarded a contract to Agricult Ghana Ltd. to supply 1,000,000 litres of the Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser at a total cost of US$27,500,000 and then in 2016, the Chief Executive also ordered from Agricult 700,000 litres of Lithovit Fertiliser at a total cost of US$19,250,000 and then in end of 2016 had also ordered 1,000,000 litres of the Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser from the same company at a total cost of US$27,500,000 but there was no record at Cocobod indicating that any of such Liquid Lithovit Fertiliser had been tested by CRIG; that is why we requested for the MSDS.”

However, when Mr Cudjoe put it to Dr Adu-Ampomah in court on 10 July that: “Dr, during your investigation into Lithovit, you also investigated the contracts concerning Lithovit from 2014 to 2016”, the state’s witness answered: “No, my Lord; that is why the committee stated that the matter should further be investigated.”

He was further asked: “But Dr, in fact, you did see the contracts that is why you said a contract was awarded on the 5th of March 2014.”

The witness responded: “Yes, my lord, I saw the first contract”.

“On the 20th of May 2018 of your further evidence-in-chief, you stated: ‘Then on 5th of March 2014 the CEO of COCOBOD ordered Lithovit to supply…’ as you did in your evidence-in-chief; you definitely would have seen the contracts,” he was asked.

“Yes, my Lord, but the question was: ‘Did we investigate the contract?’, and I said no,” Dr Adu-Ampomah replied.

On 14 May 2019, in his evidence-in-chief, the prosecution asked Dr Adu-Ampomah to “tell the court what you did when you saw all these [anomalies in the award of the contracts] at the transition”.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is a former Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, told the court at the time: “We asked the new management to investigate the anomalies in the testing and procuring of Lithovit fertiliser. So, when the new management took over, we started preliminary investigation.”

He was, therefore, asked by the prosecution: “How the preliminary investigation was done and what happened”, to which he replied: “First, we looked for report from CRIG on Lithovit. We found that there was a report submitted to COCOBOD by three scientists called Dr Arthur, Mr Dogbatse and A.A. Afrifa and the report stated that the Litovit fertiliser which was grayish powder has been tested on two-week-old cocoa seedlings.”

During Wednesday’s hearing, however, when the prosecution witness was told by Mr Cudjoe that: “If you saw the contracts, then you would know that all the contracts were sole-sourced”, his answer was: “My lord, we didn’t investigate the contracts; that is why we referred to the state security agency”.

Meanwhile, attempt by the counsel for the accused to tender in evidence an official letter from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) was rejected by the court.

The document, titled: “Renewal of CRIG certificate for pesticides, fertilisers and spraying machines for January to December 2015” was signed by the then-Deputy Executive Director of CRIG, Dr Opoku Ameyaw, who also doubled as the Chairman of the Committee for the Testing of Chemicals And Machinery (CTCM).

The letter was addressed to Agricult Ghana Limited, asking it to pay for the reassessment and evaluation of “Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser”.

Although Dr Adu-Ampomah told the court the document was signed by Dr Opoku Ameyaw, the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga ruled among others that in laying his foundation to tender the document, Mr Cudjoe should have asked the witness if he was “familiar with the signature” of Dr Opoku Ameyaw, who is on retirement.

Below are excerpts from Wednesday’s hearing:

Q: So, if CRIG was under you and Dr Amoah was the executive director, then you would have known Dr Opoku Ameyaw was his deputy director.

Ans: Yes, my Lord.

Q: Can you have a look at the letter? The letter is copied to whom?

Ans: It is copied to the CEO, deputy CEO and deputy CEO F and A and deputy CEO ops.

Q: Dr, on this letter, which you addressed to the executive director, which was Dr Amoah, isn’t it?

Ans: Yes, my Lord.

Q: There is a minute, too; what does it say?

Ans: Chairman, CTCM [Committee for the Testing of Chemicals And Machinery] referred for your necessary action.

Q: What is the meaning of the minute?

Ans: It means the committee should work on it.

Q: When you came to occupy the position of deputy CEO A and, QC, Dr Opoku Ameyaw was no more at CRIG, isn’t it?

Ans: My Lord, I can’t recollect but it is possible.

Q: But at the time you were conducting your investigation during the transition and also when you took over as deputy CEO A and QC, Dr Opuku Ameyaw was not at CRIG.

Ans: My Lord, as I said, I can’t recollect.

Q: But when you assumed your position in 2017, of course, as the supervising head of CRIG, you held meetings with the very top directors.

Ans: The directors, yes but not deputy directors.

Q: When you were the deputy CEO in 2017, who were the deputy directors at CRIG?

Ans: My Lord, there was Rev. Dr Odoi as one of the deputy directors and if my memory serves me right, there was vacancy in the second position.

Q: And the time you assumed in 2017, Dr Odoi was the chairman of the CTCM? isn’t it?

Ans: No, my lord. I wouldn’t know.

Q: Dr, so, when you conducted all your investigation on some agro-based chemicals and fertilisers, you never deemed it fit to know the chairman of the CTCM?

Ans: My lord, the chairman of the CTCM is not a permanent position. It is appointed by the discretion of the executive director and need not involve Cocobod.

Q: If you investigated agrochemicals and fertiliser, then the CTCM, which is the body which supervises the testing of agrochemicals and fertiliser should definitely have been of interest to you.

Ans: No, my lord. The investigative committee didn’t find it necessary.

Q: At least, Dr, when you were conducting your investigation, exhibit A, which is a letter you wrote forwarding Lithovit was a document you had to consider.

Ans: Yes, my Lord.

Q: And, in fact, in your evidence-in-chief, you said the letter was written by COCOBOD through you.

Ans: Yes, my lord.

Q: So, in your investigation, you saw exhibit A.

Ans: Yes, my Lord.

Q: So, if you saw exhibit A, then you would definitely have seen referred to chairman of CTCM.

Ans: Yes, my Lord.

Q: Dr, you definitely have seen that the Lithovit was minuted to the head of soil science division. Which also minuted it to Dr Alfred Arthur, isn’t it?

Ans: My lord, on this exhibit, yes, it has been referred to the soil science and also to various people whose name I can’t recap.

Q: Dr, should I take it that it is only today that you have seen this writing in spite of the fact that you conducted investigation on Lithovit.

Ans: My lord, no, but the committee was interested in knowing whether the letter written on 15th of May to CRIG was worked on by the appropriate people and the minutes here show that the right people were made to work on it.

Q: Dr, you invited Dr Amoah, who, this letter was addressed to the Adu-Ampomah committee, isn’t it?

Ans: Yes, my lord.

Q: You also invited Dr Akrofi who also appeared before the committee. He is number three on the list.

Ans: Yes, my lord.

Q: You also invited number four, the head of soil science division who was Mr. A. A Afrifa, isn’t it?

Ans: Yes, my lord.

Q: And number five is Dr Arthur which your committee stated worked on the product.

Ans: Yes, my lord.

Q: But you didn’t invite the chairman of the CTCM who is number two and executive director.

Ans: No, my lord, the committee did not find it necessary to invite the chairman of the CTCM. Mr Akrofi was not invited because of Lithovit. The committee called scientists who worked on Lithovit but Mr Akrofi appeared before the committee on a different product, precisely fungicides, which he has worked on

Q: Dr, if you say the committee didn’t find it necessary to invite the chairman of the CTCM who is minuted as number two on the letter, you, as a committee, would ask for the identity of the chairman of the CTCM.

Ans: My lord, the committee was interested in the scientists who worked on the product.

Q: Did Dr Amoah work on Lithovit?

Ans: No, my lord; he didn’t work on it but he was the director who the final report was minuted to.

Q: Dr, if, as you claimed that your investigation also concerned the renewal of the certificate of Lithovit after 2014, you would have definitely called for all files on renewal of Lithovit.

Ans: No, the committee didn’t see the need to call for files, the committee called for the certificate.

Q: Don’t you think it is very basic and elementary to be aware that renewal is done yearly.

Ans: My lord, the MSDS accompanying the first sample that was sent to CRIG revered that the product was powder and also the evaluation report also indicated that it was powder whereas there was no report indicating that it was liquid and, so, there was no need for renewal letter.

Q: So, do I understand you to mean the committee didn’t call for any renewal letters from 2014 to 2016?

Ans: No, my lord, there was no need because no report has indicated there was any liquid product.

Q: Don’t you think you would have done extensive and thorough investigation if you had asked for basic and fundamental documents on Lithovit for 2014, 2015 and 2016 when you believed the renewal was wrongful.

Ans: My lord, the committee thought that the MSDS and the evaluation report was the most important which these two have shown the product was powder from the first sample that was sent.

Q: In fact, Dr, if you had requested for all correspondence concerning Lithovit, you would have known that in CRIG, they asked for the renewal of Lithovit Liquid fertiliser.

Ans: My lord, the committee did not want to go into a wild goose chase because there was no document to show that CRIG can ever work on Lithovit Liquid fertiliser.

Q: Dr, contrary to your theory of wild goose chase, the directors of CRIG and CHED which are all divisions of COCOBOD which was under you have filed documents on 11th June 2018 addressed to third accused asking it to pay for the reassessment and evaluation of litovit liquid fertiliser.

Ans: No, my lord, the committee found that the first product that was sent to CRIG was powder as shown on the MSDS and evaluation report that formed the basis of the first certificate of which all other certificate will be based on the first sample. The product was powder from beginning, so there was no need.

(Cross-examination continues)

Q: In exhibit 33 and 34, they all state that the contracts were sole-sourced.

Ans: My lord, I have said over and over again that some of the chemicals are through sole-sourcing because of technical reason.

Q: If you look at the last page of exhibit 34, Louis Dreyfus stated that they acknowledged receipt of request of quotation.

Ans: My lord, as I said we convinced PPA that due to technical reasons we need it.

Q: Dr, do you say COCOBOD writes to PPA before sole-sourcing chemicals and executing same?

Ans: Yes, my lord.

The case has been adjourned to 17th July for continuation.


Source: Patrick Ayumu