Friday, 04 December

Opuni trial: Confusion as AG's 3rd, 6th witnesses disagree on who determines fertiliser type, quantity for purchase

Sixth prosecution witness Peter Osei Amoako (L) and third prosecution witness Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah (R)

The sixth prosecution witness in the ongoing Opuni trial, Mr Peter Osei Amoako, who is the Director of Finance at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), on Tuesday, 17 November 2020, told the court, presided over by Justice C.J. Honyenuga, during cross-examination by Mr Samuel Codjoe, counsel for the first accused person, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, that the type and quantity of fertiliser as well as other agrochemicals (pesticides and fungicides) procured by COCOBOD, are determined by the Chief Executive Officer and not collaboratively decided by user units Cocoa Disease and Pest Control (CODAPEC) and High Technology (Hi-Tech) programmes, in collaboration with the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED), Seed Production Division and Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), as told the court by the state’s third witness, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, in his evidence.

Asked by Mr Codjoe whether or not “before agrochemicals are purchased”, the “user department or unit” sends “the list of the pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers required for a particular year to the Procurement Unit”, which is now a department, Mr Osei Amoako said: “My Lord, the user unit will send their budget to be included in the budget, as part of the consolidated budget and it would be captured in the procurement plan”, adding: “The determination of quantities is not done by the user department”.

Pressed further by Mr Codjoe about whether CODAPEC, Hi-Tech and CHED “meet together to determine the kind and types of fertilisers to be purchased for a cocoa season”, Mr Osei Amoako answered: “No, my Lord”, adding: “CHED is not part of the determination of chemicals and fertilisers budget and quantities”. 

Contrasting Mr Osei Amoako’s evidence on the procurement procedure with that of the state’s third witness, Mr Codjoe put it to the COCOBOD Director of Finance that: “In fact, a former Deputy Chief Executive, in the person of Dr Adu-Ampomah, informed this court that CHED plays a role in the determination of fertilisers and chemicals to be purchased for a cocoa season” and asked the witness: “Do you agree with it?”

“My Lord, I have not heard Dr Adu-Ampomah make that comment”, the witness answered.

When the counsel for Dr Opuni told the witness: “So, I would assume that your answer is no”, Mr Osei Amoako responded: “My Lord, I do not know”, repeating: “I have not heard Dr Adu-Ampomah make that comment”.

The witness, further noted, during the cross-examination, that: “In the procurement plan, we have the total quantities and the values”, stressing: “The initiation of procurement of chemicals and fertilisers for PPA approval is by the Chief Executive”.

After Mr Codjoe confronted the witness with two procurement contracts, one of which Mr Osei Amoako admitted to having witnessed, which had Hi-Tech, as part of the folio number, the AG’s witness stood his ground saying it did not mean the quantity procured was determined by the user unit.

“My Lord, it is not”, he said, explaining: “The reference here is a reference by the procurement unit”, which, according to him, is for the purposes of creating a file for each contract per PPA regulations. “The number indicated here does not suggest the determination of quantities by Hi-Tech”.

Concerning the second contract, Mr Osei Amoako told the court that the signature of the witness on the document was not his.

Dr Opuni’s lawyer then put it to the witness that at COCOBOD, “before fertilisers are purchased, the user units and not the Chief Executive” indicate “the kind and types of fertiliser between 2014 and 2016”, to which Dr Osei Amoako said: “My Lord, I disagree”, emphasising: “My Lord, the procurement process for chemicals and fertilisers is determined and approved by the Chief Executive”.

Mr Codjoe then challenged him on that once again with contrary evidence from the state’s third witness, saying: “In fact, contrary to what you just said, Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is a two-time Deputy CE, in his evidence on the 7th day of November 2019, before this court, in an answer to a question on page 4 of the proceedings, agreed that it is the CODAPEC, Hi-Tech and CHED, together with his answer that the Seed Production Division and CRIG, are the units, which specified the quantities of fertilisers required for a year”.

Mr Osei Amoako retorted: “My Lord, I do not know the Seed Production Unit, CHED and CRIG being part of the determination of quantities to be procured for CODAPEC and Hi-Tech. My Lord, I have said that the unit will submit their budget – that is CODAPEC and Hi-Tech. The determination of quantities to be purchased is by the Chief Executive”.

On a different subject matter, Mr Osei Amoako, who had told the court earlier that he had held his position for four years was compelled, during Tuesday’s cross-examination by Mr Codjoe, to clarify that he was appointed as the substantive Director of Finance in September 2017 after having acted in that capacity from January 2017 until his confirmation.  

“My Lord, I was appointed in January 2017 to act as the Director of Finance and confirmed in September 2017”, he said.

Mr Codjoe then put it to the witness: “So that when you informed this court that you were appointed as Director of Finance for four years; that could not be true”.

Mr Osei Amoako answered: “Yes, my Lord. My Lord, as I said, I was appointed to act in 2017, January. At the time I was appointed, there was no substantive Director of Finance because the Director of Finance at the time was on retirement, serving on a contract, which was terminated. My Lord, I was not acting for anybody. At that time, there was no substantive [Director of Finance]”.

Confronted by Mr Codjoe that “all documents you signed prior to September 2017 had your proper designation as acting Director of Finance and not Director of Finance”, Mr Osei Amoako replied: “Yes, my Lord”.

“And I’m putting it to you that you deliberately misled this court by claiming to have been in the position of Director of Finance for four years”, counsel for the first accused person further put it to the witness, to which he responded: “No, my Lord”.

This is not the first time Mr Osei Amoako has contradicted the evidence provided by the state’s third witness.

About two weeks ago, Mr Osei Amoako refuted the long-held position of Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is also the special advisor to the Minister of Agriculture that COCOBOD engages in competitive bidding in the procurement of fertilisers.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, in his testimony before the court, noted that COCOBOD does not usually engage in sole-sourcing but advertises to get companies to supply it with fertilisers, a claim which was slammed by Mr Codjoe.

Dr Adu-Ampomah crumbled under cross-examination as Mr Codjoe cited numerous instances where COCOBOD sole-sourced fertilisers.

In his evidence-in-chief, Mr Osei Amoako noted that in the case of fertiliser procurement, the Chief Executive of COCOBOD writes to the Public Procurement Authority to request permission to sole-source the fertiliser it needs for a given crop year.

He said: “In the case of fertiliser, although fertiliser goes through the same budgetary processes before it is procured, it has to be tested for a minimum of two years at CRIG. Once it goes through the testing regime, a report is issued by CRIG and forwarded to the Chief Executive for approval.  Once the report is approved, CRIG issues a certificate to the supplier valid for one year. Once these processes have been completed, COCOBOD will now consider that particular fertiliser as part of the list of fertilisers to be procured.

“Based on this arrangement, suppliers will be requested to submit quotations. The Chief Executive will now send a letter to PPA to sole-source those fertilisers.

“Once approval is granted, notification of approval is issued to the suppliers. The suppliers will then submit performance guarantees. The guarantees are vetted and Okayed by the legal department. Now, contracts are established between COCOBOD and the supplier”, he explained.

The case has been adjourned to Thursday, 19 November 2020 at 10:30 am for continuation.