‘Opuni Didn’t Follow Due Process In Awarding Contract To AGRICULT’

Dr. Stephen Opuni

Dr. Adu-Ampomah, the third witness for the State in the criminal trial of former Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Kwabena Opuni and Seidu Agongo, has said the COCOBOD CEO, did not follow due process in awarding the contract to AGRICULT.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah made this known while being cross-examined.

He made it clear that Dr. Opuni did not follow due process contrary to claims by his lawyer that the award of contracts to Agricult Ghana Limited was in line with the normal procurement practices at the Ghana Cocoa Board.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who has extensive knowledge of the operations of COCOBOD, having served as its Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, told the court that COCOBOD consults the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) on all procurement of agrochemicals – fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and fungicides – whether the agrochemicals would be acquired through open competitive bidding, restricted competitive bidding or sole-sourcing.

According to him, however, in the instance where, as Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr Opuni in March of 2014 awarded a contract to Agricult Ghana Limited for the purchase of fertilizer, and failed to follow the right procurement processes.

“Dr Opuni wrote to Agricult Ghana Limited to ask for a quote of the price of 700,000 litters of Lithovit liquid fertilizer on 25th February 2014, and then the next day, which is on the 26th, Agricult quoted USD $27.5 per litre, and then on 5th March 2014, the contract was awarded to Agricult,” Dr Adu-Ampomah said.

The cost of the 700,000 litres supply of the fertilizer was USD $19.250 million.

COCOBOD, he said, does not “sit somewhere” for companies to quote the prices they want to sell products to COCOBOD, and for them to just accept and immediately award them contracts.

What normally happens instead, Dr Adu-Ampomah explained, is that when companies submit bids, COCOBOD’s entity tender committee will be constituted to review the applications. The committee is chaired by the Chief Executive with members qqfrom other user departments, from procurement, and legal as well.

After a review of the application documents, the committee writes a report and submit it to the PPA with details of how the process was carried out. Upon PPA’s approval of a bid, a contract is awarded for the supply of the products.

In some cases, he added, the entity tender committee enters into negotiations with the companies, to ensure that the best price and good value for money is attained before contracts are award with approval at all times from the PPA.

None of these happened in Dr Opuni’s award of a contract sum of USD $19.250 million to Agricult Ghana Limited.

Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and Mr Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited are on trial due to the USD $19.250 million fertilizer contract and other similar contracts.

They allegedly engaged in acts that incurred a financial loss of GH¢271.3m in a series of fertilizer deals.

The charges brought against them by the Attorney General also include defrauding by false pretences, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and acting in contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

The two men face years in prison if found guilty.

BY Melvin Tarlue