Twist In Opuni’s Trial

Dr. Stephen Opuni

An Accra High Court hearing the case of former Chief Executive Officer of a Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Stephen Opuni, charged with causing financial loss to the state has been told that the current COCOBOD administration did not err in purchasing fertilizer through single source procurement.

According to a former Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD, Dr. Adu-Ampoma, unlike Lithovit fertilizer which did not go through the full cycle of testing, the trials that led to the purchase of Cocoa Nti fertilizer went through all the testing protocols at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) before approval was given for the transaction.

He said during cross examination in the trial of Dr. Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo who are charged with causing financial loss of over GH¢271 million to the state that the trials for Cocoa Nti Fertilizer were conducted on farms in two consecutive seasons – 2016/17 and 2017/18 and at nine different locations.

Lawyers for Dr. Opuni suggested to the witness that COCOBOD also purchased fertilizer (Cocoa Nti) through single source similar to what Dr. Opuni is being accused of during his tenure but the witness said Cocoa Nti went through all testing protocols at CRIG while Lithovit supplied by Mr. Agongo’s company during Dr Opuni’s tenure did not.

The lawyer asked the witness if COCOBOD in its letter to PPA seeking approval had stated that farmers preferred Cocoa Nti fertilizer and he answered in the affirmative.

Lawyer: On the 5th of March 2018 COCOBOD by a letter applied for single source to purchase Cocoa Nti fertilizer and added that farmers preferred Cocoa Nti. Isn’t it?

Witness: Yes, my lord. But as I said if you look at the report you will see that the field test had been conducted on farmers’ farms in the Central, Western, Eastern, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions.  And as I’ve previously said during trial, neighbouring farmers had seen the impact of this fertilizer

Lawyer: When were these tests done on Cocoa Nti from the scientific report?

Witness: It says the trials were conducted on farmers’ farms in two consecutive seasons (2016/17 and 2017/18 at nine locations).

More Documents

In the course of the trial, the prosecution provided Dr. Opuni with a number of documents he insisted were crucial to his defence.

The documents include letter written by COCOBOD seeking approval for the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) to sole source fertilizers for use by farmers.

Others include approval letter by PPA granting COCOBOD permission to go ahead to purchase the fertilizers through single source.

The court had to adjourn its previous sitting due to the insistence of Dr. Opuni’s lawyer that he could not continue his cross examination of the state’s third witness if he is not provided with the documents.

Cross Examination

The lawyer finally resumed his cross examination of the witness Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampoma, insisting that contrary to the evidence-in-chief that adverts are placed in terms of purchase of fertilizers this has never happened in the history of COCOBOD in respect of purchase of agrochemicals.

“No my lord; in some instances adverts are placed in the papers. In some other times due to the peculiar nature of some chemicals they are not but in general terms you are supposed to do. But sometimes if it is explained to PPA it could be allowed without placing adverts in the papers,” the witness responded.

Hearing continues on July 10.

BY Gibril Abdul Razak