By Bernice Bessey
The Special Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, has told an Accra High Court that the former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, purchased 700,000 litres of lithrovit at the cost of over US$19 million.
According to Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who is the third prosecution witness (PW3) in the ongoing trial, in the court presided by a Court of Appeal Judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, yesterday, that the liquid product that cost so much was supposed to be powdery.
Per his submission to the court, the fertiliser did not meet the full cycle of testing period stipulated by the Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG)
Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah was led by the Senior State Attorney, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, to give his witness, and the following was how he was examined:
- Can you please give your full name to the court?
- Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah.
- What work do you do?
- I am presently the Special Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture.
- Dr Adu-Ampomah, can you tell the court when you became Special Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture?
- I became the Special Advisor on October 1, 2017.
- Before you became the Special Advisor for the Minister for Agriculture, what were you doing?
- I finished university in 1976 and did my National Service with the Ministry of Agriculture in Kumasi for one year. Then in 1977, I was employed by Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG) as a Research Scientist. I worked there and rose through the ranks to become the Chief Research Officer and also appointed Executive Director in 2006 to 2009.
From 2009 to 2013, I was appointed the Deputy CEO of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control (A&QC). I retired in 2013, and thereafter, I was consulting for various NGOs supported by the Dutch and American governments to help improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers. Getting to the end of 2016 and after, I was invited to be a member of [the] transitional team that was looking into the activities of COCOBOD; specifically I was the head of the group that was looking into cocoa issues.
In early 2017, I was appointed the deputy CEO of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy to the end of September 2018, when I was reassigned to the Ministry of Agriculture as Special Advisor on cocoa affairs.
- Dr Adu-Ampomah, can you tell the court what your qualifications are?
- I have a BSC degree from the University of Ghana in 1976 in Crop Science. I have PhD degree from the University of Huma, UK, in Plant Biology, Specialist in Biochemical Genetics.
- Can you tell specifically what your position was in 2013?
- I was the Deputy CEO of A&QC until September 2013.
- Dr Adu-Ampomah, as somebody who has occupied the position of Deputy CEO for A&QC, can you tell the court briefly what the work of the deputy CEO of A&QC entails?
- Deputy CEO is the chief advisor to [the] CEO on matters relating to cocoa production, research and quality, and sometimes when the CEO is not around, acts on his behalf.
- Can you tell the court what the general procedure is at COCOBOD when the Board wants to purchase agrochemicals or fertilisers?
- The User Division will make a request to the CEO, and when it is ruled in the budget, the CEO will instruct the Procurement Department to place advertisements in the papers, and the advertisements will specify the product required and what the company should provide to support their bidding documents to supply the products…fax payment documents, certificate from EPA, and a valid certificate from CRIG.
After the companies have submitted their bidding documents, an entity tender committee is constituted to review the application. The tender committee is chaired by [the] CEO with other members that may include the directors from the User Division, Procurement Department and Legal Department. After reviewing the bidding documents, the committee will write a report and submit it to the Public Prosecution Authority, detailing out how the process was carried out and the winning bidder. When the Public Procurement Authority approves it, then [the] bidding company is awarded the contract.
- You mentioned a valid certificate from CRIG as one of the required documents. Can you tell the court why that certificate is required?
- Cocoa, as a food item, it is important that any product that is applied to the cocoa doesn’t affect the quality. Also when a product is applied to the cocoa plant it should be efficacious, so that the product increases yield when applied, or if it is to control diseases or pests, it should be able to do so when applied.
And for that reason, COCOBOD, together with CRIG, came out with a protocol to ascertain the effectiveness of these agrochemicals, and it’s CRIG that is tasked to test the agrochemicals, after which they will issue a certificate to the company, saying that the product can be used on cocoa, and the company will be charged by CRIG for doing that, and the certificate is valid for one year. And it is renewable in subsequent years when CRIG ascertains that the use of the products in the previous years was good and okay, and it is on that basis the second year certificate will also be issued for subsequent years to come.
- Dr Adu Ampomah, can you tell the court whether you know first accused person, Dr Stephen Opuni?
- Yes, I know Dr Stephen Opuni during when I was the Deputy CEO for A&QC, from 2009 to 2013, during which time he was at the Food and Drugs Authority. They submitted a proposal to COCOBOD, together with EPA and Ghana Standards Authority, to test the chemicals on cocoa. The proposal was referred to me at that time by my boss to review and recommend and approve, and that was the first I met Dr Opuni in my boss’ office. Then, subsequently, when he became CEO of Ghana COCOBOD and anytime I attended meetings with regards to the Dutch and American funded NGOs I meet him. And, also during the transition I met him.
- Can you tell the court whether you know the second accused, Seidu Agongo?
- In 2017, when I was once again Deputy CEO of A&QC and management was reviewing some anomalies in the procurement of agrochemicals by the previous management of COCOBOD. We realised some of the agrochemicals had not gone through the full cycle of testing, however, these products were in the process of being certified by the previous management, and we thought their efficacy could be compromised. So we invited the companies affected for discussions on the issues, it was then that Mr Seidu Agongo came to me that he was Managing Director for three of the companies, and that was how I got to know him.
- Can you tell the court whether you know Agricult Ghana Limited?
- In May 10, 2013, when I was the Deputy CEO at COCOBOD, Agricult Ghana Limited submitted a sample of fertiliser to my office, together with a letter and a Material Data Sheet stating that they wanted the product to be tested on cocoa by CRIG. So I wrote a letter to CRIG.
- Dr Ampomah, what type of fertiliser did Agricult Ghana Limited submit?
- The Material Data Sheet, which was accompanying the letter, is from the original manufacturer and stated that it is Lithrovit Fertiliser and it is powdery.
- How was the Lithrovit Fertiliser submitted?
- The fertiliser was in a parcel with a letter from the supplier, stating that the material had been tested.
- Who was the letter from Agricult addressed to?
- It was addressed to the Deputy CEO of A&QC.
- Who was the Deputy CEO of A&QC?
- I was the Deputy CEO of A&QC.
- Have a look at this document and tell the court what you have in your hands?
- It a copy of a letter signed by Seidu Agongo, CEO of Agricult, dated May 10, 2013.
- Dr Adu-Ampomah, do you know of where the original of this document is?
- No. We have being searching for it at the Deputy CEO’s office, and we never found the original copy
- My lord, we wish to tender this document.
Cudjoe, Counsel for 1st accused: We have no objection.
Representative of defence counsel for 2nd accused for Benson Nutsukpui: We have an objection. By the copy handed to us it is supposed to be a certified true copy, which is supposed to be the existence of the original. My lord, the witness said they searched, but couldn’t find the document, and doesn’t know where the original is, yet it is clearly embossed here that this certification is from the original. My lord, the least the prosecutor can do for the man is to explain who it was addressed to and… My lord, when they produce the man who certified it, we will not have any objection…
Prosecutor: My lord, our response is that the witness has identified the document as the document he received from Agricult Ghana Limited. He has told the court that the original cannot be found. My lord, under the evidence Act, especially166 &167, my lord, Counsel has not even raised the issue of authenticity of the document, whether it was properly authenticated as a certified true copy from COCOBOD. And, my lord, there is no question raised about authenticity.
My lord the witness has said the original cannot be found; this is the true copy of the original authenticated by the custodian of the document. The witness, who received the document, has identified on oath and there can be no better authentication than that. My lord, our last point is that the document is relevant. Section 51(2) of the Evidence Act and the Lee is no issue of prejudicial effect, which have been raised by counsel. It is proper for this court to admit this document, and it is a true copy of the original, and it’s properly authenticated.