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Agongo’s fertiliser was of inferior quality -Witness

botchway May 21, 2019

 

By Bernice Bessey

Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, third Prosecution Witness (PW3), has told an Accra High Court that the liquid fertiliser supplied by Agricult Ghana Limited during the time Dr Stephen K. Opuni, was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) at the cost of US$19,250,000 was below standard.

According to him, the Lithrovit Foliar Fertiliser, which was supposed to be in powder form but ended up as liquid, was revealed as being of inferior quality during tests run separately by the University of Ghana Chemistry Department and Ghana Standards Authority (GSA), which institutions concluded that the active ingredients in the liquid product do not qualify it as fertiliser.

Dr Adu-Ampomah told the court, presided over Justice Clemence Honyenuga yesterday, that earlier, the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) accompanying the powdery substance, listed the active chemical ingredients in the product as 84.5% of Calcium Carbonate and 4.6% of Magnesium Carbonate, but the liquid had 0.0002% and 0.0002% respectively.

This, the two institutions concluded, was that the ingredients in the product were insignificant to be applied to mature cocoa to enable the country derive its benefits.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, once Deputy CEO of COCOBOD, Agronomy and Quality Control (A&QC), but now Special Advisor on Cocoa Affairs to the Minister for Agriculture, stated that the two entities had established that the amount of the two active ingredients present in the product were insignificant, and the product can’t be applied on mature cocoa to increase yield as expected.

He said the test result from UG’s Chemistry Department further concluded that the supposed liquid fertiliser can neither be classified as fertiliser nor fungicide, hence, can’t be applied on mature cocoa trees to increase yield.

The Special Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture was led to give his testimony in court by the state prosecutors, Mrs Evelyn Keelson and Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisam, and the following was how he gave his evidence:

  1. Dr Adu Ampomah, at the last sitting, you told the court that as part of the preliminary enquiry conducted at COCOBOD, you requested for a copy of the MSDS on the Lithovit Fertiliser. Can you tell the court what happened after your request?
  2. After the request, the MSDS was forwarded to me with a letter signed by Mr Alex Afrifa on behalf of the Executive Director of [the] Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
  3. Can you tell the court why you requested for the MSDS?
  4. We requested for the MSDS because the report that had been submitted described the product as greyish powder, but documents at COCOBOD indicated that barely 9 months after submission of the product for testing, specifically on the 25th of February 2014, the Chief Executive of COCOBOD had written a letter to ask the company to supply 700,000 litres of liquid Lithovit Fertiliser, and on the next day, 26th of February 2014, Agricult had quoted in a letter to COCOBOD that a litre of the Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser was $27.50.

On March 5, 2014, COCOBOD awarded the contract to Agricult to supply 700,000 litres of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser at a total cost of $19,250,000. Then, in 2015, the Chief Executive also awarded a contract to Agricult to supply one million litres of the Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser at a total cost of $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 $19,250,000, and then in 2016, end of 2016, he also ordered 1 million litres of the Lithovit Fertiliser from the same company at a total cost of $27,500,000. This is but the whole record at COCOBOD, indicating that any of such Liquid Lithovit Fertiliser has been tested by CRIG. That is why we requested for the MSDS.

  1. Dr Adu Ampomah, after you received the MSDS, what happened?
  2. We reviewed the MSDS, and the information on it was that the Lithovit Fertiliser was powdery and grey, and also it had two active ingredients, Calcium Carbonate at 84.5%, and Magnesium at 4.6%. That is what we read from the MSDS.
  3. Can you tell the court the significance of this information in the MSDS?
  4. The MSDS from the original manufacturer of the product gives details of what the product can do, its chemical composition, mode of application, mode of action, and the physical status of the product, and type of plants that the product can be applied to.
  5. Dr Adu Ampomah, so after reviewing the MSDS, tell the court what happened?
  6. Because of the anomalies observed, we reported the matter to EOCO and also wrote to Agricult Ghana Limited to suspend the supply of the 2016 contract awarded to him, pending investigations. We also wrote queries to the scientists who were involved in the testing of the chemical.

Whilst EOCO was conducting the investigation, they approached COCOBOD to give them samples of the liquid fertiliser. We asked them to go to our warehouse to collect a carton of the product, together with a covering letter. EOCO sent the sample to Ghana Standards Authority and the University of Ghana Chemistry Department for testing

  1. After the testing, what happened?
  2. EOCO provided COCOBOD copies of the test results from the two entities. The GSA report stated that… (2nd & 3rd accuse interjected).

Benson Nutsupkui raised an objection saying that the witness cannot quote the report, since the report is not in evidence.

Mrs Keelson responds: The witness is referring to information which came to his knowledge. I agree it is hearsay, but our response is that it is admissible under the hearsay rules under section 118 b(ii) of the Evidence Act. The declarants will appear in this court to testify. We have already disclosed their reports and they are part of the documents we will be relying on in this court.

Presiding Judge: By court, having heard arguments both for and against, it is my candid opinion that section 118(1)(b) and 2(ii) of the Evidence Act is clear on the matter. The necessary information to be provided has been done, and on that score, I over-rule the objection and allow the witness to continue with his evidence.

  1. Dr Adu Ampomah, you were telling the court the information you received on the test conducted on the Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser by the GSA and the University of Ghana Chemistry Department.
  2. The GSA report stated that the Calcium Carbonate present in the liquid fertiliser was 0.0002% as against the 84.5% in the MSDS. The Magnesium Carbonate was still at 0.0002% as against 4.6% in the MSDS. And they concluded that the product cannot be classified as fertiliser or fungicide, and cannot be applied on mature cocoa to increase yield. The UG report from the Chemistry Department also concluded that the amount of the two active ingredients present in the product was insignificant, and that the product cannot be applied on mature cocoa to increase yield.
  3. What did COCOBOD do after receiving this information?
  4. COCOBOD, in October 2017, constituted an investigation/disciplinary committee.
  5. What was the mandate of this committee?
  6. To investigate the anomalies that had occurred at CRIG during the testing of agrochemicals, and make recommendations.
  7. What were these agrochemicals?
  8. These agrochemicals were fertilisers, fungicides and insecticides.
  9. Can you tell the court the members of this committee?
  10. The members were myself, Deputy CEO A&QC as the Chairman, Mr Paul, Director of the Legal Department of COCOBOD, Francis Opoku, Solicitor Secretary of COCOBOD and Lawyer Ebenezer Blair, Legal Department.
  11. Dr Adu-Amopomah, please tell the court what the committee did in relation to the report?
  12. The committee called the three scientists – Mr Dogbatse, Dr Arthur, and Mr Afrifa – as the lead scientist whose names appeared on the Lithrovit Lquid Fertiliser test report.
  13. So the committee called the three scientists, and what happened?
  14. First, we called Mr Dogbatse, and we asked him what he knew about the report. He said the testing of the agrochemicals started before he was employed, and when he was employed in the course of the testing. His supervisor taking him round as a newly employed scientist took him to the nursery where the trial was ongoing… His supervisor gave him the result on the testing of the seedlings to review. He reviewed it and it was basically on cytotoxicity and growth. After he had reviewed the report, he gave it back to his boss.

We asked him how come his name was on the report, which stated that Lithrovit could be applied at 50g per litre on mature cocoa to increase yield, and he responded that he had not seen that report until he was called. He said he was not a party to the writing of the report.

  1. Dr Adu-Ampomah, you have stated that you spoke to the three scientists, Mr Dogbatse, Dr Arthur and Mr A.A. Afrifa, what happened?
  2. Mr A.A. Afrifa, the lead scientist, [he paused and said, can I talk? The 2nd scientist was Dr Arthur?]. We called him (Dr Arthur), he said he is the one who was instructed by his boss, the lead scientist, A.A. Afrifa, to go to the Directorate of CRIG to collect the sample of Lithrovit and carry on with the test. He collected the sample, together with the MSDS, to the lab, and when he opened the sample, it was powder, and when he read the Material Safety Data Sheet it was powder, and went on the internet to seek for more information based on that. [Thus the product was being applied at 25g per litre, 50g per litre and 75g per litre on two months old cocoa seedlings for three months].

First, he tested for cytotoxicity and collected growth data on the two months old cocoa seedlings for three months, and made a report of it to his boss, Mr A.A. Afrifa.

We asked him whether he worked on mature cocoa, and he said no. We asked him whether he worked on any liquid product, and he said no. And we asked how come his name is on a report that states Lithrovit Liquid Fertiliser, when you apply it to mature cocoa can increase yield, and he said he had not seen that report until he was called to EOCO. He was not aware of the existence of that report.

The committee called Mr Afrifa, the lead scientist, when we asked him, he confirmed that he instructed Dr Arthur to go for the sample at the Directorate for the testing. We asked him whether he himself saw the sample, and he said no, he didn’t see the sample. We asked whether he worked on the sample of testing on either seedlings or mature cocoa, and he said no. We asked how come he has written a report concluding that Lithrovit Fertiliser, when applied at 50 grams per litre on mature cocoa, it can increase yields, when he knows that he has not done so, and he replied that at that stage he had been called by the CEO, Dr Opuni, in the process the then Executive Director was Dr Amoah of CRIG, ordering scientists to shorten the testing time of fertiliser for cocoa, and that was why. And we asked him whether he tested any liquid fertiliser, Lithrovit, on mature cocoa, he said no.

The committee called Dr Amoah, who was at that time the Executive Director of CRIG when the testing was ongoing and who’s signature was on the first certificate that was used to support the procurement document provided by Agricult Ghana Limited.

We asked him, he said he was not aware that the product was ever tested on mature cocoa, but report concluded that it can be applied on mature cocoa to increase yields. He said it happened at his blind side. We called Gilbert Anim Kwapong who had replaced Dr Amoah from 2015 to 2017 as the Executive Director of CRIG, who has signed the subsequent three certificates that the company has used to support his document when bidding for the supply of fertiliser.

We asked him why he signed those certificates, and he said the certificates had been cleared by the Soil Science Department, and he had no doubt to suspect that they had not done any tests.

Justice Clemence Honyenuga adjourned the hearing to Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

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