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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.