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Opuni trial: Battle over sole sourcing still rages on

botchway June 14, 2019

 

By Bernice Bessey

The Public Procurement Authority in an attempt to save the public purse gave a directive to the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) in 2018 to consider advertisements in newspapers anytime it wanted to purchase agrochemicals to encourage competition among contractors for low prices, in order to shun sole sourcing.

This follows a letter written to PPA by COCOBOD, through the then Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Agronomy and Quality Control (A&QC), Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, that it wanted to use sole sourcing method to purchase agrochemicals for 2017/2018 crop season.

In 2011 alone, COCOBOD reportedly used over US$264.6 million to purchase agrochemicals through single sourcing method under the watch of Dr Adu-Ampomah.

Interestingly, Dr Adu-Ampomah, in response to the PPA’s letter, justified why COCOBOD would rather use single sourced method than advertisement, because “The sole sourced chemicals are farmers’ preferences…”

The irony of his response was that, he had already told an Accra High Court, hearing the trial of former Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and two others that, the Board only makes purchases after it had advertised in newspapers and subsequently select the best price among the bidders.

However, in defeating his evidence in chief before the court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, Dr Adu-Ampomah denied ever making the statement that: “The sole sourced chemicals are farmers’ preferences…”

Nevertheless, Samuel Cudjoe, Defence Counsel for the first accused person, Dr Stephen Opuni, who is facing 27 charges, asked him to read to the court his letter dated March 27, 2018, to PPA in paragraph ‘3’ R.

After reading the letter, it was realised that he indeed replied in that manner to challenge the PPA directive.

The State Attorney’s Third Prosecution witness in the case, however, gave a long explanation to the effect that the statement was made based on technical grounds.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is currently the Special Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture, further denied that the decision to use advertisements to invite competitive bidders was not the PPA’s advice and that it was COCOBOD’s aged old practice.

A letter dated July 11, 2017, by PPA, which was a reply to the witness’ request for sole sourcing, reads: “Kindly note that in granting this approval and other similar requests, which PPA has had to process, we wish to inform COCOBOD that going forward, in the procurement of insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers and other supplies for cocoa production, the authority is of the view that COCOBOD must consider advertising in the various newspapers in order to encourage competition.”

Dr Adu-Ampomah, however, told the court that PPA was usurping its authority on the matter because “We thought on this occasion, PPA was usurping its (COCOBOD) authority on this matter because we have technical issues involved, which they wouldn’t understand.”

Mr Cudjoe, on the other hand, insisted that it has been the practice of COCOBOD that agrochemicals are procured through sole sourcing, but the witness maintained that it was not the case, since in 2017/2018 season, half of the purchases were secured through competitive bidding.

The presiding judge requested for documents and ordered the prosecution team, led by Chief State Attorney, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, to produce documents before the next adjourned date, July 20, 2019.

Justice Clemence Honyenuga further gave an order that COCOBOD and PPA must within seven days supply the court with all documents that Dr Opuni had written, regarding sole sourcing on Lithrovit Fertilisers and all other fertilisers.

The following are excerpts of questions (Q) and answers (A) by Defence Counsel and Prosecution Witness:

  1. Dr Adu Ampomah, on the 14th day of May 2019, during your evidence in chief, you stated as follows, “The user division makes a request to the Chief Executive and if it’s within their budget, the chief executive instructs the procurement department to place an advert in the papers. In the advert, it specifies the product that COCOBOD requires and what the companies should provide to support their bidding documents.” Isn’t it?
  2. Yes my lord.
  3. Dr Adu Ampomah, on the 6th day of July 2017, you wrote a letter to the PPA. Have a look at it. Have you seen the letter dated 6th July 2017?
  4. Yes, my lord.
  5. In the letter, you referred to the PPA letter dated 28th day of June 2017, which you wrote. That is the second letter…Isn’t it?
  6. Yes, my lord.
  7. On the 11th day of July, 2017, PPA replied to your letter, that is, the first letter. Isn’t it?
  8. Yes my lord.

Sam Codjoe: My lord, we wish to tender the letters.

Chief State Attorney: although the documents, as far as we are concerned are no relevant to the case but they can go in for whatever they wish.

Judge: The documents are admitted into evidence as Exhibit 28 dated 6 July 2017, 28(a) dated 28 June 2017 and 28(b) dated 11 July 2017 respectively.

  1. Dr, in exhibit 28, is a letter dated 6th July, 2017, written by you to PPA. If I say you, I mean COCOBOD, is that correct?
  2. Yes my lord
  3. In the letter can you please read what COCOBOD was applying to the PPA for?
  4. Application for approval to procure agrochemical through single source procurement method for cocoa CODAPEC/HITECH programme 2016/2017.
  5. So, Dr, in this letter, COCOBOD was directed by the PPA to negotiate the original price which was submitted to PPA by 15%. Isn’t it?
  6. Yes my lord.
  7. Then in exhibit 28(a), the PPA informed you to further reduce the price by 15%. Isn’t it
  8. Yes, my lord.
  9. Dr, in 2016/2017, I believe you were the deputy Chief Executive A&QC and that was your second coming?
  10. Yes my lord.
  11. And PPA in their letter dated 11 July, 2017, replied to your letter applying to procure agrochemicals and by that I mean all agrochemicals by single source in 2017. Isn’t it?
  12. No my lord.
  13. In paragraph 3 of exhibit 28(b), can you read what PPA advised COCOBOD with respect to sole sourcing?
  14. Reading: “Kindly note that in granting this approval and all similar requests, which PPA has had to process, we wish to inform COCOBOD that going forward in the purchase of agrochemicals, the authority is of the view that COCOBOD must consider advertising to enable other manufacturers to submit their supplies ….”
  15. Dr, so you would agree with me that by this, the PPA was advising COCOBOD to now advertise for the purchase of agrochemicals and fertilisers. Isn’t it?
  16. No my lord. On this occasion, we were faced with problems. Several insecticides had been procured or were in the process of being procured by the previous management, which have not been tested and approved by COCOBOD and their efficacies were in suspect.

And, therefore, the procurement processes had been suspended and because of that, some insecticides that had been tested and proven to be efficacious on cocoa, needed to be procured urgently to meet the spraying season, which was impending and based on technical issues, we thought this product could be procured as early as possible so as to avoid the non spraying of the cocoa in the season. And the PPA had to co….

  1. Are you finished?  I put it to you that when PPA wrote as follows ” Kindly note that in granting this approval and other similar requests, which PPA has had to process, we wish to inform COCOBOD that going forward, in the procurement of insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers and other supplies for cocoa production, the authority is of the view that COCOBOD must consider advertising the various formulae…in order to encourage competition,” can only mean that PPA was now advising COCOBOD that you should advertise henceforth, for the purchase of fertilizers, pesticides and other supplies of cocoa?
  2. We thought in this occasion, PPA was usurping authority in this matter, because we have technical issues involved, which they wouldn’t understand.
  3. In fact, Dr, contrary to your allegation of usurpation by the PPA, through the directive of the PPA, the price was reduced from $85 per litre to $65 as contained in exhibit 28 and 28(b). Isn’t it?
  4. This was done on the pricing, yes, but on the sole sourcing issue, that is what I was saying that they were usurping their authority because there were some technicalities in it.
  5. Dr, in fact, there was no urgency as you stated and exhibit 28(b) was a general directive to COCOBOD during your tenure which you refused to abide by?
  6. No my lord.
  7. Dr, you wrote to PPA and informed PPA that the farmers preferred sole sourced chemicals?
  8. No my lord.

Counsel: Give him exhibit 27.

  1. Dr, Exhibit 27 is a letter which you wrote on March 27, 2018 to PPA. Isn’t it?
  2. Yes my lord.
  3. Can you read paragraph 3 of your letter?
  4. “The sole sourced chemicals are farmers’ preferences and they are being procured to encourage farmers especially the…”
  5. Dr, you wrote this letter?
  6. Yes my lord, there are technical issues here. The chemicals that COCOBOD procures are to supplement the farmers…

In the case of fungicides, farmers are supposed to spray 6 times a year and in the case of insecticides, they’re supposed to spray four times. The chemicals COCOBOD procures cater for only 50% of the farmers need and farmers are encouraged to do the extra 50% on their own. And they are encouraged to use the chemicals COCOBOD has used for the first 50% spraying. And over the years, farmers have used these chemicals…

  1. Dr, so it is true that COCOBOD wrote to PPA by a letter dated 27 March 2018 that farmers preferred sole sourced chemicals. Isn’t it?
  2. No my lord. These specific chemicals, as I have said, are known by the farmers and the next paragraph has explained. It says…”if farmers are not encouraged to undertake…”
  3. Dr, what is the heading of this letter, in which you stated that the farmers preference is for sole sourced chemicals?
  4. Application for approval to procure agrochemicals through single sourced procurement method for Codapec/HITECH programme
  5. So, Dr Adu Ampomah, Exhibit 27, which was written by COCOBOD and signed by you was an application for approval to procure agrochemicals through single source procurement method for Codapec/Hitec program for the entire 2017/18 season
  6. No my lord. This was part of it. The other part was for competitive bidding, based on some of the advice given by PPA
  7. In fact, turn to Exhibit 27(a). It is the approval granted by PPA to procure agrochemicals, that is, granting your application for 2017/18 through sole sourcing?
  8. Yes my lord.
  9. Can you read paragraph 2 of Exhibit 27(a).
  10. Upon receipt of your response, we conducted price analysis… If care is not taken per the PPA analysis to take that into consideration, you can also affect the environment because you will end up procuring same molecules over a long period. Besides, in the instances the insect or fungus could develop resistance. That is what I was saying to the PPA.
  11. Have you finished? Dr, I am putting it to you that during your time in 2017 at COCOBOD, until you retired the second time, all chemicals which were purchased by COCOBOD, contrary to your evidence in chief, that I have referred to, was purchased by sole sourcing?
  12. No my lord. What we have here is for the sole sourced, but there was another document which is applying for competitive bidding for 2018. This represents half of the agrochemicals purchased… The other half was procured based on suggestions from PPA. The other documents applying for competitive bidding are also there.

Judge: Where is the document?

Counsel: You (witness) can produce it. If you can record that. My lord, we are applying for the document to PPA from COCOBOD for competitive bidding for the other half of agrochemicals for the 2017/2018 season.

Chief State Attorney: We have no objection to this application.

Judge: Prosecution shall file the request by counsel before the next adjourned date.

  1. Dr, you mentioned the fact that you have through competitive bidding purchased agrochemicals. Did you do same for fertilizers in the 2017/18 season.
  2. Yes my lord.
  3. And I would suppose that if you say yes, it means there is a letter or documentation from COCOBOD with respect to this competitive bidding with respect to the purchase of fertilizer for the 2017/18 cocoa season.
  4. Yes my lord. It is the second part of this document I referred to.
  5. And you also have that document in your possession. If I say you, I mean COCOBOD?
  6. Yes my lord.

Counsel: My lord I hereby apply for the document.

Chief State: My lord, we will furnish the court with the document.

Judge: Prosecution is to file and serve same on the Counsel for Second and Third accused.

  1. You embarked on purchasing agrochemicals of the other half based on the directives of PPA?
  2. Yes my lord.
  3. You have in your hands 28(b). That is your letter?
  4. Yes my lord.
  5. That is letter that gave the advice or directive, which was subsequently by COCOBOD in 2017/2018?
  6. Partially, my lord.
  7. Dr, you stated that you embarked on this course of purchasing the other half based on the directive of the PPA as contained in Exhibit 28(b)
  8. Yes
  9. Dr, on page 7 of your evidence in chief on the 14th day of May 2019, you stated that you were reviewing some anomalies in the procurement of agrochemicals by the previous management of COCOBOD?
  10. Yes, my lord.
  11. On page 13, you also mentioned that you were the leader of the transition team on cocoa which extended from the latter part of December 2016 to the end of January 2017?
  12. Yes my lord.
  13. You also informed this court that it was at the transition; “the transition recommended that the new management at COCOBOD should investigate the anomalies in the testing and procurement of Lithrovit fertilizer. So in February 2017, when the new management took over we started preliminary investigations”. You said so?
  14. Yes my lord.
  15. Dr, since you were dealing with Lithrovit at the transition and also when you took over, you will definitely have seen the certificates issued by CRIG for 2014/15/16. These are Exhibits 4, 4(a) and (d) covering the period 2015, 2016, and 2014 respectively
  16. Yes my lord.
  17. And Dr, Dr Amoah (PW1) was a member of the transition team from COCOBOD?
  18. Yes my lord.
  19. I would suppose that if you say at the transition, the issue of the Lithrovit fertilizer came up, it would only have come up as a result of the interaction with the officials of COCOBOD that you met?
  20. Yes my lord.
  21. So definitely you would have met the officials of CRIG at least the top management at the transition?
  22. Yes my lord.
  23. In fact, that is the only way by which you would have obtained copies of the certificate on Lithrovit, that is, Exhibit 4, 4(a) and (d)?
  24. That could not have been the only way. Some of them have several…and we had some during preliminary investigation.

 

 

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