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COCOBOD used US$97.9m to sole source agrochemicals for 2017/18

botchway July 4, 2019


By Bernice Bessey

Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, Special Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture, testified before an Accra Criminal High Court that half of agrochemicals purchased by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) for the 2017/2018 season was by competitive bidding, yet procurement documents filed before the court prove otherwise.

The details of the documents filed by the Attorney General’s team indicated that agrochemicals – fertilisers, fungicides and insecticides – procured through sole source constituted almost double the price of that for restrictive tendering.

The agrochemicals purchased through sole source amount to US$97.9 million, while the one for restrictive tendering hovers at $52.05 million.

Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is also the immediate past Chief Executive Agronomy and Quality Control (A&QC), COCOBOD, mentioned of ‘competitive bidding’, while the documents, headlined ‘Restrictive Tendering’, had already generated a heated debate over their definitions, as to whether they are same in meaning or not.

The Special Advisor, now testifying in a court presided by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, on Tuesday, as third prosecution witness (PW3), however, explained that the sole source chemicals were procured more than the restricted ones, because COCOBOD wanted to safeguard the environment.

“My lord, as I have said, for technical reasons, as per the regulator, COCOBOD has to ensure that cocoa is produced without any detriment to the environment, especially, effects on fauna and flora. As a regulator, COCOBOD also has to ensure the sanctity of the environment,” he explained.

Nevertheless, Samuel Cudjoe, defence counsel for the first accused, Dr Stephen Opuni, while crossing examining PW3, further probed into why US$52.05 million had been approved for restrictive tendering, and yet U$9,250,000 was requested by COCOBOD to sole source agrochemicals from Messrs Kumark. But PW3 claimed that the application was justified, for which reason the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) approved it.

Dr Adu-Ampomah further told the court that COCOBOD uses sole source because the farmers prefer agrochemicals purchased through that method.

The following are questions and answers from Mr Cudjoe and Dr Adu-Ampomah:

  1. Dr Adu Ampomah, I believe you are well versed in the various procurement methods, isn’t it?
  2. I wouldn’t say so, because I am not a procurement expert.
  3. At the last adjourned date, Dr., you were asked by me that with competitive bidding, where you place adverts in the newspapers for bids, you don’t go to the PPA for approval, and you answered that you always have to go to the PPA for approval, do you remember saying that?
  4. Yes.
  5. And, Dr., by the provisions of the Procurement Act, if it’s an open competitive tendering, you don’t go to the PPA for approval at all?
  6. No my lord. At COCOBOD you always have to go to the PPA.
  7. Then, Dr., once you go to the PPA for approval, it can only be for sole source or restricted tendering, and not open competitive bidding?
  8. My lord, it’s not true. You always have to go to the PPA.
  9. And, in fact, contrary to the evidence you gave in chief that adverts are placed in respect of tendering for fertilisers and agrochemicals, this has never happened in the history of COCOBOD, with respect to procurement of agrochemicals and fertilisers?
  10. 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 so, but sometimes, when it is explained to the PPA, it could be allowed without placing adverts in the papers.
  11. Dr., in fact, during your first and second coming at COCOBOD, to your knowledge, the only instance in which agrochemicals were purchased through restricted tendering was upon the advice and instructions of the PPA?
  12. My Lord, all procurements done at COCOBOD whilst I was there previously, or when I came again, procurement processes are initiated with discussions and advise of PPA.
  13. Read third paragraph of exhibit 28(b), where the PPA, in July 2017, advised COCOBOD that going forward, i.e., from July 2017, agrochemicals should not only be sole sourced. Can you please read it.
  14. Kindly note that…
  15. Dr., this letter was sent to COCOBOD, but was for your attention, isn’t it
  16. Yes my lord.
  17. Dr, I’m putting it to you that you are so much bent on proving a nonexistent case against 1st accused that you are denying the directive from PPA for competition in the supply of agrochemicals and fertilisers which, hitherto, were sole sourced.
  18. No my lord. That is why I previously said the PPA, in this instance, was usurping its powers, because there were technicalities involved.
  19. And Dr., the PPA in response to the application for restricted tendering, as contained in exhibit 30, approved this application by a letter dated 29th March 2018?
  20. Yes my lord.
  21. Dr., exhibit 31 contains the approval for restrictive tendering, i.e., based upon your request in exhibit 30?
  22. Yes my lord.
  23. Dr., to your knowledge, were all these agrochemicals purchased through restrictive tendering?
  24. Yes my lord. That is what it says on this paper (exhibit 31).
  25. Dr., because of the fact that agrochemicals, including fertilisers, are better sole sourced even when the PPA granted your approval, you wrote again to the PPA to allow you (COCOBOD) to purchase some of the approved chemicals through sole source?
  26. My lord, it is possible due to technical reasons, but in this instance, I can’t recollect, because we have been discussing issues with the PPA back and forth; because we know that they have to be convinced of what we were doing, because their approval is crucial to our procurement.
  27. Dr., in exhibit 30, you applied for restrictive tendering, which was granted by the PPA in exhibit 31, isn’t it?
  28. Yes my lord.
  29. You purchased these chemicals, fungicides and fertilisers, after the grant from the companies listed, isn’t it?
  30. Yes my lord, to the best of my knowledge.
  31. In fact Dr, after the approval, COCOBOD wrote to PPA in exhibit 25 and applied for approval to change the restrictive tendering to sole source for some of the chemicals, fertilisers and chemicals, isn’t it?
  32. Yes my lord. That is why I said due to the peculiar nature of the chemicals and technicalities involved, we always have to engage PPA in our procurement process, because, sometimes, we could realise some of the companies could not deliver the product that were required because of the season. But before we can change it, as has been shown here, we always need to seek approval from PPA. Because, in this instance, you see that we have explained that some of the chemicals could be supplied at a lesser time.
  33. Dr., in fact, contrary to what you were saying, at the time PPA granted approval for restrictive tendering on March 29,2018, COCOBOD had not awarded contracts to any of the companies which were the subject of the restrictive tendering?
  34. My lord I am not aware of that.
  35. And Dr., on the same 5th March 2018, when COCOBOD applied for restrictive tendering to purchase chemicals and insecticides and fertilisers for $52,050,000, it applied for approval to purchase a larger quantity of these chemicals fungicides and fertilisers though sole source to PPA in the sum of $97,913,750 for the same 2017/2018 CODAPECH HITECH programme?
  36. Yes my lord. But, as I have said, there are technical issues involved. That is the reason why chemicals are tested vivaciously at CRIG before approval, and, my lord, to produce large quantities of cocoa in a given country, if care is not taken, there will be indiscriminate damage to the environment by reckless use of molecules, and that is why we have to be going through all these processes. And also, availability of the product at the required time and farmers’ preferences are all taken into consideration. And these decisions are taken with the advice of the experts.
  37. Dr., the letter you have in your hands is dated 5th March 2018, isn’t it?
  38. Yes my lord.
  39. And it is dated the same day as exhibit 30 was written, isn’t it?
  40. Yes my lord.
  41. And this letter is copied to you as the then Deputy Chief Executive A & QC, isn’t it?
  42. Yes my lord.
  43. So, Dr., on the 5th day of March 2018, COCOBOD wrote two letters to the PPA, which in the first letter (exhibit 30) they applied for restrictive tendering, and in the second letter they applied for sole sourcing, isn’t it?
  44. Yes my lord.
  45. In exhibit 32 on page 2, on insecticides, you stated that the farmers preferred the chemicals that you were applying for sole source, isn’t it?
  46. Yes my lord.
  47. And with the fertilisers, you also stated that these were the farmer’s preference, isn’t it?
  48. Yes my lord.
  49. Dr., you will agree with me that the farmers can have a preference only in respect of a chemical they have used before, isn’t it?
  50. Yes my lord, but sometimes some farmer groups could request on their behalf and that one is also classified as their preference.
  51. Dr., for farmers to have a preference of a fertiliser, that fertiliser should have been in the system and tested by CRIG and used by farmers to enable them have a preference for that particular fertiliser?
  52. My lord, in the testing of the fertilisers by CRIG in the field, they do it on farmers’ farms together with the farmers, and as the experiments are ongoing, they, more or less, also serve as look-see farmers by nearby farmers. So, sometimes, before CRIG’s approval is made, neighbouring farmers, by looking around and having a chat with farmers on whose farms these products are being tested, observe the impact of the product and spread news across.
  53. In fact, Dr., the demonstrations or testing of new chemicals, including fertilisers, are mostly done on COCOBOD demonstration farms?
  54. No my lord. Since these products are going to be used by farmers, after the initial laboratory tests, the field trials are done on farmers’ farms.
  55. In fact, Dr., I am putting it to you that where farmers have a preference for a particular fertiliser, they inform the CHED officials, who are the officials who distribute the agrochemicals on behalf of COCOBOD to farmers?
  56. My lord, it is variable. Sometimes it could go through CHED as counsel is saying; sometimes it will go through scientists who are doing the experiments on the field; sometimes it can go through Quality Control officials, and sometimes through their farmer groups.
  57. Dr., when COCOBOD wrote exhibit 32, which is the letter immediately written on the same day as exhibit 30 for sole source, COCOBOD was doing what was the norm, with respect to purchasing agrochemicals through sole source?
  58. No my lord. There were two letters written – one for sole source, and one for restricted tendering, and these were all based on technical consideration.
  59. So, Dr., but the sole source one was almost double the price of that for restrictive tendering, i.e., $97.9 million for sole source as against $52.05 million for restrictive tendering, isn’t it?
  60. My lord, as I have said, for technical reasons, as per the regulator, COCOBOD has to ensure that cocoa is produced without any detriment to the environment, especially effects on fauna and flora. As a regulator, COCOBOD also has to ensure the sanctity of the environment.
  61. Dr., even when $52.05 million had been approved for restrictive tendering, COCOBOD wrote to PPA by exhibit 25, and was granted approval to purchase, out of the $52.05 million, agrochemicals, including fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides, in the sum of $9,250,000, through sole source from Messrs Kumark?
  62. Yes, but my lord, you will realise that in the application we justified it to the PPA, because we realised it will take a lesser time for delivery. And my lord, the PPA approved.
  63. Dr., you mentioned that it is the experts who determine the chemicals and quantities of fertilisers to be purchased, isn’t it?
  64. My lord, all the chemicals, not only the fertilisers.
  65. So, then you wrote the letter to PPA after advice from the experts, i.e., for sole source and open tendering, isn’t it?
  66. My lord, all this would be done in consultation with the advisors, and we also take into consideration the timeliness of delivery.
  67. So Dr., the first time cocoa nti was purchased by COCOBOD was in 2018, isn’t it?
  68. Yes my lord.
  69. Dr., exhibit 15 is the scientific report recommending cocoa nti to COCOBOD, isn’t it?
  70. Yes my lord.
  71. When did this letter reach COCOBOD?
  72. 2nd March 2018.
  73. So when did COCOBOD grant its approval for cocoa nti to be issued with the certificate by CRIG?
  74. I wouldn’t know, but as soon as such final reports come, because these companies have invested heavily in the products, prompt action is taken, so as soon as it comes to COCOBOD and it has passed, immediately CRIG is instructed to issue it with a certificate.
  75. So, then, Dr., at the time the scientific report on cocoa nti came to COCOBOD you were the deputy CE, A&QC, and, therefore, the recipient of this letter which had attached to it the scientific report recommending cocoa nti for use on mature cocoa trees, isn’t it?
  76. Yes my lord.
  77. Dr., obviously, you, in your position as the designated executive under which CRIG was, would definitely know when the reply and/or directive to CRIG to issue the certificate to cocoa nti was written?
  78. I wouldn’t know, but I can say that it could be prompt, because normally these things don’t keep long on my table.
  79. And, Dr., having been an Executive Director of CRIG from 2009-2013, you have an idea of how long letters from COCOBOD to CRIG take, accepting the scientific report takes after which a certificate is issued by CRIG on their own?
  80. My lord, it could be quick or take long, depending on the interest the company involved shows. Sometimes they will be following the letters.
  81. Dr., definitely you would have seen the certificate of CRIG for cocoa nti before any application to PPA for sole source of cocoa nti could be made?
  82. Yes. If the company that was supplying cocoa nti has a certificate, it should accompany the bidding.
  83. The scientific report by CRIG, in respect of cocoa nti, was sent to COCOBOD by a letter dated the 2nd of March 2018, isn’t it?
  84. Yes my lord.
  85. So, Dr., on the 5th day of March 2018, COCOBOD, by a letter, applied for single source to purchase cocoa nti fertiliser and added that farmers preferred cocoa nti, isn’t it?
  86. 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 Central Region, Western Region, Eastern Region, Ashanti Region and Brong Ahafo Region, and as I previously said, during trials, neighbouring farmers had seen the impact of this fertiliser.
  87. So, Dr., when were these tests done on cocoa nti from the scientific report?
  88. My lord it says the trials were conducted on farmers farms in two consecutive seasons, (2016/2017 and 2017/2018 at nine locations).
  89. Dr., so that when it came to the quantity to be determined, I would also understand it to say that it is the experts who determined the quantity of cocoa nti, together with asaasewura and the other chemicals, particulars of which are contained in exhibit 32?
  90. My lord, I said upon the advice of the experts, and also farmers, preferences are also taken into consideration, because if you look at the procurement, sometimes we say its farmers’ preference, so we take farmers preference and technical advice into consideration.
  91. In fact, Dr., COCOBOD is a well structured institution?
  92. Yes my lord.
  93. If farmers have a preference for a particular agrochemical, necessitating COCOBOD to apply and inform the whole world about this preference, there definitely would have to be information from the relevant division/unit, which will inform management of this fact?
  94. My lord, I have answered this question previously that CHED CRIG QCC and farmers’ groups all send information to COCOBOD on such issues.
  95. Dr., I am putting it to you that, if as you claim, farmers have a preference for cocoa nti, COCOBOD would definitely have had documentary evidence of this fact.
  96. My lord no, but as I said, COCOBOD does not sit in the office till the end of the testing. As production is going on, information is reaching COCOBOD through the sources I just enumerated, because, as the regulator, we should be on the ground.
  97. Can you have a look at exhibit 26, a letter dated 21st May 2018, isn’t it?
  98. Yes my Lord.
  99. This exhibit is applying for single source to procure fertilisers from PPA for the 2017/2018 CODAPEC HITECH programme, isn’t it?
  100. Yes my lord.
  101. No my Lord. The title is procurement of additional 100,000 bags of cocoa feed fertilisers from Messrs Chemico Limited.
  102. Did you apply for sole source to purchase these 100,000 bags of this fertiliser?
  103. My lord, this letter says… “we make reference to the discussion PPA/COCOBOD held on 17th may 2018 concerning the procurement of addition 100,000 bags of cocoa feed fertiliser from Messrs Chemico Limited after Messrs Kumark Company Limited declined the offer to supply the 100,000 bags of asaasepe fertiliser upon receipt of notification of award of contract.”
  104. In exhibit 26(a), dated 4th July 2018, is an approval from PPA in respect of exhibit 26, isn’t it?
  105. Yes my lord.
  106. Can you read the heading of exhibit 26(a)?
  107. Application for approval to procure agrochemicals through single source procurement method for the 2017/2018 season.
  108. Can you read paragraph 3 of the exhibit?
  109. Accordingly, and in line with section 40(1)(b) of act 663 as amended, approval is given …
  110. So, then, Dr., by this letter, PPA granted approval for single source based on an application by COCOBOD on the 4th day of July 2018?
  111. My lord, if you look at the heading of the application from COCOBOD, you will see that it was the PPA which used the word “single source”. COCOBOD just informed PPA that Kumark was not able to supply, and, therefore, we wanted to use Chemico, and that is why in their response they advised us to use single source because of the peculiar nature of the situation at that time.

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