By Bernice Bessey
Samuel Cudjoe, defence counsel for the embattled former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, has accused Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who headed the transition team on cocoa affairs, of not conducting thorough investigations on the Lithovit Fertiliser.
According to him, if Dr Adu-Ampomah, who is now Special Advisor to the Minister for Agriculture, had worked on all correspondences concerning Lithovit, he would have known that the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) referred to Lithovit as liquid fertiliser.
This was as the content of Lithovit Fertiliser is being debated whether is a powdery substance or liquid.
Nevertheless, Dr Adu-Ampomah told an Accra Criminal High Court trying Dr Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo, and Agricult Ghana Limited, that he didn’t cover all documents related to the controversial Lithovit Fertiliser because he did not want to go on a wild goose chase.
Dr Adu-Ampomah, third prosecution witness (PW3) in the trial, said the committee did not request for all documents because they were only interested in the scientists who worked on the product.
Mr Cudjoe, unsatisfied with the answer, further asked him, “Dr, don’t you think it is very basic and elementary that you, as a former Director of CRIG, is deemed to be aware of the fact that renewal letters for fertilisers are written year ahead?”
But PW3 answered: “My lord, because the committee, when we called for the Material Safety Data Sheet that was accompanying the first sample that was sent to CRIG, it revealed that the product was powdery, and the evaluation report that was available revealed that the product was powder, whereas there was no record that the product was liquid.”
Thus, the witness, during investigations, never asked or requested CRIG to provide the committee with renewal letters for the year 2015/2016.
Although the defence counsel tried on several occasions to prove to him that CRIG had it on its records that Lithovit was liquid, the witness vehemently rejected that submission.
According to Mr Cudjoe, one Dr Opoku Amenyaw, who was a senior officer at CRIG, made reference to the product as liquid and attempted to tender documents pointing to this fact, through the witness was rejected by the court presided over Justice Clemence Honyenuga.
Justice Honyenuga indicated that the defence counsel failed to establish a proper foundation, as well as not compelling the witness to identify the signature of the author, and the said letter does have letterhead.
Q. In this contract COCOBOD is the purchaser, isn’t it?
Q. Then the contract also says that COCOBOD has accepted the quotation of the supplier for the supply of the above mentioned item, isn’t it
Q. In this particular contract, you wrote to Sidalco requesting for a quotation, and Sidalco gave you its quotation
Q. And, in fact, it is after they gave you the offer that COCOBOD wrote to the PPA for approval to sole source the contract, which was granted by the PPA
A. No my lord.
Q. Can you read the first paragraph of the notification of the award of contract?
A. Management of Ghana COCOBOD is pleased to accept your offer of…
Q. So, Dr, what it means is that the management of COCOBOD accepted an offer dated 24th February 2017 from Sidalco Limited, isn’t it?
A. Yes. This was after deliberating at the entity tender committee of COCOBOD, and informing PPA of the outcome and receiving approval from PPA, after which such letters are written. It indicates that the entity tender committee had negotiations with the company and has accepted the price and was conveying the message to PPA for approval, and PPA has approved. That is why the letter is crafted so. It does not mean that COCOBOD was sitting somewhere and Sidalco offered.
Q. So, in the letter can you please indicate where it states that there was entity tender committee discussion?
A. My lord, this letter is to the company, and COCOBOD, as I have previously stated, and has been shown by all the documents that counsel for the accused submitted in all cases, that COCOBOD procures based on approval from PPA, whether sole sourcing or restrictive tendering, which is also a competitive mode of tendering
Q. In fact, contrary to what you have just told the court, before the company, i.e. Sidalco, made an offer, which you accepted, COCOBOD wrote to Sidalco and requested that they give them a quotation for the 300,000 litres of Sidalco Liquid Fertiliser.
A. No my lord. Not that I know of.
Q. And, in fact, what you did is the same was done in 2013, and also during Dr Opuni’s time, ie you invite them by letters to send quotes?
A. No, and also, in this case, Sidalco had been tested whereas in the case of Lithovit for 2014, it had never been tested. So they are not the same.
Q. And, in fact, when the requests for quotation for prices of fertilisers are sent to the companies, they are written in bulk before the commencement of the procurement process?
A. It is variable. It depends, as I said, on various factors, so, yes, it is possible we could do that for some agrochemicals, and for others, a different approach can be used.
Q. Contrary to what you said, the procurement process begins with a letter from COCOBOD requesting for a quote of all fertilisers which are sole sourced?
A. Yes it is possible, because of the technicalities involved.
Q. Dr Adu Ampomah, during your first and second terms as deputy Chief Executive, you followed this procedure with all sole sourced fertilisers?
A. As I said, it is variable. It depends on the molecules and chemicals involved.
Q. You have in your hands a contract dated 13th May 2019 between COCOBOD, as purchaser, and Louis Dreyfus Commodities Limited as supplier, isn’t it?
Q. Did you (COCOBOD) write a letter requesting for quotation of 80,000 bags of Granular Cocoa Master Fertiliser?
A. No my lord.
Q. You are aware of the Louis Dreyfus contract, dated 13 day of May 2013?
A. I am aware of that, but I remember they could not supply, even though they were awarded the contract, if my memory serves me right.
Q. This is the contract you referred to which was awarded to them?
Q. Dr Adu Ampomah, in exhibits 33 and 34, they all state that the contracts were sole sourced?
A. Yes my lord. I have said over and over again, some of the chemicals are sole sourced, some are through competitive bidding, but there are technical reasons.
Q. If you look at the last page of exhibit 34, Louis Dreyfus states that they acknowledge receipt of a request for quotation from COCOBOD for the exact sum and quantity of fertiliser, as contained in the contract.
A. Yes my lord. And, as I have said, all these were done with the approval of PPA, and also, as I said, we convinced PPA it was for technical reasons.
Q. So, Dr, then, for all sole source contracts entered into, COCOBOD has to obtain the approval of PPA before entering into same, isn’t it?
A. Yes my lord.
The trial was adjourned to July 17, 2019.