COCOBOD CEs do not write letters meant for PPA to purchase agrochemicals –Witness

Dr Francis Baah, Director of Research at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), says letters emanating from the board to the Public Procurement Authority PPA (PPA) to purchase agrochemicals are not written by its Chief Executives.

Therefore, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, former Chief Executive of COCOBOD did not write letters when he was in office, but only signed after they had been certified by the various departments of the Board, namely Procurement, Finance, Codapec/Hitect and Audit.

He agreed that these departments are the originators of the letters, which are copied to their heads of department for approval before the Chief Executive appends his signature.
Testifying under cross examination, Dr Baah who had served as office manager to Dr Opuni and his predecessor, Mr. Anthony Fofie, told the Accra High Court that the Chief Executive is not even responsible for the content of the procurement letters.

He said Dr. Opuni, likewise others who had served before him, or after him, are under the obligation to sign the procurement letters because the fertilisers are required to boost cocoa production.

The court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh, heard on Monday, this week, that although the letters signed by Dr. Opuni, referred to lithovit fertiliser as liquid fertiliser, that was not his creation, but the experts who prepared the document.
When asked by Dr. Opuni’s defence counsel, Samuel Codjoe that throughout the number of years he has worked with COCOBOD, whether foliar fertilisers are liquid, he answered in the affirmative.

The witness told the court that lithovit fertiliser is a liquid despite the prosecution’s contention that it is a powder. He also agreed to the question that if lithovit was anything other than liquid, the experts would have corrected it in the procurement letter before it got to the Chief Executive, then to PPA.

Law Courts Complex, Accra

In a procurement letter dated February 13, 2014 COCOBOD requested to purchase one million litres of liquid fertilisers and the only brand names that appeared on the list were lithovit and Sidalco.

The witness was subpoenaed to testify for and on behalf of second and third accused persons, Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana, who are standing trial with Dr Opuni.
Seidu Agongo and Agricult supplied the lithovit to COCOBOD for the use on mature cocoa trees.

The three are charged for supplying and purchasing lithovit, which is not fit for purpose, according to the prosecution.

The following is what transpired in court;

Q: Dr Francis Baah, at the last adjourned date, I referred you to Exhibit L, which is a letter dated 11th February 2014, which was written and according to you, which was written by procurement with input from Codape/Hitech divisions?

A: Yes my lord, they are not Divisions, but they are Departments of COCOBOD.

Q: Can you have a look at Exhibit M. Exhibit M is a letter dated 13th February, 2014 and which is addressed to the Hon. Minister for Finance and Economic Planning. Also, in the same application for approval to sole source fertiliser for cocoa Hitect programme 2013/14. You can confirm that this letter is an exact replica of Exhibit L?

A: Yes my lord, except that Exhibit L has attachment of a copy of a certificate, which Exhibit M does not have.
Q: You see this letter is just like Exhibit L, is copied to the procurement Manager. It is at from the bottom.

A: Yes my lord.
Q: The next person who is copied to this letter is the National Project Coordinator, Codape/Hitech?

A: Yes my lord.
Q: Then you have the Director of Audit who is also copied in this letter.
A: Yes my lord.

Q: The third person copied is the Director of Finance?
A: Yes my lord.
Q: The second persons copied are the three deputy Chief Executives of Finance and Administration, A&QC, and Operation?

A: Yes my lord.
Q: In your position as a staff of COCOBOD and also as the office manager of the CE, you are aware of the line of reporting in COCOBOD of individual office holders is that not?

A: Yes my lord as the office manager then…
Q: You are aware that the procurement manager report to the Director of Finance who intend report to the Deputy Chief Finance and Administration?

A: Yes my lord that is correct
Q. And you are also aware that the National Project Coordinator, Codapec/Hitech also report to the deputy chief executive A&QC?

A. Yes my lord, then and now.
Q. When, therefore, you have these office holders namely Director of Finance, Director of Audit, National Project Coordinator Codapec/Hitect and Procurement Manager who don’t report directly to the CE being copied this letter and the only reason for doing so is because the letter originated from these people for the Chief Executive to sign?

A. Yes my lord, that is so.
Q. So you see in this letter in paragraph 4 of Exhibit M once again lithovit is stated here as a liquid fertiliser that is so
A. Yes my lord it is so stated.

Q. And on the next page. That is the last page, the last but one item in the box talks about the total number of liquid namely sidalco and lithovit as 1 million liters. Isn’t it?

A. Yes my lord, so it is stated
Q. As the then office manager of the Chief Executive (A1), you are aware of the time the first accused assumed office after his predecessors left office?

A. Yes
Q. Can you tell us when the first accused assumed office as Chief Executive?
A. I can’t remember the exact date or day, but I know it was in January 2014.

Q. This letter, which is a technical letter with respect to fertilisers and in this case the entire fertilisers to be purchased for 2013/14 season could only have come from the technical people namely the procurement and with input from CodapeHitech together with finance, audit and also with the approval the Deputy Chief Executives?

A. Yes my lord that would be my expectation.
Q. In your position as the office manager, who served two chief executives, no chief executive having received this letter from these experts whose line of duty relate to the subject matter, would refuse to sign any such letter as Exhibit M?

A. Yes my Lord, the Chief Executive is expected to sign or endorse because we need the fertilizers to boost production, especially if there’s approved budget for it.
Q. If you look at the quantities of fertilizers to be purchased together with the cost stated there, this would have been a determination by the requisite people, namely procurement, CODAPEC/HITECH, Audit and Finance together with their deputy chief executives?

A. Yes my Lord that would be the reasonable expectation.
Q. And if lithovit is stated by the experts as liquid, the Chief Executive that is the first accused who would not see the fertiliser is bound to accept this as a proper description of the fertilizer.

A. That is so my Lord.
Q. In fact your good self Dr. Francis Baah, who has been in COCOBOD longer than the first accused has always been consistent that Lithovit is a liquid fertilizer is that not so?
A. Yes my Lord, that is what I know, I have not seen or been told of a foliar fertilizer that is other than liquid.

Q. In fact if any of the persons copied to this letter who are the requisite technical officials in COCOBOD who have knowledge in the type of fertilizers and specifically lithovit had any doubt about the nature of the fertilizer other than liquid, the description would have been corrected before the letter got to the chief executive for his signature, is that not so?

A. Yes my Lord, that would be the reasonable expectation.
Q. Does any Chief Executive to your knowledge, personally, write a letter such as Exhibit M and L whilst you were in office as the office manager?
A. Yes my Lord, this kind of letter will emanate from the appropriate departments and not from the chief executive’s office,

Q. Whilst you were there you saw similar letters being signed by the predecessor of the Chief Executive and these letters were never personally written by any Chief Executive, that is the position?

A. My Lord, that would be correct, they will come from the appropriate technical departments depending on the subject matter.
Q. Can you have a look at Exhibit N. Exhibit N is the letter dated 19th of February 2014 to the Chief Executive of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) seeking approval to sole source fertilizers for the cocoa HiTECH program for 2014 and it concerns the same letter which are the subjects of Exhibits M and N?

A. Yes my Lord.
Q. You see, these letters, just like Exhibits L and M, though signed by the Chief Executive, did not originate from him, but from the experts and relevant departments who are copied by this letter?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. So you will agree with Mr Charles Tetteh Dodoo DW1 when, in his evidence in chief on the 6th December 2021 on page 2, stated that “The chief executive of COCOBOD from my personal knowledge does not write letters, and this particular one that I’m holding falls in the same vein”

A. My Lord that would be correct
Q. In exhibit N, in the last paragraph on page one, lithovit is described as a liquid fertilizer?
A. Yes my Lord it’s there
Q. And once again this Exhibit N is copied to the five persons who are the technical experts with respect to the subject matter?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. Once again, if there was any description on the nature of lithovit as a liquid fertilizer, the experts who wrote the letter ie exhibit N for the signature of first accused would have corrected same before it got to the chief executive, ie, the chief executive for his signature

A. Yes my Lord that would be a very reasonable expectation
Q. In fact, if that wasn’t the position, that the fertilizer, lithovit is liquid, being in COCOBOD, it could not have escaped the five categories of officers or departments who wrote this letter for the chief executive to sign and they would have corrected it?
A. My Lord expectedly so, I agree with counsel

Q. In COCOBOD you are aware that all fertilizers are sole sourced because they are proprietary items
A. Yes my Lord that was the case

Q. During the time of the predecessor of the first accused, Mr. Fofie, when you became the office manager for the first time, these same experts – the persons copied on Exhibits L, M, and N -were the same people who wrote similar letters with respect to PPA approval of fertilizers for the signature of Mr. Fofie the then chief executive?

A. Yes my Lord, that would be correct, not the same people but the same office, when Mr.Fofie was in office the person at procurement at the time may not be the same person
Q. Can you have a look at Exhibit P. Exhibit P is the PPA reply to Exhibit N and it is addressed only to the Chief Executive even though Exhibit N, which is referred to in this Exhibit P was copied to the five office holders in COCOBOD, that is normal with PPA

A. Yes my Lord, that is the case, PPA letters come to the chief executive
Q. This PPA letter calls for value for money, to show that the recommended price…?
A. That’s so my Lord

Q. Can you have a look at exhibit Q, which is the COCOBOD letter 25th February 2014 which is the reply to exhibit P?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. You can confirm that this reply to the letter which calls for value for money is now copied to four office holders and does not include CODAPEC HITECH which were copied in the previous Exhibits L, M, and N?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. Having been in the office of the Chief Executive, you are aware that this exhibit Q was also written by the experts for the signature of the chief executive with respect to the value for money raised by the PPA in Exhibit P.
A. Yes my Lord, reasonable so. From my experience this will emanate from finance, looking at the language.

Q. The Finance Director, DW1 Charles Tetteh Dodoo in his evidence to this court on 6th of December 2021 explained that Exhibit P, which called for value for money analysis as much as it was addressed to the Chief Executive, it would be sent downwards down the ladder of the management hierarchy and when you look at the response that is Exhibit Q, the distribution list, the procurement manager is down the list. This tells that the letter was written by the procurement manager but signed by the chief executive “. You would agree with him?

A. Yes my Lord, the director of finance then, procurement was directly under him, and if he has said the letter emanated from procurement I’m not in a position my Lord to disagree.
Q. In paragraph 2 of this letter, Exhibit Q, the letter states that over the past three years COCOBOD has procured fertilizers from suppliers at prices which have been obtained over the period, and that the product are proprietory?

A. Yes my Lord.
Q. The first accused who has been in office for less than three months could only have relied on the expertise of the relevant persons when he signed Exhibit Q, which was written for his signature as he was not personally in the employment of COCOBOD three years prior to 2014 when Exhibit Q was written?

A. My view is that, that would be a valid proposition.
Q. In the third paragraph of Exhibit Q, which is addressed to the Chief Executive, it refers to a meeting in 2008 between the Board of PPA with the management of COCOBOD, which advised that COCOBOD to state procurement methods is that not so?
A. My Lord that is yes, stated on paragraph 3 of Exhibit Q.

Q. In 2008, first accused was not in COCOBOD and could not have known of this. This would have come from the technical people who have knowledge on this?
A. Yes my Lord, that is the case.

Q. If this statement was not true, the PPA which was being written would naturally would have reacted, if this was a wrong statement of fact?
A. Yes my Lord that would have been the expectation.

Q. In the last paragraph of page one of Exhibit Q, the letter stated that “finally the board has had better value for money when it procured the fertilizers through the single source method…” Is that not so.

A. Yes my Lord that is so.
Q. Mr. Charles Tetteh Dodoo in his evidence in chief on 6th December 2021 said that it was wrongful when the prosecution stated that Exhibit Q was a misrepresentation with respect to the value for money analysis, and that this Exhibit Q, which is the response to the PPA query for value for money was not written by the first accused but by the experts?

A. My Lord I agree.
Q. Do you agree with Mr. Dodoo’s position?
A. My Lord I agree.
Q. Have a look at Exhibit V. It is the approval of the PPA to the purchase of the fertilizers for 2013/14 cocoa season including lithovit?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. Even though this letter is addressed to only the Chief Executive, you would agree that the letter was minuted by the Chief Executive to the requisite officers as confirmed by the minutes on Exhibit V?

A. Yes my Lord that is the case. It is minuted to the Deputy Chief Executive F and A, then to the director of finance, the director of finance to the procurement manager.
Q. Once again, you will agree with what you just said with Charles Tetteh Dodoo when these PPA letters even though addressed to the Chief Executive he will minutes it down for action to be taken on it, is that not so?

A. My Lord that is so
Q. Can you have a look at Exhibit X. This is the letter which is a request for quotation and it is dated 25th February 2014, and it’s a letter which is signed by the first accused and copied to the Deputy Chief Executive Finance and Administration, Agronomy and Qualify Control, to the Director of Finance, Director of Audit and Procurement Manager

A. That is the case my Lord
Q. Once again, even though this letter is signed by the Chief Executive he did not write it, and this is evidence from the people who are copied in this letter?

A. Yes my Lord, when I look at the content this kind of letter will come from finance.
Q. The procurement manager reports to the Director of Finance who in turn reports to the Deputy Chief Executive Finance and Administration who also reports to the Chief Executive?

A. Yes my Lord, that is the organogram reporting line. That’s correct.
Q. And that the only reason why you have the other three office holders namely the Procurement Manager manager, Director of Audit and copied is because the letter originated from their end even though they don’t report to the chief executive?

A. Yes my Lord, additionally these are the reasons why offices are copied for checks and balances. So for instance, when the company being written to during the quotation is not on the list approved by PPA for the purposes of triangulation, that is information from different sources.

Q. In this letter, the requisite experts who wrote this letter that is Exhibit X for the signature of Chief Executive are clear that it is for lithovit liquid fertilizer, and specifically 700,000 litres of Lithovit?

A. My Lord evidently clear from exhibit X
Q. Give him Exhibit 76. Which is an identical letter which was written by the requisite experts in COCOBOD on the same date, 25th February 2014 for a quotation for one of the fertilizers which was approved together with lithovit by the PPA?

A. Yes my Lord.
Q. This letter, also just like Exhibits X contain the same time limit within which Wienco, the suppliers of Asaasewura, just as lithovit are required to submit their document with respect to this fertilizer. That is so?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. You have in your hand Exhibit 77, which is a letter to Louis Dreyfus, who are the suppliers of cocoa master, which letter is also identical with Exhibit X and exhibit 77?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. These two fertilizers together with Exhibit 77, cocoa master, are all part of the fertilizers which were approved by the PPA for sole source?

A. Yes my Lord.
Q. Once again what is the date of this letter, that is Exhibit 77 and confirm if it is he same as Exhibit X and 76?
A. Yes My Lord, the date on exhibit 77 is 25th February 2014, and my lord it is the same date as Exhibit X and 76.

Q. You can confirm that but for the difference in name of the fertilizer and the quantity to be purchased, Exhibit 77 is exactly the same as Exhibit X and 76?
A. Yes my Lord the content are the same but for the name of the fertilizers and companies,
Q. You have Exhibit 78 and 79 ?

A. Yes my Lord
Q. Can you confirm that exhibit 78 and 79, apart from the types of fertilizers stated in namely Sidalco, 6.0.20 and Sidalco 10.10.10 have the same content as Exhibit X , Exhibit 76, abd Exhibit 77 and were written on the same date?

A. My Lord per the exhibits before me I can confirm that.
Q. And you can also confirm that even though these letters are all signed by the first accused who was the Chief Executive, he did not personally write these letters?

A. My Lord I can from experience and expectation that these letters would come from finance and procurement

Q. Can you have a look at exhibit 80. Exhibit 80 is a COCOBOD letter addressed to chemico, who are the suppliers of cocoa feed, can you confirm but for the bane of the company together with the quantity, the information contained on this letter, and specifically the entire content is the same as that contain in exhibit X, 76,77,78 and 79?

A. My Lord from the fore exhibits I can confirm what counsel has said.
Q. You would, therefore, agree with Mr. Dodoo during his evidence in chief to this court, stated that when the investigator in this case, PW7 , chief inspector Prempeh stated that there was no evidence that Exhibit X, which I have shown to you originated from COCOBOD, he, PW7, was not speaking the truth?

A. My Lord what I have been shown I confirm the signature of my former boss, this is a typical letter head of COCOBOD with the signature of the Chief chief Executive then with the file number, my Lord I can confirm that this is from COCOBOD

Q. And you can confirm that all these letters from the reference numbers, from Exhibits X, 78, 79, 80, 77 and 76 follow chronologically namely GCB/PU/RQ/V6..122 at the end to 127?

A. GCB is for Ghana Cocoa Board, and PU is for procurement unit, RQ is requested and the file volume if Volume 6 and the file number is 122.

Q. You would, therefore, agree that the Exhibits X to 80 were written by the same officials for the signature of the Chief Executive with respect to the same subject matter saved the individual differences in the name of the companies together with the quantities?

A. My Lord I can confirm that the Exhibits came from the same offices but the content are the same except for the name of the company the letter is addressed, the name of the fertilizers and quantity of fertilizers are the same but the content is the same.

Q. When, therefore, the investigator, PW7, stated that Exhibit X was written in pursuance of a conspiracy and or abetment by the first accused that could never be true
A. Yes my Lord, in the face of the Exhibits that have been shown to me, counsel’s statement appears to be the truth.

Q. It is right and a truism that Exhibit X was never written by first accused who only signed the letter written by the experts who are copied in the letter?
A. My Lord that is a reasonable conclusion

Q. The experts who wrote this letter, and which was signed by the first accused, did not do any favors to the first and third accused persons?
A. My Lord, I’m only privy to exhibit that have been shown to me here, on the basis of that I would not come to conclusion that the investigator did.

Q. Even as you stand here, in your statement that you wrote to the CID and at EOCO during the investigations you were emphatic that nobody influenced you with respect to your report that Lithovit was a liquid fertilizer?

A. Yes my Lord I stand by that statement.
Q. Exhibit T, which you have in your hand, is a response to Exhibit X from Agricult which is the third accused and signed by the second accused

A. Yes my Lord
Q. And you can confirm to this court that on Exhibit T, just as you stated by confirming Charles Tetteh Dodo’s evidence-in-chief that even though this letter is addressed to the Chief Executive, when he received it he minuted it to the originators of Exhibit X?

A. Yes my Lord, on the face of exhibit T, I can confirm, that the chief executive referred the letter to the deputy chief executive F and A, who also referred it to the director of finance and from director of finance to procurement unit, and finally the procurement manager to clerk to deal with it.

Q. You see this letter complied with the requirements in Exhibit X that there should be acceptance on or before 26th of February 2014?
A. Yes my Lord, I can see that Agricult responded on the deadline, 26th February 2014.


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