Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum has disclosed that the then board of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), under his chairmanship, approved the purchase of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, based on experts’ advice from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
He told the Criminal Division ‘1’ of the Accra High Court, while being cross-examined via video link from Kumasi, by the Chief State Attorney (CSA) Evelyn Keelson, last week Friday that, since the majority of the board members were not scientists, technical experts from CRIG were invited to attend their meetings.
“My Lord, I have stated as a matter of fact that I’m not a technical person and the majority of my board members were not scientists, and that is the precisely the reason why we invited the very technical experts from CRIG in assisting the board in taking decisions,” he stressed.
The Ambassador said the scientists who were invited to the board meetings had doctorate degrees and based on their recommendations, final decisions were made for the purchases and procurement of the various agro-chemicals, including the Lithovit liquid fertilizer at all times.
Meanwhile, the CSA challenged him that the board was misled by the Chief Executive (CE) Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni during the period to approve Lithovit Liquid, which was not tested and recommended by CRIG.
She told the court, presided over by a Supreme Court justice, Clemence Honyenuga, that the purchase of Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer was also not based on any approval by the Entity Tender Committee (ETC) or the board, per a letter written by Dr Opuni to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA).
Mrs Keelson argued that the report on Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer, which was approved by Dr Opuni the very next day after receiving it from CRIG, was never submitted to the ETC before the approval.
Evelyn indicated to the court that Ambassador Ohene Agyekum does not have any idea whatsoever of the nature and composition of the Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer that CRIG recommended to Dr Opuni as CEO to purchase for COCOBOD.
The court was informed that before the ETC, which Ambassador Ohene Agyekum chaired, held its 17th meeting on February 8, 2022 to approve the purchase of a number of fertilizers, including Lithovit Liquid fertilizer for the 2014/15 cocoa season, Dr Opuni had written a letter to PPA on December 10, 2014 requesting approval of Lithovit liquid fertilizer.
She said before the board’s maiden meeting on January 26, 2014 Dr Opuni, who is the first accused (A1) in the trial of cocoa-related offenses had written to PPA seeking the approval of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser.
The Prosecutor stated emphatically that A1’s fourth Defence witness (DW4), Ambassador Ohene Agyekum, does not have any knowledge of the matters before the court, because as the board chair, he was simply not involved in the day-to-day administration of COCOBOD and analysis of CRIG report.
She intimated that Ambassador Ohene Agekum led board was inaugurated on January 20, 2014, and their first meeting was held on January 26, 2014, meanwhile, Agricult Ghana Limited (A3) through its CEO SeiduAgongo (A2), submitted Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser for testing on May 2013.
Within the two hours period permitted by the video link, the Chief State Attorney asked about 25 questions and her last but one question was, “…A1 who received the report, Exhibit B, from CRIG, misled your board then to approve a fertiliser that has not been tested and recommended by CRIG?”
In response, he said the board’s responsibility was to consider proposals from management with assistance from technical experts to arrive at a decision.
“…My Lord, that decision was based on the recommendations by the technocrats and their expertise. So my Lord, if I may repeat, the approval could have been sought retrospectively in order to ensure that the agro-chemicals, including this particular fertiliser, the Lithovit liquid fertiliser, would be made available to the farmers at the right time,” he clarifies.
Although he told the court that he finds himself in a difficult situation because he did not have access to documents being referred to by the prosecution, he nevertheless explained that the procurement of agrochemicals process starts with the board writing to the appropriate ministry informing it of their intention to procure such inputs.
He further added that after the submission to the supervisory ministry, the CODAPEC and Hi-tech Units will prepare their annual plan for the procurement of agrochemicals and submit it to management for approval, and that would mark the beginning of procurement and distribution of the various items to farmers.
Ambassador Ohene Agyekum expounded that Dr Opuni did not cause any injury by issuing the purchase of some agrochemicals before the ETC or the board’s approval, as the cocoa industry as a whole, the procurement of specific inputs has to be done on a timely basis.
“My knowledge of management practices based on my over half a century of [my] public service has taught me that in certain circumstances where an industry or an activity that requires timely interventions, it is possible in order that a particular activity would not hurt. It is possible for management to act in good faith and seek subsequent authorisation. I complete and stating as a matter of fact that this happens all the time to safeguard the institutional interest,” he stressed.
The case has been adjourned to Monday, June 27, 2022, for DW5 to testify.