The former Director of Finance at the Cocoa Board (COCBOD), Mr. Charles Kwao Tetteh Dodoo, claims Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, during his tenure as the Chief Executive (CE) of the Board never had computer in his officer for writing letters.
Speaking in defence of Dr. Opuni (A1), who is standing trial with two others – Seidu Agongo (A1) and Agricult Ghana Limit (A2) – for causing financial loss to the State and other financial malfeasance charges numbering about 27, Mr. Dodoo said his former boss did not author letters that emanated from COCOBOD during his time.
Mr. Dodoo, while being cross-examined by the Principal State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, at the court, presided over by a Supreme Court Justice, who has additional responsibility of the Criminal Division ‘1’ of the High Court, Justice Clemence Honyenyga, yesterday, averred that Dr. Opuni only signed letters written on behalf of COCOBOD.
He explained that letters covering purchases were prepared by the Procurement Unit, and signed by the CE, while those addressed to the then CE’s Secretariat were sent to the appropriate offices for action, without Dr. Opuni having the full benefit of their contents.
With this response, the prosecution asked him whether Dr. Opuni only rubber-stamped letters prepared by the Procurement Unit, but the witness said the CE was assisted by competent deputies who he relied on their advice to sign contracts without necessarily scrutinising their contents.
He added that COCOBOD laid down processes and procedures that were followed to the latter, and as a result, matters on contracts were vetted by the Entity Tender Committee, the Procurement Unit, as well as the Governing Board.
Nonetheless, the prosecution indicated that a letter to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) for the procurement of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser was personally written and signed by Dr. Opuni without applying the processes and procedures laid down at the COCOBOD.
But the witness said the assertion was false, and that all companies were treated equally, and reiterated that Dr. Opuni, during his time as the Chief Executive, never wrote letters.
The following are excerpts of questions (Q) and answers (A) of the cross-examination.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, you told this court that you were transferred to COCOBOD Head Office as Deputy Director of Internal Audit in January 2013, is that not so?
Q. You also told the court that you were appointed as Director of Finance in April 2014 and stayed on that position to January 2017, is that right?
Q. And you told the court that it was when you were appointed Director of Finance you had an oversight responsibility over the Procurement Unit, is that right?
Q. Mr. Dodoo, at the time of Exhibit L, which is dated 11 January, 2014, was written you were not Director of Finance, and you didn’t have oversight responsibility over the Procurement Unit, is that not so?
Q. Mr. Tetteh Dodoo, as at the time Exhibit M, which is dated 13 February, 2014, was written, you were not the Director of Finance, and you didn’t have direct responsibility over the Procurement Unit, is that not so?
Q. At the time of Exhibit N, which is dated 19 February, 2014, once again, you were not the Director of Finance, and you did not have oversight responsibility over the Procurement Unit?
Q. Have a look at Exhibit Q, which is dated 25 February, 2014, when that letter was written to PPA, you were not the Director of Finance and did not have oversight responsibility over the Procurement Unit?
Q. Have a look at Exhibit X, which is dated 25 February, 2014, and, once again, when that letter was written you were not the Director of Finance and didn’t have an oversight responsibility over [the] Procurement Unit?
Q. Mr. Dodoo, because you were not the Director of Finance, and also didn’t have the oversight responsibility over the Procurement Unit when all these letters were written, you had nothing to do with these letters, is that not so?
A. No. I have all to do with the letters and exhibits that I have been shown. All these were copied to the Director of Audit. As the Deputy Director of Audit in charge of Training and Quality Assurance, all letters come back to my office. So my lord, I’m fully aware of these letters. Secondly, payments under these contracts were made when I was the Director of Finance. Some of the exhibits, like the request for quotations accompaning the documentations, were copied to me before payments were effected.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, by the time you saw all these exhibits, as Deputy Director of Audit, and later as Director of Finance, the letters had already been signed by A1 and delivered, is that not so?
Q. Mr. Dodoo, your evidence, therefore, in this court is that the exhibits that I shown you were not written by A1 was only a conjecture and not based on your personal knowledge, because you were not there when any of them was written?
Cudjoe: Objection. The question is confusing.
A. No. Internal Audit was regularly undertaken, so I know the procurement process very well. I interacted with [the] Procurement Unit…so I know all the processes work in COCOBOD.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, so your evidence was actually based on what you know to be the general procedure, and not specifically on what happened with respect to these exhibits, is that not so?
A. No, and I will explain. As a Board Member and a Deputy Director at the time, I’m fully aware of the functions of the CODEAPEC/HITECH Unit. I was also aware of the Board’s approval of purchases. So when I get copies of these exhibits, which had come through the Director, Audit, I need not to personally be in the office of the Procurement Manager for me to understand what is taking place.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, in January 2014, when CRIG submitted their report on the test conducted on Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser on mature cocoa to A1’s office, you were not a Member of A1’s Secretariat, is that not so?
Q. In fact, the covering letter, which is Exhibit B. and the report itself, which is Exhibit B1, was received in A1’s Secretariat on 21 January, 2014, as it is obvious on the face of the exhibit, is that not so?
Q. Mr. Dodoo Exhibits B and B1 were delivered directly to A1 as the Chief Executive?
A. No, and I will explain. The Executive Director of CRIG cannot, and I will emphasise, cannot directly submit a report to the Chief Executive, because he doesn’t work under the Chief Executive. The Executive Director works directly towards the Deputy Chief Executive Agrochemicals & Quality Control, and it is clear on the face of the exhibit that they had appropriately addressed to the DCE, A & QC. Letters coming from CRIG to Cocoa House came in one bulk, and they are delivered to the Office of the Chief Executive’s Secretariat. This is the established procedure. So my lord, as stated in my earlier evidence, A1 will not see these letters, the Secretariat having received would send it to the appropriate offices.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, once again, I’m putting it to you that your evidence is based on assumption and not the real facts as happened on 21 January, 2014, because there’s an overwhelming evidence in this court that there was no DCE A & QC in COCOBOD at the time?
A. My lord, if DCE A & QC is not at post, other deputies will be made to act. The Chief Executive of COCOBOD would not assume the responsibility of an absentee Deputy. And, my lord, I also want to add that this Honourable Court has [a] plethora of exhibits, which demonstrate that letters, if addressed to the CE, always come down the chain for action.
Q. I’m putting it to you that there is nothing on Exhibit B that this letter was minuted to any other officer at COCOBOD at the face of the document?
A. It is correct on the face of the document, but that is not the fact. There will be a Deputy handling the function of absentee Deputy. For that reason, A1, if a letter not addressed to him, he will not see and act
Q. I’m putting it to you that in this particular case, A1 saw Exhibit B, reviewed Exhibit B1 on the same day, and wrote Exhibit C, indicating management approval of Exhibit B1?
A. No, and I will explain. A1 doesn’t write letters. Letters of that nature going out of COCOBOD will have to be signed by A1. My lord, COCOBOD is a big organisation, it has established procedures, so A1 will not just keep writing letters and signing. My lord, in any case, A1 has no computer in his office for letter writing… the procedures that I know; it will be impossible for someone to say A1 writes letters in his office.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, A1. as Chief Executive, is the Head of management, is that not so?
Q. Mr. Dodoo, do you want this court to believe that A1 signed this letter, stating management approval of a CRIG report without reviewing same?
A. My lord, essentially, yes, and I will explain. A competent Deputy… goes to A1 and tells A1 that we have received a CRIG report sir, we have given approval to company so and so, and we will do a letter and inform the company. From my personal knowledge, A1 will not call for the report to read before agreeing to sign the communication to and for the company. A1 will tell the Deputy…do the letter and bring it. Personally, I go to A1, he will not call to do the report, scrutinised it before signing it. My lord, I have personally gone to A1 to inform him of letters that ought to meet certain deadlines. At the time I had those letters in my file with me, and A1 will call for the letters and sign them.
Q. So the quotation that you gave of the deputies, where were you when this was being said?
A. My lord, I’m not sure I said I was in A1’s office, but I gave a picture of what transpires per my knowledge.
Q. So what you said is not what happens, but you are giving a general picture of what normally happens?
Q. I’m putting it to you that in this particular case, everything that happened with the report of Lithovit is what had been captured on Exhibits B, B1 and B?
A. I don’t understand the question.
Court: This is cross-examination and you have explained your position, but the counsel is putting it to you. It is for you to agree or disagree.
A. I don’t agree. The processes and procedures that have been established at COCOBOD work every day, so I don’t agree.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, your background is Finance, is that not so?
A. Not so my lord.
Q. What is your background?
A. I’m a certified Internal Auditor, and Governance Expert. My lord, I also do part time lecturing at KNUST in Total Quality Management. For MBA project, I also do Venture and Human Resources Information Management.
Q. Clearly, you are not a scientist?
Q. You never worked with CRIG, is that not so?
Q. So you have no idea about the Lithovit Folia Fertiliser that A3, through A2, submitted for testing in May 2013?
Q. You don’t know anything about the Material Safety Data Sheet and the nature of the sample that was tested by CRIG?
Q. You didn’t have the benefit of Exhibit B1, which is CRIG’s report on Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser, which was sent to COCOBOD?
Q. You are not aware of any scientific report on Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, which was bought or purchased by COCOBOD, is that not so?
A. No, and I will explain. I may not be aware of the contents of CRIG reports, but I’m aware that there will be a report before the procurement procedures triggered.
Q. You told the court that the only Lithovit that you saw was liquid, because that was the Lithovit that was purchased by COCOBOD in 2014, 2015 and 2016?
Q. Your work as the Director of Finance was to look at the contract, which had been signed by A1 and A2 on behalf of A3, and ensured that what was signed on the contract is what had been delivered?
A. No, and I will explain. My work as Director of Finance takes care of the process of procurement from the time management agrees to purchase to the time of delivery. Looking at the relevant information gathered for PPA approval of required or other approval processes, all the way to contact preparation to the delivery of the product, and to ensure that the product is really delivered and paid for.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, Exhibit X, contrary to your evidence in this court; I’m putting it to you that as at the time A1 wrote to the PPA on 19 February, 2014 on Exhibit N, asking for approval for sole source or single source for a number of fertilisers procurement… COCOBOD had no price quotations from A1?
Q. It is not correct. As I have explained earlier, Lithovit was not the only products written to the PPA for approval. CODAPEC/HITECH was a unit which coordinates these agrochemicals as part of their coordination activities; they serve as an interface between COCOBOD and the suppliers. So they have prices from the suppliers, which prices they give to procurement. For that reason, the procurement, they use information to seek PPA’s approval. They give CODAPEC/HITECH a copy of their letter. My lord, there are exhibits before this Honourable Court when that arrangement changed, the Procurement Unit letters to PPA were not copied to the CODAPEC HITECH Unit.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, I’m putting it to you that, once again, you answer is not based on any fact, but only on assumption?
A. I disagree, and I will explain. When the changes were made at the CODAPEC HITECH Unit, I was in the place as the Director of Finance and subsequently, letters to PPA seeking approval to purchase were not copied to CODAPEC /HITECH, because the Procurement Unit now takes the price from the suppliers directly.
Q. I’m putting it to you that with respect to your answer that the relevant letters, that is Exhibits S and T, which were both written, at the time you were not the Director of Finance, show clearly when A1 writes to PPA for approval, he has no price quotations?
A. My lord, I disagree, because there was a system; CODAPEC/HITECH was in place, and all the companies were treated the same. My lord, I will to add that, as Deputy Director, I was very much aware of the system in place.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, I’m putting it to you that your evidence that nobody at COCOBOD signs a letter which is going out of COCOBOD, apart from the Chief Executive, is false?
A. I disagree, because I have explained in some aspects of my evidence that it depends on the significance. I remember I gave an example of the Audit Department, where the Director of Audit communicates with … agencies. Those letters between the Director of Audit and the agencies are signed by the Director of Audit. My lord, I want to add, it also depends on the practices and procedures of that Department
Q. Mr. Dodoo, I’m putting it to you that you [that] yourself, as the Director of Finance, singed a number of letters that went out of COCOBOD; letters involving serious financial obligations of COCOBOD?
A. My lord, I have explained that about the significance of the letter and the practice and procedures of that Department.
Q. We have a number of these letters written by you in this court?
A. I will not object.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, I’m putting it to you that all the procurement letters on the procurement of Lithovit, as exhibits before this court, were written and signed by A1, in his capacity as the Chief Executive of COCOBOD?
A. Procurement letters said to be written and signed by A1 are totally false. Signed by A1, I agree.
Q. I’m putting it to you that contrary to your evidence, A1, as the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, couldn’t have rubber stamp these letters?
A. A1 doesn’t write letters, but A1 signs letters.
Q. I’m putting it to that all the letters signed by A1 were authored by him?
A. My lord, this assertion is absurd; as a governance expert, I know that no Chief Executive heading a company of COCOBOD’s stature will be wasting time written standard letters, or any other letter for that matter. My lord, their own speeches for occasions are written for them, let alone letters of a formal nature.
Q. Your response shows clearly that the letters A1 wrote to Cabinet – that is Exhibit L – and the one to the Minister for Finance – that is Exhibit M – were clearly his deeds?
A. I don’t agree, and I will explain. Exhibits L and M were written by the Procurement Manager, and they were signed by A1, and, my lord, A1 doesn’t write letters.
Q. I’m putting it to you that you were not there when these letters were being written?
A. Yes, I wasn’t there in the same room when the Procurement Unit was writing these letters.
Q. I’m putting it to you that, as a matter of fact, A1 was the only person in COCOBOD who knew the nature of the substance of Lithovit, which was tested by CRIG and approved by him?
A. My lord, it is not correct. The scientists who worked on it will know.
Q. I’m putting it to you that when A1 was writing all the letters on the procurement of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser he knew from the report he approved that that was not the fertiliser which was tested?
A. I don’t agree. My explanation is that CRIG scientists do a follow-up to the field to obtain information on approved products and their use. There has not been any report to support this assertion, not even through grievance. I signed [an] undertaking that A1 doesn’t write letters. Letters on Lithovit, when I was the Director of Finance, I vetted them.
Q. I further put it to you that from Exhibit B, B1 and C, nobody at the Procurement Unit knew of the nature of the Lithovit Fertiliser, which was tested by CRIG and approved by A1?
A. Yes. Again, procurement was not copied, so I will not know the contents of Exhibit B and B1, but procurement will have a CRIG certificate, which will indicate to it the product they are processing.
Q. Mr. Dodoo, I’m putting it to you that your entire evidence before this court on the processes involved in the procurement of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser by COCOBOD is based on assumption?
A. My lord, I disagree. Upon my advice, the lawyers of A1 requested for procurement documents from this Honourable Court, which have all been tendered in evidence, and these documents show clearly that same processes were applied for the purchase to the others agrochemicals, including Lithovit. These documents indicated clearly that letters to A1 on procurement were all directed to Procurement, through the Deputy Chief Executive A & QC, and the Executive Director of CHED that were brought to this Honourable Court through A1’s lawyers. I shudder to understand where I have told this court lies.
Q. I’m further putting it to you that you were not present when a number of the decisions on the procurement of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser were taken?
A. It is not correct. I have been on the Board when Lithovit Folio Fertiliser was among a number of submissions on purchase. I have vetted letters – contract involving the purchase of Lithovit, and the Board vets procurement reports every month in all major reports, including agrochemicals
Q. I’m putting it to you that you have absolutely no idea about the Lithovit Folia Fertiliser manufactured by Zeovita in Germany, which was submitted by A3 through A2 for testing by CRIG?
A. Yes, for testing I have no idea.
Q. I’m finally putting it to you that you have only come before this court to try and help A1 as your former boss, and not based on any personal knowledge you have about this case?
A. I disagree. I heard the charges read and explained to me by A1’s lawyers, and having provided the lawyers with information, which had got documentary evidence in support, I don’t see why I don’t have any knowledge.
Court: Any re-examination?
Cudjoe: No re-examination.
Court: The witness is discharged.
Cudjoe: My lord, we will apply for leave to apply for a supplementary or a new one altogether, with respect of A1’s and Samuel Torbi.
Prosecution: We were served with four witness statements for and on behalf of A1. Even though the statements were filed out of time, we don’t have any objection, for they have been used by A1. My lord, I find it strange that the version of the witness statements for A1 and Samuel Torbi, which had been served on us and the court, are not the correct version when the statements have been filed. We are ready to proceed on Thursday.
Cudjoe: My lord, we are not asking for adjournment. We are applying and withdrawing A1 and Torbi witness statements.
Court: It is my considered view that witness statements for Samuel Torbi could be filed as amended witness statements, and, therefore, I will grant A1 and Samuel Torbi statements to be filed by tomorrow, Tuesday, 26, April, 2022.
Cudjoe: We are also applying under Article 19(2 g and h) of the 1992 Constitution for the following:
Subpoenas to issue Reginald Adukwa, he was the banker assigned A1 personal banker at Ecobank, now at Standard Charted Bank A subpoena for Samuel Amponsah who was the Acting Had of CHED.. Samuel Amponsah at the time reported that the farmers required Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer at the time at the Northwest Region. A subpoena for Peter Okyere Boateng, is the Deputy Executive Director CHED in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation and was directly in charge and official who wrote the CHED report on the evaluation of fertilizers including Lithovit, which report was given to us by the prosecution, and which report talks about the effects of lithovit on cocoa. We also wants to subpeana to be Dr Gilbert Aim Kwarpong who was the Executive Director of CRIG in 2015/16 and 2016/2017 cocoa seasons and it was during his time that COCOBOD through CRIG renewed the certificate for Lithovit fertilizer. My lord, we will also want a subpoena issued to Arthur Kwasi, a farmer who used lithovit and whose farm is at Bono.
Under 19(2h) we will need a Twi Language interpreter.
We also require that Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum, who was the former board chairman who is resident in Kumasi and who has a health challenge by way of a disc spinal issue evidence should be taken remotely or video, this is because although he has no problem with his voice but it will be problematic to be physically present in court because he sits in a wheelchair. He was the board chair and it was during the tenure that the procurement Act amended sometime in 2016. The chairman of Entity Tender Committee, the purchase of Lithovit was approved by the ETC. My lord, we pray that a subpoena be issued for these persons to appear before court.
By court: the application for subpoenas to be issued for the five personalities as mentioned or stated is hereby granted. The registrar of this court is to carry out this order. Counsel for A1 should assist the registrar by providing the necessary addresses for services on the personalities. With regard for the application for review conference is also granted and the registrar is to carry out this order in corporation with counsel for A1.