Opuni didn’t influence my work -Witness 

A Director at the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has denied ever been influenced negatively by Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, while he served under him as his Office manager and the Executive Director of Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED).

He told an Accra High Court, presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh on Thursday that Dr. Opuni, then Chief Executive (CE) of COCOBOD, did not influence him to do what he was not recognised to do.

Dr. Francis Baah, Director of Research, served three months as the office manager of Dr. Opuni before being appointed head of CHED.
Dr. Baah occupied the position of the Chief Executive Office manager during the tenure of Mr. Anthony Fofie, and continued till Dr Opuni assumed office.

He was, however, asked to proceed on leave after the change of government in 2017.
He explained extensively that the office of the Chief Executive is handled by four units, one of which has Clerks that affix stamps on letters.

He suspects a letter from CRIG, which has in attachment, a Scientific report and addressed to the Deputy Chief Executive A&QC might not have been seen by Dr Opuni, although the latter’s Secretariat stamp acknowledging receipt is affixed on it.

His explanation was that if Opuni had seen the said letter, labelled Exhibits B and B1 by the court, he would have minuted on it to his office, but that bureaucratic procedure is absent on the Exhibits.

In conclusion, the letter never came to their attention for whatever action its worth, particularly when official letters are received at the CE’s Secretariat before being dispatched to their recipients.

Dr Baah was subpoenaed to testify as the second Defence Witness (DW2/A1&A2) for Seidu Agongo (A2) and Agricult Ghana (A3), which supplied COCOBOD lithovit fertiliser.
He was led in evidence by Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for A2 and A3 to give his evidence in chief, and currently being cross examined by Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr Opuni.

The witness also told the court that lithovit fertiliser, which the prosecution claimed was solid in the form of a powdered fertiliser, was liquid.

Two key members of the transitional team,  Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah and Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, who worked as Deputy Chief Executive of Agronomy and Qualify Control (A&QC) and Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) respectively, never disputed his claim that lithovit is a liquid fertiliser, induces flowering and could improve cocoa yields.

The Prosecution has charged Dr Opuni (A1), Mr. Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited for purchasing and supply adulterated lithovit fertiliser that is harmful to the environment, and so ineffective that some cocoa farmers allegedly drunk it as water on their farms.
The purchase of lithovit fertiliser is said to have caused the Republic to lose a whopping GH¢271.3 million.

Law Courts Complex, Accra

Mr. Agongo is also alleged to have paid some GH¢20,000.00 into the personal bank account of Dr. Opuni, raising serious eyebrows.
Dr. Opuni is said to have influenced Scientists at CRIG to breach fertiliser testing protocol to favour lithovit fertiliser.

The accused persons have, however, denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to 27 counts of causing financial loss to the Republic, corruption of public officer, money laundering and contravention of Public Procurement Act.

The trial 

Since the commencement of the trial in 2017, the prosecution had called seven Witnesses, Dr. Opuni has called and subpoenaed 11 Witnesses. Mr Agongo has so far called two out of over 30 Witnesses.
The trial has so far been handled by three judges – justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, a Supreme Court Justice (retired), Justice Kwasi Anokye Gyimah, transferred, and Justice Aboagye Tandoh.

Excepts of cross-examination 

You see, Dr Baah, having been the officer manager in the Chief Executive office during the tenure of A1 and his predecessor Anthony Fofie, you are aware that if the Chief Executive receives a letter that comes before him he will always minutes on the letter?

A. That would be the case. My lord, such things would direct the cause of action.
Q. In fact during your stay at COCOBOD including now, correspondences which are received by the recipient will always be minuted upon by the recipient to the appropriate person to direct the cause of action?

A. Yes my lord that would be correct.
Q. You see. in Exhibit B, which you have before you, and which is addressed to the Deputy Chief Executive from CRIG and not copied to the Chief Executive, is a clear indication that the scientific report, which is attached to the letter, is for the attention and action of the Deputy Chief Executive A&QC and not the Chief Executive?

A. My lord that is the case.
Q. And in fact, cast your mind back when this letter was stamped with the Chief Executive’s stamp, dated 21st January, 2014. I’m putting it you that what it meant was that the Chief Executive Secretariat had received the letter and not the Chief Executive personally?

A. Yes my lord that would be correct.
Q. You see, as the then office manager and also a technical expert by way of the fact that you had also worked in CRIG before, if the Chief Executive that is A1 had seen this letter he would have minuted it either to yourself or the requisite office namely the deputy Chief Executive A&QC?

A. That would be my expectation.
Q. Did you ever see this letter Exhibit B together with B1, which is the scientific report?
A. I can’t recall seeing it because there is no cause of action on it directed to my person or the office that I occupied.

Q. You see in your then position as the Office manager of the Chief Executive office, you are aware that the affection of received stamp, dated 21st day of January, 2014 is never done by the Chief Executive but by his secretarial staff?

A. Yes my lord that would be right. When I was there, the Secretariat was divided into four offices. The holding area for guests, an office for the receiving clerk and a dispatch clerk, and an office for a confidential Secretary and an office for the office manager and my lord an office for the office manager. That was how the office of the Chief Executive was organized.

Q. How many staff were in the receiving clerk’s office?
A. My lord, they were two – one receives and one has the responsibility to dispatch at the time. Sometimes they interchange their roles.
Q. Who keeps the stamp, which is affixed to Exhibit B, which has received COCOBOD, Chief Executive receives?

A. It will be the office of the receiving Clerk
Q. You see, I’m putting it to you that when you were there neither the predecessor of A1 and A1 himself would have kept this stamp with him i.e. the stamp which will indicate when the letter first came to the office?

A. My lord that would be correct.
Q. In fact, in the whole of COCOBOD, no Director except when the envelope containing or parcel addressed to that particular director is labeled confidential on the face of the letter or parcel would be the first person to receive this letter or parcel coming from outside of the office or department or directive?

A. My lord, if I may add, I agreed with what counsel has said in respect of offices that I have worked in COCOBOD.
Q. Even the secretary to the CE in COCOBOD and in CRIG will not be the person who will affix the received stamp on this letter and that it will be the receiving clerk who would have done it. Is that not the case?

A. Yes my lord that would be the case
Q. And I’m putting it to you that if the Chief Executive, i.e., first accused had received this letter he would definitely have brought it to your attention before you would have referred it to the relevant departments?

A. If there have been minutes on the letter to instruct the cause of action by my good self or the office. I agree intoto with counsel.
Q. The purpose of having a technical person who has technical knowledge and expertise in the operations of COCOBOD as office manager in the office of CE is to assist the CE and also manage the office to ensure that things are done to ensure smooth operation in the Chief Executive office?

A. That is the case. That is the expectation.
Q. I put it to you that in this instance when Exhibit B, which is addressed to the Deputy Chief Executive A and QC, which has the attachment Exhibit B1 was received in the Chief Executive Secretariat by the receiving clerk, he stamped it with the Chief Executive’s stamp and dispatched Exhibit B and B1 to the office of Deputy CE A&QC?

A. That would be correct.
Q. So neither yourself nor the Chief Executive saw this Exhibit B and B1?
A. My lord what I can confirm is that Exhibit B has no instruction from the Chief Executive to myself or my office, therefore, the proposition from counsel may well be the case.
Q. So you see in the office of the Deputy Chief Executive A&QC, you have technical people who assist in his work is that not so?

A. Yes
Q. In fact, can you name some of the technical people who were in the office of the Deputy Chief Executive A&QC in the time of the receipt of this letter in january, February and March when you were the office manager in the CE’s office?

A. Yes My lord, I can recall those in the office and those associated working closely with the A&QC. They are not physically in the office, they are joining… I can recall Dr Solomon Acquaye, Soil scientist, and a technical man, Mr George Okyere, he is an Agronomist and a Deputy Technical Director and in the office we have Mr Lartey who was an administrative officer, my lord I can’t recall the first name readily. And there two others who I can’t recall their names.

Q. You have in your hands Exhibit C, which is a letter addressed to the Chief Agriculture officer of Agricult Ghana Limited and this letter is signed by A1 and copied to the Deputy Chief Executive F&A/A&QC/Ops and also to the Executive Director CRIG. You can confirm from your position as the then office manager in the office of A1 that he is not and could not have been the one who wrote Exhibit C?

A. Yes my lord. What I can confirm is that even given the contents of both Exhibits B and C, my expectation is the letter would have emanated from the office of the Deputy Chief Executive A&QC. And it would be authored by the soil scientists associated with the office.

Q. You see, when it comes to scientific reports such as Exhibit B1 together with other scientific reports. During your tenure as the office manager to your knowledge, I’m putting it to you, A1 never worked on any of them either by way of granting approval or rejecting them?

A. That is the case. And if I may explain. That is why the board is structured such that all the highly technical divisions namely CRIG, SPD, QCD, CHEF are placed directly under of office A&QC. The holder of that office is the chief technical store of knowledge or repository of technical knowledge on cocoa and that have been the case in all my years in COCOBOD.

Q. You see Exhibit 3 is an investigative statement of PW1 Franklin Manu Amoah. On the last page of this statement Exhibit 3 thus on page 3, Dr Franklin Manu Amoah stated that you affirmed to the transitional team that lithovit as a liquid fertiliser induces flowering of cocoa and which intend would resolve in increase yield. That is the case isn’t it?

A. Yes I did.
Q. You see, Dr Amoah, when you made this statement did not challenge you that lithovit was not a liquid fertiliser?

A. That is correct.
Q. None of the members of the transitional team on cocoa, whose chairman was Dr Adu Ampomah PW3, ever challenged or disputed this statement that lithovit as a liquid

A. I don’t recall being challenged.
Q. And if you were challenged on this statement you would have recalled it?
A. That is right.

Q. If Dr Franklin Amoah PW1 did not believe what you have told him, namely that lithovit is a liquid fertiliser, he would have challenged you at that point. If he did not know the truism that lithovit was?

A. That would be a fair.
Q. In fact, at the transitional team none of the persons from COCOBOD who appeared before this team ever questioned the efficacy of lithovit liquid fertiliser on mature cocoa?
A. I don’t recall any detailed challenge on lithovit. I don’t think there was any challenge?
Q. You see, Dr Amoah, PW1 did not challenge your statement on the efficiency of lithovit that it induced flowering and could increase yield?

A. There was no challenge and I was not questioned extensively on it. My lord, if I may add, this statement attributed to me was made on the basics of field reports from CHED, which I headed at the time.

Q. You see in your statement to the police and EOCO you were very emphatic that A1 did not induce you or influence your work during his tenure as CE?
A. That is pertaining to doing what I’m not supposed to do, that is correct.
Q. After you were appointed to the office of the Executive Director CHED, your mandate included the distribution of fertilisers to farmers?

A. That is correct. Initially when I assumed office that mandate was in the bosom of Codapec/Hitect working through or working with CHED. Subsequently, my lord, the operations of Codapec/Hitect became part of CHED.
Q. You see when you were at CHED you didn’t report directly to A1 but to the Deputy Chief Executive A&QC?

A. My lord that is correct.
Q. And you can confirm that during your time at CHED, namely from 2014, 2015 and 2016, A1 did not determine the type and/or quantity of fertilisers to be purchased by COCOBOD?

A. I agree with counsel and I want to add that the fertilisers, agrochemicals and machines we used were part of the work of Codapec/Hitect, which was headed by a Deputy Director. They make the recommendation.

Q. You will agree with me that even you who was the Executive Director at the time did not make the recommendation for the purchase of these fertilisers and agrochemicals but the recommendation to purchase agrochemicals came from Codape/Hitech, which was a unit under CHED?

A. Yes my lord. I agree Codapec/Hitect was a unit under CHED at some point.
Q. And in fact when your Directorate receives recommendation for the purchase of agrochemicals, you will then forward the recommendation through the DCE A&QC to management?

A. That is correct. Anything from Codape/Hitech and CHED would end at the Office of DCE A&QC. We don’t deal directly with DCE A&F.

Q. I’m putting it to you that what you mean is that Codapec/Hitect when they made their recommendation for the purchase of agrochemicals and fertilizer would be channeled through CHED to the Deputy CE A&QC who would then send it to top management for approval?

A. My lord it would be correct.


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