A prosecution witness has testified that the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) terminated a fertiliser contract with Agricult Ghana Limited in 2017 because the fertiliser known as lithovit liquid fertiliser (LFF) was not tested.
The Director of Finance of COCOBOD, Mr Peter Osei Amoako, said the fertiliser that was tested at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) was powdery in nature but that which was procured by COCOBOD under the leadership of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni was liquid.
“Again the product did not go through the two years minimum testing regime. In addition, although the product that was tested was tried on seedlings, that which was procured was applied on mature cocoa trees,” he told the Accra High Court last Thursday.
Mr Amoako is the sixth prosecution witness and was testifying in the trial of Dr Opuni and the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, Mr Seidu Agongo.
Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are on trial for allegedly causing financial loss to the state of more than GH¢271.3 million in an alleged fertiliser procurement deal.
Mr Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Mr Agongo’s products not to go through testing and certification as required by law.
The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges preferred against them and are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.
Bone of contention
The main bone of contention in the case is whether the lithovit fertiliser, the subject matter in the trial, is liquid or powdery substance.
It is the case of the prosecution that the fertiliser that CRIG tested and approved was powdery in nature, but Dr Opuni bought liquid fertiliser (lithovit liquid fertiliser) from Agricult Ghana Limited that was never tested and approved.
Lawyers for the accused persons had on the other hand maintained always that the lithovit liquid fertiliser that was supplied to COCOBOD by Agricult Limited was duly tested and approved by CRIG and all the relevant agencies.
Mr Amoako said COCOBOD and Agricult Limited signed series of fertiliser contracts covering the 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 cocoa crop seasons.
The 2013/14 and 2014/15 contracts, he said, were for the supply of 700,000 litres of LFF worth $39 million ($19 million each), while the 2015/2016 was for the supply of 1 million litres of LFF worth $26.5 million.
According to him, all payments COCOBOD made under the contracts to Agticult Ghana Limited were authorised by Dr Opuni.
That, he said, was in line with the policy of COCOBOD, which stipulated that any payment above GH¢10,000 must be authorised by the CEO of COCOBOD.
During cross-examination, counsel for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, sought to make the case that all the payments the witness said were authorised by his client were done in regard of all of COCOBOD’s laid down procedures.
He asked Mr Amoako if per the policy of COCOBOD, any other person apart from the CEO could have authorised the payments to which the witness said no.
“Then he (Dr Opuni) was doing something which every chief executive is required to do,” counsel asked, to which the witness answered in the affirmative.
Counsel then shifted focus and sought to make the case that the finance and audit departments of COCOBOD conducted all due diligence necessary and recommended the payments before Dr Opuni authorised them.
Mr Amoako agreed with counsel but added that Dr Opuni was not bound to follow the recommendations of the finance and audit departments.
“At the point of approval by the chief executive, he has all documents in front of him, including the audit recommendations and he can decide whether or not to approve it,” he said.
The cross-examination will continue on November 17 at the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court judge.