An attempt by counsel for Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni to know the salary of a prosecution witness became a subject of controversy at the Accra High Court yesterday.
Dr Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, are standing trial for allegedly engaging in various illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
The two accused persons have, however, denied any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty to a total of 27 charges.
Tell me your salary
During cross-examination at yesterday’s hearing, the lawyer for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, had sought to know the salary of the first prosecution witness, Dr Franklin Manu Amoah, who is the Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
Counsel was of the view that the witness’ salary was crucial to his client’s case, as it would show that the “witness is being motivated by money”.
Dr Amoah had earlier told the court that he retired in 2015 but was recalled and given a 19-month contract as Executive Director of CRIG in 2017.
Based on that, Mr Cudjoe made a case that the witness lobbied to get his job back purely to continue to enjoy his salary, and was desperate to make a case against Dr Opuni.
“What is your monthly salary at CRIG?” counsel enquired.
Don’t embarrass the witness
Mr Cudjoe’s demands to know Dr Amoah’s salary was met with a strong objection from the prosecution, led by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa.
The DPP argued that the salary of Dr Amoah was irrelevant to the case and should be disallowed.
She further argued that Mr Cudjoe was just bent on embarrassing the witness.
“He need not disclose his salary. His salary is not relevant to the case. Salaries are privileged information between employees and employers,’’ she said.
But Mr Cudjoe insisted that the question was relevant and questioned why the salary of a public official should be a secret.
“Salaries in the public service are well known. The salaries of the President, Speakers of Parliament and judges are in the public domain,’’ he said.
Dr Amoah, however, refuted counsel’s claims that he was motivated by money and was bent on making a case against the former CEO of COCOBOD.
After listening to both sides, the presiding judge, Mr Clemence Honyenuga, disallowed the question, describing it as outright conjecture.
Mr Cudjoe shifted focus and asked Dr Amoah about certain allegations that he (Dr Amoah) unlawfully harvested timber from COCOBOD’s concession.
Dr Amoah explained that the allegations were false and investigations directed by Dr Opuni concluded that the allegations were totally unfounded.
“After the investigations, a report was sent to Dr Opuni, who saw that all were false allegations to tarnish my hard-earned reputation. He, therefore, directed that the main architect behind the unfounded allegations be transferred from CRIG to a plantation at Wassa Akropong,’’ he said.