COCOBOD GH¢217m financial loss case: Witness conducted test on powdery substance

Ms Gloria Akuffo-Minister of Justice and Attorney General ,,

Ms Gloria Akuffo-Minister of Justice and Attorney General ,,

A prosecution witness, Dr. Alfred Arthur, in the case in which Dr. Stephen Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, and Seidu Agongo, a businessman, are standing trial for willfully causing financial loss of GH¢217 million to the state in a fertiliser deal, yesterday told the Accra High Court that he conducted test on a fine powdery substance.

Dr. Arthur said Lithovit Foliar Fertiliser (LFF), the subject of controversy, was manufactured in Germany and patented by Zeovita GMBH.

The witness said these when he was led in evidence by Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP).

Dr. Arthur, who is currently the Acting Head of Soil Research Division of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), told the court that a literature search he conducted on LFF indicated the substance had already been used in Ghana on tomato seedlings.

The witness tendered in evidence sample of the substance he tested on July 2013, and the test result in January 2014.

Mr. Samuel Codjoe, counsel for Dr. Opuni, objected to the tendering of the documents, but the court, presided by Justice Clement Honyenuga, a Court of Appeal judge sitting with additional responsibilities overruled the objection and said the exhibits were relevant.

The facts according to the prosecution are that on May 15, 2015 COCOBOD took a sample of “Lithovit Fertiliser” submitted through Agongo,  on behalf of Agricult, the third accused to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana for testing and certification.

Mrs. Obuobisa revealed that Dr Opuni, upon assumption of office as the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, directed contrary to established policy and standard practice that, the period for testing which takes two years, be shortened to six months.

She said that upon the direction of the former COCOBOD boss, no laboratory tests were conducted for the renewal of certificate for the use of Lithovit on cocoa.

Mrs. Obuobisa stated that though Agricult Ghana Limited did not apply for the renewal of certificate as required, its certificate was renewed on the instructions of Dr Opuni.

She told the court that on February 19, 2014, Dr Opuni applied to the Public Procurement Authority for Agricult Limited to be single sourced to procure 700,000 litres of Lithovit Foliar fertiliser although conditions for single source had not been satisfied.

In addition, Dr Opuni was alleged to state the price for the 700,000 litres at $19,250,000 (GH¢43,120,000) though the substance sent for testing was in powdery form not liquid.

The case has been adjourned to November 2, 2018.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA                    


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