COCOBOD GH¢217m financial loss case: Witness denies scrumming to pressure

A prosecution witness, Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah, 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 fertilizer deal, yesterday told the Accra High Court that he did not succumb to pressure in the course of his work.

Dr. Amoah, who is the former Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), said he has never been influenced by any consideration in taking decisions pertaining to his work.

The witness was answering questions during cross-examination by Benson Nutsukpui, counsel for Agongo, the second accused.

He earlier told the court that he received a report from one Mr. Afrifa, the lead scientist, who conducted test on samples of Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer (LFF) that Dr. Opuni directed the shortening of test period from two years to six months.

When Nutsuipkui suggested to the witness that nowhere did his (Dr. Amoah) statements to the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) and the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service indicate that Dr. Opuni instructed scientists to reduce the test period for fertilizer, he said “my Lord, it is not stated straight forward in the two statements.”

The facts according to Mrs. Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) are that on May 15, 2015 COCOBOD took a a sample of “Lithovit Fertilizer” submitted through Agongo,  on behalf of Agricult, the third accused to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana for testing and certification.

She said a draft report on the “effect” of Lithovit on cocoa seedlings was submitted to the head of soil science upon which a final report recommending Lithovit to be applied to mature cocoa even though no field test had been conducted on the cocoa.

 

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 six months be shortened.

 

She submitted 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 said 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 said 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 fertilizer 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 October 29, November 2, 12 and 14.

 

BY MALIK SULLEMANA

 

 

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