Another scientist testifies in GH¢271m COCOBOD financial loss case

 A witness, Mr Jerome Agbesi Dogbatse, yester­day told the Accra High Court that scientists tested and completed work on lithovit fer­tiliser before he joined the Ghana COCOBOD on November 4, 2013.

He was giving testimony in the case, in which Dr Stephen Kwabe­na Opuni, former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, is being prosecuted together with Seidu Agongo, the Manag­ing Director of Agricult Ghana Limited, a fertiliser manufacturing company, for alleged procurement breaches and supplying substan­dard fertiliser.

The witness was answering questions under cross examination conducted by Mr Benson Nut­sukpui, the counsel for the second accused, Mr Agongo, and Agricult Ghana Limited.

Mr Dogbatse, a research scien­tist at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) told the court presided over by Justice Aboagye Tandoh, that he (Dogbatse) was invited by the Financial Forensic Unit of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and questioned about lithovit.

He said after the interrogation, the police took his written state­ment.

Mr Dogbatse told the court that he was also invited by a Cocoa Committee, chaired by Dr Adu Ampomah, the Deputy Chief Ex­ecutive of Agronomy and Quality Control of COCOBOD in 2017.

Mr Dogbatse, who holds a Master’s Degree in Soil Science, and currently a PhD student in Agriculture at the University of Ghana, Legon, said he told the Cocoa Committee that when he resumed work, he was taken to the nursery where some work had been done on lithovit.

He said at the nursery, seedlings treated with different fertilisers, including lithovit were leafy, while those that were untreated were not doing well.

Dr Opuni and Agongo have been accused of causing GH¢271 million financial loss to the state through procurement breaches and supplying sub-standard fertiliser to COCOBOD.

The COCOBOD trial had dragged on for more than six years. Justice Clement Jackson Honyenugah, a retired Supreme Court Judge, was the first trial judge until he went on retirement.

The case docket was later assigned to Justice Gyimah Boadi, who at the outset decided to conduct fresh trial because of what he considered as “suspicions and allegations” from the parties concerned.

Justice Boadi was subsequently transferred and the case was as­signed to Justice Aboagye Tandoh.

Before then, the Attorney-Gen­eral and Minister of Justice, Godred Yeboah Dame, appealed the decision of Justice Boadi to conduct fresh trial and later in a ruling, a three-member panel of judges overturned the decision to start the trial afresh.

In March 2018, the Attor­ney-General charged Dr Opuni and Agongo with 27 counts for al­legedly engaging in illegalities that caused financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state, and led to the distribution of sub-standard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.

Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell sub-standard fertiliser to COCO­BOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by not allowing Agongo’s products to be tested and certified, as required by law.

The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges and are on GH¢300,000 bail each.


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