Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum, former Board Chairman of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has told the High Court in Accra that letters written to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) seeking approval for sole sourcing of fertilizers were not written by Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.
According to ambassador Ohene Agyekum, even though the letters to PPA were signed by Dr Opuni, former Chief Executive of COCOBOD, they were “not written by him”.
Ambassador Agyekum also told the court that, “as a board chair, all fertilizers including, Lithovit fertilizer went through the proper procedures.”
Dr Stephen Kwabena, Seidu Agongo, a businessman and his company, Chief Agricult Ghana Limited have been charged for allegedly causing financial loss to the state over some procurement breaches.
They have all pleaded not guilty and have been granted bail by the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of Supreme Court sitting as an additional High Court judge.
Giving his Evidence-in-Chief as the 4th Defence Witness (DW4) for Dr Opuni via video link from Kumasi, he told the court that, he was the Chairman of the board of directors for COCOBOD from January 2014 to 2017.
According to him, by virtue of his chairmanship, he was also the Chairman of the Entity Tender Committee (ETC) until the law was amended to make the Chief Executive the Chairman.
The former Board Chairman also told the court that, even though, the law was amended, “I still attended all Entity Tender Committee meetings.”
“During my tenure as board chair, all agrochemicals including fertilizers which were purchased went through proper procedures and processes,” Ambassador Ohene Agyekum told the court.
The witness said, this practice existed before his appointment to the board of COCOBOD.
“All chemicals including fertilizers bought from Agricult Ghana limited went through all the processes.
“Also, as a board chair, all fertilizers including Lithovit fertilizer went through the proper procedures,” DW4, told the court.
The Witness also said, as a board, “we were guided by technical experts in specific fields and we also followed the right procedures.
He told the court that, Lithovit is a liquid fertilizer and that, “I also know COCOBOD purchase these fertilizers(lithovit) including sidalco and granular fertilizer.”
Ambassador Ohene Agyekum also told the court that, it was not Dr Opuni who granted the contracts, but “Management of COCOBOD awards contract.”
He said, after going through all the processes, “We sought for expert advice before all chemicals bought under my tenure.”
Prior to his witness statement being adopted by the court, Ambassador Ohene Agyekum said, “I am also aware that all procurement letters were written by the procurement unit.”
Under Cross-examination from Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited (A2 and A3), the witness explained to the court how the board takes decisions.
“When the board meets, most of the decisions were arrived at, after a thorough discussion on the issues that were presented to them per the agenda, decisions were taken by consensus,” he explained to the court.
He also told the court that, under his tenure, “it was not possible for any individual to make decisions on behalf of the board.”
He added that,”Each board member was given the opportunity to make his or her views known.”
Asked by counsel if budgets and procurement plans were approved in similar manner, the former board chairman said, the plan and budget will be discussed by members.
“If there is any way for clarification on the plan, the experts are invited,” he said to buttress his point.
Asked to tell the court if he was aware that, in approving the budget or procurement plan, had there been any influence by A2 or A3 (Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited, the witness answered in the negative.
He said, “they could not have influenced any of the decisions because, they do not attend our meetings.”
Asked by counsel for A2 and 3 if during his tenure as the board chair, were any complaints of any problem with any agrochemical COCOBOD purchased brought to his attention, he answered in the negative.
“I never received any complaints from any cocoa farmer or farming group. I can say that for a fact and on behalf of my members. During my tenure of office, based on my personal experience it was my determination that, the policies, programs and activities of the board should be apt to support the cocoa farming industry,” the former board chair told the court.
Farmer who drunk Lithovit should be dead
Asked what his reaction on the evidence on court record that, farmers complained to Dr. Adu Ampoma, that lithovit fertilizer which the board purchased was so ineffective and farmers drunk the fertilizer on their farms, the witness said that cannot be possible.
He said, Adu Ampomah does not know what he was talking about or he probably misunderstood what the farmers were telling him.
“If a farmer drunk the fertilizer, he would be dead. Maybe, he is not telling the truth. I know him quite well. I personally visited some of my relatives in… a cocoa growing community and through interactions, I formed the impression that, lithovit liquid fertilizer was so effective that I believe that as a board chair, I could personally give them some more,” he told the court.
He also told the court that, “I would definitely not consider that purchasing of lithovit was a loss to the state.”
He said, “I was dragged to EOCO in 2017 for causing financial loss to the state.
“Having been charged for causing financial loss to the state and against my protestation as a board chair, I don’t authorize payment nor do I sign cheques at COCOBOD and yet I was treated by EOCO as a common criminal,” he intimated.
The board chairman said “COCOBOD did not suffer any loss in purchasing lithovit.”
He contended that, “The government never owns the cocoa industry but farmers does. It is the product that the various licensing authority purchase and market abroad. The value of which is to used to collateralized the loan which COCOBOD obtains.”
Asked if he was regular at the meetings of the ETC he said, “l was not only regular, I attended all meetings of the tender committee during my tenure as chairman.”
The case was adjourned to Friday June 10, 2022 for continuation.