The state’s first witness in the case involving former COCOBOD boss Dr Stephen Opuni has told an Accra High Court laid down procedures to be followed in the testing of fertilizers were not adhered to before contracting Agricult Ghana Limited.
Dr Franklin Manu Amoah, who is the Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) was led to give evidence by Chief state Attorney Evelyn Keelson regarding the supply Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer.
He said the fertilizer which was in a powdery form was not applied to matured plants as required and the testing period fell short of the average of 3years.
The fertilizer he recounted was applied only to seedlings within the required six-month period.
Dr Amoah explained the committee responsible for testing the fertilizer were simply obeying a policy decision introduced by Dr Opuni when he assumed office as CEO, in recommending the fertilizer for use.
He recounted how Dr Opuni argued that the range of Agro Chemicals in the system that farmers could access was very narrow and that has led to the high cost of chemicals. This, he said, Dr Opuni blamed on the long testing period of fertilizer.
According to the CRIG Director, the committee relied on this directive in issuing its report despite not going through the required period.
Asked how he heard of this directive by Dr Opuni, the state’s first witness said he met the former CEO at COCOBOD where he communicated it to him.
Dr Amoah told the court although he made his disagreement obvious, Dr Opuni maintained his stance. Dr Opuni according to the witness paid a working visit to CRIG where he raised the issue in the presence of scientists at CRIG who disagreed with the directive.
Dr Amoah said shortly after receiving the report from the Committee he wrote to COCOBOD on the matter. The CRIG Executive Director said he noted in his report that the fertilizer is similar to two other fertilizers that had been tested over a period of four years. The application of these other two fertilizers had led to an increase in yield during testing.
COCOBOD according to Dr Amoah then wrote a letter approving the test report which was forwarded to the CEO of Agricult Seidu Agongo
Pressure to recommend Lithovit
The CRIG Boss further told the court that shortly after a certificate was issued for the fertilizer he was informed by a colleague that Dr Opuni wants him to write a letter to COCOBOD recommending the purchase of sufficient quantities of the Lithovit fertilizer for 10,000 hectares. Dr Amoah said he refused to do this explaining it was not within his mandate to make such a recommendation to COCOBOD.
Dr Amoah narrated he was then transferred to COCOBOD in August 2014 till he retired in 2015. He said he heard nothing about the fertilizer till December 2016 when he was part of the transition team.
He said he learnt COCOBOD had procured Lithovit Liquid fertilizer. This he explained to the court was different from what had been tested.
The tested one was a powder while that which was procured had already being dissolved(liquid form) rendering it impossible to determine whether it had the same nutrient content as the powdery one that was tested.
He further said the tested product had been labelled as a product from a German-based company called Zeovita GMPH.
During Cross Examination by Dr Opuni’ lawyer Samuel Codjoe, Dr Amoah admitted he was recalled from retirement with the change in administration and has subsequently been handed a contract as Executive Director of CRIG.
The former COCOBOD CEO and CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited Seidu Agongo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretence, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have pleaded not guilty and have been granted a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail by the court.
Hearing of the case continues on July 23.