Opuni Trial: Then Board Chairman, Tender Committee not aware lithovit was untested – Witness
Police Detective Chief Inspector, Mr Thomas Prempeh Mercer, the investigator in the trial involving Dr Stephen Opuni, the former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, and two others, says Committees were unaware lithovit fertilizer was not tested.
He said the then Board Chairman, Mr Daniel Ohene Agyekum and other Board Members, excluding Mr Opuni did not know that they were approving for COCOBOD to buy untested agrochemicals and fertilizers like lithovit follar fertilizer.
Detective Chief Inspector Prempeh under cross-examination by Mr Samuel Cudjoe, Counsel for Dr Opuni said, “Same applied to the Entity Tender Committee (ETC), they did not know the product they approved was not tested by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).”
The Counsel asked the witness, whether during his investigations, he had taken a statement from the then Board Chairman of COCOBOD and he answered in the affirmative.
The witness explained that the statement was taken by the Economic and Organised Crime Office and it was part of the docket they took over as part of the investigations.
Mr Cudjoe indicated that in the said statement, the then Board Chairman stated that all purchases and contracts were duly approved by the Board and the witness agreed.
The witness confirmed the statement of the then Board Chairman of COCOBOD, which stated that all necessary rules and procedure for procurement of such products particularly chemicals and fertilizers were strictly adhered too.
Just then, the witness quickly came in to tell the court that, “My lord respectively, l beg to state that the Board Chairman then did not know that the products were untested by CRIG, hence their approvals.”
Mr Cudjoe asked the investigator, whether during his investigations, he requested for minutes of meetings from the Committee and he answered in the affirmative.
The Counsel pointed to the witness that all the minutes indicated that the Committee also gave their approval for the purchase of lithovit follar fertilizer through sole sourcing, to which the witness agreed.
The Detective Chief Inspector Prempeh explained that the Committee did not know at that time of approval that lithovit fertilizer had not been tested by CRIG.
The defense tendered all the minutes from the meeting as evidence in their defense in respect to the approval and purchase of the lithovit liquid fertilizer with no objections.
Mr Cudjoe said all the documents including CRIG certification were sent to the Public Procurement Authority, which the witness agreed.
He said Dr Opuni did not deal with the technical issue but the witness disagreed, saying before the documents got to the Authority, it had to be signed by Dr Opuni and in so doing, Dr Opuni must be conversant with all the contents of the document before signing.
The witness said Dr Opuni in signing all the documents, which saw the procurement of lithovit, knew very well that the fertilizer from Agricult Ghana Limited had not been tested at all, so if he had gone ahead to sign them, it meant that he was fully aware.
Mr Cudjoe pointed to the witness that Dr Opuni did not determine the type and quantity of fertilizer purchase but the witness disagreed, saying he knew about the fertilizer in question very well and it was him, who directed that the testing period of agrochemicals and fertilizers for use by the Board should be shortened.
The witness said Dr Opuni was the same person, who instructed for the issuance of a certificate on the lithovit follar fertilizer on January 22, 2014.
He said even though, there were no written document on the instructions for the issuance of the certificate, there was evidence before the court currently through an earlier witness.
Dr Opuni and Mr Agongo are facing 27 charges including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the State, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.
They have both pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognisance bail, each.
The case was adjourned to March, 11, 2021.