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General News of Sunday, 12 June 2022

Source: classfmonline.com

Agongo & Agricult never influenced me or Cocobod to buy lithovit fertiliser – Ohene Agyekum

Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum

A former Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum, has told the high court hearing the GHS271 million financial loss case against the state-owned cocoa buying company’s former CEO, Dr Stephen Opuni together with businessman Seidu Agongo and his company Agricult Company Limited that the decision by the Board of Cocobod to buy lithovit liquid fertiliser for farmers was devoid of any influences from Mr Agongo and his company.

“When the board meets, most of the decisions were arrived [at] after a thorough discussion of the issues that were presented to the board as agenda items”, adding: “Those issues will be on our agenda and decisions were taken by consensus”, he explained to the court during a cross-examination by Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Mr Agongo and Agricult, who are the second and third accused persons.

Asked if it was possible, during his tenure as Chairman between January 2014 and January 2017, for an individual board member to take decisions on behalf of the board, Dr Opuni’s fourth witness said: “My Lord, no”, explaining: “When the board meets, any of the issues presented by each board member is given the opportunity to make his or her views known to the other members and if there is a need for clarification to assist him or her in arriving at a decision, this was normally provided by any member of the board who has knowledge on that particular subject, a clarification could also be provided by the experts who are invited by the board to attend our board meetings”.

Mr Ohene Agyekum also said Cocobod’s budget and procurement plans were dealt with by the board in a similar fashion.

He said from January 2014 to January 2017, it was the board rather than an individual that approved the budgets and procurement plans for Cocobod.

“Those decisions are taken by the board, as a whole, after a thorough discussion”.

Regarding whether any of those decisions were influenced by Mr Agongo and/or his company Agricult, Mr Ohene Agyekum answered: “My Lord, they could not have had any influence whatsoever because they did not attend any of our meetings”.

Asked if he had any personal dealings with Mr Agongo and Agricult Company during his tenure as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cocobod, the witness said: “Mr Lord, my answer is definitely no. Never! And anybody who knows me [knows] it is not my style of managing any institution that I have been made the head of”.

A few weeks ago, Dr Opuni’s first witness, Mr Charles Tetteh Dodoo, told the same court that the Entity Tender Committee of Cocobod used the right channels and due processes in approving the procurement of lithovit liquid fertiliser for the state company.

Under cross-examination by Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, Dr Opuni’s witness told the court on Monday, 11 April 2022 that not only did the ETC give the procurement of Lithovit a clean bill of health but also the supplier had nothing to do with the ETC’s meetings on that matter.

Additionally, he said he treats the claim by one of the witnesses of the State that the fertiliser was “worthless” with the “contempt it deserves”.

Dr Opuni, Mr Agongo and his Agricult Company Limited (First, Second and Third Accused Persons) have been charged with 27 counts in connection with the supply of alleged substandard fertiliser which, according to the State, caused the nation to lose GHS217 million.

Read excerpts of the cross-examination below:

Q. Please confirm to the court that between 2014 and 2016 when you served on the ETC, as far as you can recall, all fertilisers that were purchased by Cocobod and paid for went through the ETC approval process?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. Now, sir, between 2014 and 2016, while you served on the ETC, did Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser also receive the concurrent approval of the ETC as far as you can recall?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. Now, please confirm to the court whether any supplier ever determined the agenda for the meetings for the ETC while you served on it between 2014 and 2016.

A. No, my Lord, it never happened.

Scientists bit

Q. And when Cocobod is procuring for the season, it procures the agrochemicals that are determined by the scientist as required for application for that particular season. That is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord but I want to add that more specifically by the CODAPEC HI-TECH Unit.

Q. You told this court that the CODAPEC HI-TECH Unit was made up of scientists from CRIG. Is that correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. And it is these scientists that determined the agrochemicals, including fertilisers and their prices which Cocobod must procure for any particular season.

A. Yes, my Lord, up to 2013/2014 financial year.

Q. Now, these scientists are the only persons who will determine the suitability of any agrochemicals including fertilisers for use on cocoa.

A. Yes, my Lord, in conjunction with CRIG.

Q. Now, this determination of suitability of agrochemicals for use on cocoa is not made by the Board or Management of Cocobod; that is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. While you served on the Board between 2014 and 2015, the Board had no reason to doubt the integrity of these scientists?

A. No, my Lord, the Board had no reasons to doubt the integrity of these scientists.

Q. As a result, the Board will not question a recommendation made by these scientists to procure particular agrochemicals; that is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. And, sir, because of the process of recommendation by the scientists, no individual board memberor individual member of management could have gotten Cocobod to procure a particular fertiliser outside of these recommended by the scientists. Is that correct?

A. No, my Lord, nothing of that to my knowledge.

Q. And, in fact, Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser got recommended by the scientists for procurement, as far as you are aware. That is correct?

A. Yes, my Lord.

Q. Now, sir, it was suggested in this court by PW7 on the 1st of March 2021 that when both the ETC, on which you served as well as the Board approved the procurement of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, they did not know what they were doing. What do you say to that?

A. My Lord, this assertion is not correct and it is an affront to the members of the ETC. If I may go further, CRIG has inspectors who follow up to the field and report on the performance of the various agrochemicals being applied on the field. There was not any single instance where an adverse report was made on Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser which would have informed the ETC’s approval of further purchases of Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser over the years.

Q. Now, sir, from 2014 to 2016, would you remember whether the Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser was bought by Cocobod and applied by the farmers in all of the cocoa seasons of those years?

A. My Lord, any time Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser was procured, I have personally signed letters to haulage companies for the distribution of Lithovit Liquid Fertilisers from various warehouses to the district offices and they have been utilised.

Q. Sir, what will be your reaction if it was suggested that in buying and paying for Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser, Cocobod paid for a worthless product for which it received no value.

A. My Lord, I will treat it with the contempt that it deserves.

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