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General News of Friday, 14 February 2020

Source: 3news.com

Omnifert fertilizer bought by COCOBOD in 2018 had no trial on cocoa farms – Court told

COCOBOD in 2018 bought fertilizer from Omnifert Limited even though there was no evidence at COCOBOD or CRIG that the product had ever been tested on matured cocoa farms or on seedlings, the Accra High Court has been told.

When the transaction took place, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, third prosecution witness, was the Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, but he told the court that he never saw the CRIG report that should have primarily indicated whether the product had been duly tested.

A letter dated 5th March 2018 showed that COCOBOD sought permission from the Public Procurement Authority and approval was granted by a PPA’s letter dated 5th April 2018. COCOBOD, therefore, went ahead to purchase Omni Cocoa Aduane fertilizer from Omnifert based on laboratory test and not field test.

Meanwhile, Dr. Adu-Ampomah agreed with counsel for Seidu Agongo, chief executive officer of Agricult Ghana Limited, that in buying the Omnifert fertilizer, once COCOBOD applied for PPA approval and got it, “it had procured that fertilizer validly”.

The witness has been testifying against former COCOBOD boss Dr. Stephen Opuni and Seidu Agongo accused of causing financial loss of GH¢271.3 million to the state due to the distribution of what prosecution described as “sub-standard” fertilizer to cocoa farmers.

Moreover, Dr Adu-Ampomah in January 2020 under cross-examination had also maintained that the Chief Executive of COCOBOD cannot be held liable for any purchase sanctioned by the procurement unit.

On February 12, 2020, Lawyer Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Seidu Agongo showed the witness a report on the laboratory verification of Omni Cocoa Aduane from CRIG indicating when a sample of the product was received by CRIG scientists.

“A sample of Omni Cocoa Aduane fertilizer was submitted by Omnifert limited through the Cocoa Research Institute on 16th February 2017 for laboratory verification of nutrient content,” Dr Adu-Ampomah read the report in part.

He, however, suggested that the laboratory verification of nutrient in the report “implies that previous work had been done on the product”.

He was therefore asked to turn to a page in the document to read the “conclusion” of the report, which he did.

“The laboratory verification of the content of the fertilizer sample (Omni Cocoa Aduane), shows that N and K2O are slightly above while P2O5 and pH are slightly below the specified levels indicated by the manufacturer in the MSDS. These deviations could be attributed to laboratory, equipment and human errors. The content of the fertilizer sample is therefore duly verified by the laboratory results as Omni Cocoa Aduane and good for use on matured cocoa.”

Lawyer Nutsukpui, therefore, pointed out to the witness that the Omnifert fertilizer that COCOBOD bought in 2018 was not even tested on seedlings, but Dr. Adu-Ampomah disagreed.

The impression created by the witness that field trial was done before the laboratory test tends to be a deviation from the practice at CRIG. Sample received for testing at CRIG, first go through laboratory test before clinical test is conducted on the field, 3news.com gathered.



COCOA NTI

The issue of Cocoa Nti fertilizer once again came up under cross-examination.

Lawyer Nutifafa Nutsukpui brought to the attention of the witness that when he took office, for the second time, as the Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control in February 2017, the withdrawal of CRIG certification of Cocoa Nti was one of the pending matters contained in the handing over notes.

But Dr. Adu-Ampomah said he does not recall that.

He was therefore made to read the report of an adhoc committee on cocoa nti fertilizer constituted on 23rd November 2016 which was contained in the handing over notes: “The committee is of the view that the cocoa nti fertilizer should be taken through the usual field test for fertilizers. The initial report on cocoa nti fertilizer submitted to COCOBOD should, therefore, be withdrawn...

“We have no record or evidence that cocoa nti fertilizer was previously submitted to CRIG for testing in any form.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Adu-Ampomah as presented to court admitted COCOBOD purchased the fertilizer in 2018.

Read excerpts of the proceedings

Q: sir, on the 5th of March 2018, COCOBOD applied to PPA for approval to procure listed agrochemicals and fertilizers as per exhibit 32. is that correct?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: sir, as part of the list under the fertilizer, you will find Omnifert fertilizer.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: directly under the Omnifert fertilizer in that list is asase p?. is that correct?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: and then also, there is Cocoa nti fertilizer in that list.

Ans: Yes my Lord

Q: PPA on the 5th April 2018, PPA granted COCOBOD the permission to procure the listed fertilizer through their letter in exhibit 27A.is that correct?

Ans: Yes my Lord

Q: and COCOBOD procured the approved chemicals and fertilizers

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: sir, on whose recommendation was Omnifert fertilizer bought by COCOBOD.

Ans: CRIG report said Omnifert has been tested and the company has a certificate covering it.

Q: is that the first time COCOBOD bought Omnifert fertilizer?

Ans: I can’t tell



Q: did you see the CRIG report following this?

Ans: no my Lord but the committee will have ensured that it is attached.

Q: can I also say you did not see the final CRIG report?

Ans: possibly, I might have seen it but I can’t recollect.

Q : sir in buying the Omnifert fertilizer, once COCOBOD applied for PPA approval and got that approval, it had procured that fertilizer validly. is that correct?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: please kindly look at exhibit 41. if you turn to the second page, you will see report on laboratory verification of Omni cocoa Aduane. is that correct?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: if you turn to page 4 of that report you will see the last heading “conclusion”. have you seen it?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: read it.

And: The laboratory verification of the content of the fertilizer sample (Omni Cocoa Aduane), show that N and K2O are slightly above while P2O5 and pH are slightly below the specified levels indicated by the manufacturer in the MSDS. These deviations could be attributed to laboratory, equipment and human errors. The content of the fertilizer sample is therefore duly verified by the laboratory results as Omni Cocoa Aduane and good for use on matured cocoa.

Q: sir, the Omnifert fertilizer that COCOBOD bought in 2018 was not even tested on seedlings.

Ans: This report is different from the normal report that CRIG brings for final certificate. This report shows that there was the need to check the efficacy of active ingredients. That is what this report is all about. It implies that the fertilizer has already been tested on the field

Q: sir there is no other report from CRIG on Omnifert fertilizer bought by COCOBOD in 2018 except exhibit 41.

Ans: no my Lord .as I previously said the covering letter said COCOBOD wanted a verification from CRIG whether that product was duly tested, and in that case, COCOBOD don’t need full trial.

Q: when was Omnifert first tested by CRIG to your knowledge?

Ans: my Lord I don’t know but this letter indicates that it had previously been fully tested.

Q: kindly read to the honourable court the paragraph that says Omnifert fertilizer “had previously been fully tested”.

Ans: my Lord if you read the covering letter you will see that CRIG have made a mistake with correspondence to COCOBOD and was correcting it. if you read the whole letter that is what it means especially paragraph 4 which reads “please find attached a statement from the soil science division of CRIG” indicating that the IFDC trial were done in collaboration with CRIG, cocoa abrabo pa association and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. This was the full trial previously. it goes on to say “we apologise for the erroneous impression that our letter of 12th January 2017 may have created and wish to recommend Omni Coco Aduane from Omnifert limited for use on matured cocoa”

Q: sir by the 19th of May 2017, you were at post as deputy Chief Executive A and QC. that is correct?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: and exhibit 41 was addressed to you.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: kindly show the court where the statement from the soil science division of COCOBOD in exhibit 41.

Ans: my Lord it is in the report.

Judge: where?

Ans: after the attached letter.

Judge: where?

Let’s go on.

Q: did you receive this report?

Ans: Yes my Lord

Q: and you read through?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: I am putting it to you that there is absolutely nowhere in the attachment where previous trial of Omnifert fertilizer is mentioned.

Ans: my Lord as I said, this was based on a verification COCOBOD was seeking from CRIG and as shown on the cover letter and signed for the executive director. A full trial could be conducted. The attached report was only to answer the query or the questions COCOBOD was asking for.

Q: What questions did you ask CRIG?

Ans: my Lord if you look at the covering letter and go to paragraph 3 and I read “reference is made to your letter CRIG 39/14vol.23/217 dated 12th January 2017 that suggested that CRIG was not part of the IFDC fertilizer trials and wish to state that there appears to have been a problem with information flow.” sS my Lord it implies that COCOBOD had queried.

Q: you have headed CRIG before? That is true

Ans: Yes my Lord

Q: and CRIG scientists are one of the best in their fields and renowned worldwide.

Ans: Yes my Lord

Q: and what these scientists write in their report they are very deliberate about it. Is that also true?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: and they don’t produce these reports for their farms, that is correct.

Ans: Yes my Lord

Q: please read the very last paragraph of the report attached to exhibit 41 to this Honourable court

Ans: from the forgone, Omni cocoa aduane fertilizer which is one of the best formulation of the joint CRIG /IFDC trial does not require field testing but rather laboratory verification. My Lord this statement goes to further support what I was saying that COCOBOD was querying.

Q: sir do you know Quaye A.K?

Ans: Yes my Lord he is late, he is deceased.

Q: But he was alive at the time of this report, May 2017?

Ans: yes my Lord.

Q: how about Arthur A.?

Ans: yes my Lord.

Q: And Dogbatse AJ?

Ans: yes my Lord.

Q: you don’t have any cause to doubt the integrity of these scientists, do you ?

Ans: no my Lord

Q: so when they say they author a scientific report to say that they received sample of cocoa aduane from Omnifert limited on the 16 February 2017 for laboratory verification of nutrient content, you won’t doubt them.

Ans: my Lord I don’t know where counsel is reading from but the report is carrying deceased’s man’s name.

Q: please read the second page of exhibit 41.

Ans: a sample of Omni cocoa aduane fertilizer was submitted by Omnifert limited through the Cocoa Research Institute on 16th February 2017 for laboratory verification of nutrient content.

Q: do you now see where I was speaking from? Do you doubt that report

Ans: no my Lord. It says for laboratory verification of nutrient, which implies that previous work had been done on the product.

Q,: so when these three scientist says that after the laboratory verification Omnifert fertilizer does not require field testing, you don’t doubt them, do you.

Ans: No My Lord, as the covering letter indicates field trial of the product had been previously conducted.

Q: for the avoidance of doubt, the covering letter does not say that Omnifert fertilizer was part of the IFDC trial. That is correct.

Ans: my Lord it is implicit.

Q: but it doesn’t say so explicitly, that is true.

Ans: Yes. my Lord this letter addressed to deputy CEO A and Qc and says it is implicit

Q: The Arthur in that report is the same as Dr Alfred Arthur.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: sir, when you took over at COCOBOD as deputy CE A and QC in February 2017, was there a handing over note to you from your predecessor?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: this handing over note covers state of affairs on matters in that office that you were taking over. That is true.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q,: do you recall as part of the matters pending then was the issue of withdrawal of a CRIG certification for a product called cocoa nti?

An: no my Lord

Q: in a letter addressed to the deputy CE A and Qc and referenced CRIG C31/1/1062 received in that office on 6th December 2016, CRIG withdrew the certification for the product cocoa nti. are you aware?

Ans: no my Lord

Q; that report is contained in the report of an adhoc disciplinary committee on the testing of cocoa nti fertilizer. are you aware?

Ans: no my Lord

Q: show him exhibit 18.the cover letter was signed by GJ Anim kwapong.

Ans,: yes my Lord

Q: confirm that it was received at the office of the deputy CE A and Qc on the 6th of December 2016 at 1:45pm

Ans: Yes my Lord

Q: if you look at the second page you will see the title executive summary.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: when you go to the 6th paragraph and specifically the last line of that paragraph, you will see the withdrawal of the CRIG certification for Coco nti fertilizer .that is also true.

Ans: yes my lord