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General News of Friday, 21 June 2019

Source: 3 News

Opuni-Agongo trial: A-G’s witness confesses writing to CRIG to renew certificate of Lithovit fertilizer

Evidence has emerged that state prosecution witness, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah tried to get certificate on Lithovit fertilizer renewed, when the product was a subject of his own investigation.

The witness was the chairman of government’s transition team on cocoa when the previous administration handed over power in January 2017.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah who is a former deputy chief executive of COCOBOD in charge of agronomy and quality control had in January 2017 recommended to government, in his report, to investigate the alleged anomaly in the testing as well as subsequent annual renewal of certificate of Lithovit fertilizer.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah has been testifying against the former CEO of COCOBOD Dr. Stephen Opuni and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, who are standing trial for allegedly engaging in various illegalities that caused financial loss of GHC271.3 million to the state and led to the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.

Interestingly, the witness who called for the investigation into Lithovit because it was substandard rather went ahead to request the renewal of Agricult Ghana Limited certificate on Lithovit fertilizer barely two months later.

The subject of his letter dated March 9, 2017 was “Renewal of Certificate for 2017 – Agricult GH Ltd” and was addressed to the Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah who is the first prosecution witness.

“We forward to you the attached request from Agricult Gh. Ltd for the renewal of the registration certificate of Lithovit fertilizer. Copies of the previous year’s certificate attached.

“kindly undertake the necessary verification on the product and renew the certificate for the year 2017,” Dr. Adu-Ampomah’s letter to CRIG read in part.

The letter was received by CRIG on March 14, 2017 and was minuted on a day after (March 15) by the Executive Director of CRIG to the Chairman of Committee on Testing Chemicals and Machinery (CTCM).

The Chairman of CTCM was also asked to “kindly ensure due diligence in the re-evaluation of the product and submit report for forwarding to COCOBOD.”

The letter was again forwarded on March 16, to the Head of Soil Science at CRIG.

When the letter came up in court during cross examination on Thursday, June 20, Dr. Adu-Ampomah initially appeared evasive but had to open up later confessing to the act upon barrage of questions threw at him by Samuel Cudjoe who is the counsel for Dr. Stephen Opuni.

He however said, his letter to CRIG to renew certificate for Lithovit fertilizer was to “gather more information about the anomalies which was seen during the preliminary investigation”.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah’s letter to CRIG to renew Lithovit fertilizer Find excerpts of the cross-examination below

Q: You also stated in page 13 and 14 that at transition, you realized some of the fertilizer did not go through the full cycle of testing but had their certificate renewed.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: You agree with me that this information as you stated was interrogated by you.

Ans: yes my Lord, during the preliminary investigation.

Q: in fact on page 13 you stated that the committee recommended that the new management should investigate the process leading to the renewal of lithovit.

Ans: my lord not only fertilizer but other agro chemicals.

Q: so you and the other members of the committee were aware that lithovit did not go through the testing cycle.

Ans: my lord, the committee did not state only one chemical but those under suspicion.

Q: And one of them is lithovit.

Ans: my lord the committee did not specify.

Q: So Dr. I am right to say that you were not truthful when you said on 14th May 2019 that “the transition recommended that the new management of COCOBOD should investigate the anomalies in the testing and procurement of lithovit fertilizer”.

Ans: My Lord as I stated, there were other products

Sam Cudjoe: my lord I have quoted the witness and he should say yes or no and then you can go on.

Prosecution: my Lord, counsel cannot compel witness to answer in a particular way.

Judge: You answer it and let’s see.

Ans: my lord as I said we were looking at so many chemicals.

Judge: Dr Ampomah, he has quoted something that you said so be specific.

Adu Ampomah; my lord I made mention of lithovit because this trial is about lithovit.

Q: so I’m right to state that amongst the fertilizers and chemical you suspected was lithovit, isn’t it?

Ans: my Lord, not only lithovit but several others.

Q: After the transition, the new management you advised to investigate lithovit amongst other products included yourself.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: Dr Amoah under cross-examination stated that re-evaluation of fertilizers which is done yearly is done only by CRIG. Do you agree?

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: he also said it is only when there is an issue with the re-evaluation of the fertilizer that CRIG report to COCOBOD.

Ans: yes my lord.

Q: In his statement to the police he informed the police that since he took over in February 2017, they have changed the process of re-evaluation and that the applicant will now have to apply through COCOBOD.

Ans: yes my lord

Q: I am putting it to you that to make yourself and Dr Amoah relevant to the new government, you and the transition team made numerous allegations on COCOBOD, CEO residents, fertilizer procurement and many things which had no basis.

Ans: my lord I don’t know where counsel is coming from.

Q: When after investigation by EOCO which many of these allegations were seen to be unfounded, you then settled on lithovit fertilizer in order to get Dr. Opuni the first accused.

Ans: my lord the investigation is still ongoing and there is one on Duapa which was procured from the same company which was not tested and EOCO is still investigating it. My Lord, there are other pesticides purchased from the same or affiliate of Agricult which were not tested so my lord, it is not true that only lithovit was targeted.

Q: so Dr, from your evidence, it means at the transition, you together with the members of the committee knew there was problem with lithovit.

Ans: yes my Lord, together with other chemicals.

Q: Dr. I am suggesting to you that contrary to what you have said, lithovit followed the new process of re-evaluation and applied through you for renewal.

Ans: yes my Lord it happened. During the preliminary investigation Agricult submitted its documents for renewal of certificate which is normally done. We investigated and forwarded the application to CRIG. when it got there, the executive director called me to inquire why I have forwarded the application to CRIG whilst I know the product is a subject of investigation and that he can’t work on it.

Q: Dr what is the date of this letter?

Ans: 9th March 2017.

Q: what is the subject matter of this letter.

Ans: Renewal of certificate for 2017 for Agricult Ghana Limited.

Q: you stated, we forward to you the attached document for the renewal of Agricult certificate for lithovit fertilizer which previous year’s certificate is attached.

Ans: yes my Lord

Q: You also stated that look at all the documents and renew the certificate for lithovit.

Ans: my Lord yes I had wanted to gather more information about the anomalies which was seen during the preliminary investigation.

Q: Dr I’m putting it to you that your explanation to this letter which is to gather more information emanating from the testing of lithovit cannot be true.

Ans: my lord, it is true

Q: in fact if as what you have stated in court today that you knew the certificate for 2015 and 2016 were done fraudulently, you couldn’t have attached them for renewal.

Ans: my lord as I said it was part of the means to get information.

Q: it is also not true that upon receipt of this letter, the then executive director instead of writing to you, called you and complained.

Ans; my lord he called

Q: Dr Amoah who was the executive director gave numerous statements at police and in this court and so if this conversion had gone on he would have mentioned it.

Ans: my lord it is up to him.

Q: in fact at COCOBOD and CRIG, when a letter is written, it is not responded to by phone call especially on such issues like renewal of certificate.

Ans: my lord he did not respond to my letter after he called me and that ended it.

Sitting continues on June 26, 2019 at the High Court in Accra.

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