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General News of Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Source: Class FM

We sole-sourced $97.9m worth of agrochemicals for 2017/2018 - AG's witness

Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, the state’s third prosecution witness in the case involving the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, has admitted sole-sourcing agrochemicals worth $97,913,750 for the 2017/2018 CODAPECH HITECH programme during his tenure as Deputy Chief Executive Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD.

This came to light during his cross-examination on 2 July 2019 by the counsel for Dr Opuni, Mr Sam Codjoe.

This, however, comes as another surprise as Dr Adu-Ampomah has, in previous hearings, told the court that COCOBOD’s method for procuring agrochemicals was through open tendering, where adverts were placed in the newspapers to invite prospective suppliers.

But when faced with hard evidence to the contrary, Dr Adu-Ampomah admitted that on 5 March 2018, even though COCOBOD wrote to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) seeking approval to purchase agrochemicals through open tendering process in the sum of $52,050,000, it, also, through another letter, applied to purchase a larger quantity of agrochemicals through sole-sourcing to the tune of $97,913,750 for the same 2017/2018 CODAPECH HITECH programme.

He explained: “….As I have said, there are technical issues involved. That is the reason why chemicals are tested vivaciously at CRIG before approval and my lord, to produce large quantities of cocoa in a given country, if care is not taken, there will be indiscriminate damage to the environment by reckless use of molecules and that is why we have to be going through all these processes. And also, the availability of the product at the required time and farmers' preferences are all taken into consideration. And these decisions are taken with the advice of the experts”.

Dr Adu-Ampomah also affirmed that out of the $52,050,000 approval given by the PPA for COCOBOD to purchase agrochemicals through open tendering, COCOBOD used $9,250,000 for the purchase of agrochemicals including fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides through sole-sourcing from Messrs Kumark Company Limited.

COCOBOD sole-sourced Cocoa Nti Fertiliser three days after “prompt action” to CRIG to issue the certificate.

Dr Adu-Ampomah further disclosed that in his capacity as Deputy Chief Executive A&QC at COCOBOD, he expedited action on a CRIG scientific report brought before him on Cocoa Nti fertiliser dated 2 March 2018.

Interestingly, three days later, 5 March 2018, COCOBOD wrote to the PPA requesting approval to sole-source Cocoa Nti fertiliser with the explanation that it was the farmer’s preference.

This, however, did not sit well with Mr Codjoe, who probed further as to why COCOBOD would describe the fertiliser, which was approved just three days prior to the PPA approval, as the farmers’ preference.

Dr Adu-Ampomah replied “… As I said, if you look at the report, you will see that the field test had been conducted on farmers' farms in [the] Central Region, Western Region, Eastern Region, Ashanti Region and Brong Ahafo Region, and, as I previously said, during trial, neighbouring farmers had seen the impact of this fertiliser”.

Below are excerpts of the proceedings:

Q. So, Dr, the first time Cocoa Nti was purchased by COCOBOD was in 2018, isn't it?

A. Yes, my lord.

Q. Dr, exhibit 15 is the scientific report recommending Cocoa Nti to COCOBOD. Isn't it?

A. Yes, my lord.

Q. When did this letter reach COCOBOD?

A. 2nd March 2018.

Q. So, when did COCOBOD grant its approval for Cocoa Nti to be issued with the certificate by CRIG?

A. I wouldn't know but as soon as such final reports come, because these companies have invested heavily in the products, prompt action is taken so as soon as it comes to COCOBOD and it has passed, immediately CRIG is instructed to issue it with a certificate.

Q. So, then Dr, at the time the scientific report on Cocoa Nti came to COCOBOD you were the deputy CE, A&QC and therefore the recipient of this letter which had attached to it the scientific report recommending Cocoa Nti for use on mature cocoa trees. Isn't it?

A. Yes, my lord.

Q. Dr, obviously you in your position as the designated executive under which CRIG was would definitely know when the reply and/or directive to CRIG to issue the certificate to Cocoa Nti was written.

A. I wouldn't know but I can say that it could be prompt because normally these things don't keep long on my table.

Q. And Dr, having been an executive director of CRIG from 2009-2013, you have an idea of how long letters from COCOBOD to CRIG accepting the scientific report take after which a certificate is issued by CRIG on their own?

A. My lord, it could be quick or take long depending on the interest the company involved shows. Sometimes they will be following the letters.

Q. Dr, definitely you would have seen the certificate of CRIG for Cocoa Nti before any application to PPA for sole-source of Cocoa Nti could be made.

A. Yes. If the company that was supplying Cocoa Nti has a certificate, it should accompany the bidding.

Q. The scientific report by CRIG in respect of Cocoa Nti was sent to COCOBOD by a letter dated the 2nd of March 2018. Isn't it?

A. Yes, my lord.

Q. So, Dr, on the 5th day of March 2018, COCOBOD by a letter applied for single-source to purchase Cocoa Nti fertiliser and added that farmers preferred Cocoa Nti. Is it?

A. Yes, my lord. But as I said if you look at the report you will see that the field test had been conducted on farmers' farms in Central Region, Western Region, Eastern Region, Ashanti Region and Brong Ahafo Region and as I previously said, during the trial, neighbouring farmers had seen the impact of this fertiliser.

Q. If farmers have a preference for a particular agrochemical, necessitating COCOBOD to apply and inform the whole world about this preference, there definitely would have to be information from the relevant division/unit which will inform management of this fact.

A. My lord, I have answered this question previously that CHED CRIG QCC and farmers groups all send information to COCOBOD on such issues.

Q. Dr, I am putting it to you that if as you claim, farmers have a preference for Cocoa Nti, COCOBOD would definitely have had documentary evidence of this fact.

A. My lord, no but as I said COCOBOD does not sit in the office till the end of the testing. As production is going on, information is reaching COCOBOD through the sources I just enumerated. Because as the regulator, we should be on the ground.

The case has been adjourned to the 10th of July 2019 for continuation.

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