The Director of Finance of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has said that there are no records showing that Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, conducted a value for money audit on a $19.5 million fertiliser contract.
Mr. Peter Osei Amoako told the Accra High Court yesterday that in February 2014, the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) directed COCOBOD to conduct a value for money audit on the contract.
The directive, he said, followed an application by Dr. Opuni to the PPA to allow COCOBOD to procure 700,000 litres of lithovit liquid fertiliser from Agricult Ghana Limited.
“COCOBOD responded with a letter confirming the value for money audit, but I do not have records of the report of the value for money audit,” he said.
Mr. Amoako was testifying as a prosecution witness in the trial of Dr. Opuni and the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited, Mr. Seidu Agongo, who had been accused of causing financial loss of more than GH¢271.3 million to the state in an alleged fertiliser procurement scandal.
Agongo is alleged to have used fraudulent means to sell substandard fertiliser to COCOBOD for onward distribution to cocoa farmers, while Dr. Opuni is accused of facilitating the act by allowing Agongo’s products not to be tested and certified as required by law.
The two accused persons have pleaded not guilty to all the 27 charges, and are currently on bail in the sum of GH¢300,000 each.
The prosecution has been trying to prove that the fertiliser that COCOBOD procured from Agongo’s Agricult’s Ghana Limited during Dr. Opuni’s regime was substandard and was not tested before COCOBOD procured it as stipulated by law.
It is the case of the prosecution that the fertiliser that Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG) tested and approved was powdery in nature, but Dr. Opuni bought liquid fertiliser (lithovit liquid fertiliser) from Agricult Ghana Limited that had never been tested and approved.
Lawyers for the accused persons, on the other hand, had always maintained that the lithovit liquid fertiliser that was supplied to COCOBOD by Agricult Limited was duly tested and approved by CRIG and all the relevant agencies.
Mr. Amoako’s testimony, however, shifted the focus of the trial from the nature of the fertiliser or whether the fertiliser was tested to the procurement processes.
He told the court that COCOBOD and Agricult Limited signed series of fertiliser contracts covering the 2013/14, 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 cocoa crop seasons.
However, he said, the 2016/17 contract was terminated by COCOBOD.
The COCOBOD Director of Finance, who said he had oversight responsibility over procurement at COCOBOD, said the 2013/14 contract worth $19.5 million started with Dr. Opuni writing a letter to Cabinet through the Ministry of Finance to approve the purchase.
According to him, after the approval by Cabinet, the procurement process began, leading to Agricult supplying 700,000 litres of the lithovit liquid fertiliser as stipulated under the contract after which payment was effected by COCOBOD.
He said approval for payment was authorised by Dr. Opuni because per the policy of COCOBOD, any payment above GH¢10,000 had to be authorised by the CEO.
Mr. Amoako will continue his testimony on November 12, 2020, at the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting as a High Court judge.