State prosecutors in the case of the former COCOBOD chief executive, Stephen Opuni, are requesting for documents the defence team intends to rely on in cross-examining prosecution witnesses.
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, told the Accra High Court on Tuesday that, her request would rather help facilitate proceedings, especially whenever the defence counsel wants to tender those documents in evidence.
She made the intervention after initially raising no objection to the first in a series of documents lawyer for the defence, Samuel Cudjoe, was tendering through third prosecution witness, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, discrediting the witness as being “untruthful” on issues of sole sourcing.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah was testifying in the trial involving former Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo.
The two have been charged with 27 counts, including wilfully causing financial loss to the state, contravention of the Public Procurement Act, defrauding by false pretence, money laundering and corruption of a public officer.The two have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are on self-recognisance bail of GH¢300,000 each.
The moment the defence counsel showed a sign of wanting to tender in evidence some more documents, Mrs. Atakora Obuobisa, stood on her feet and prayed to the court that since prosecution gave the accused all the documents that were relied on, the accused should also do same.
“My lord in line with the Justice Eugenie Baffoe Bonnie’s case, it is only fair that the defence supply us just as we do, all documents that they want to tender. It is only fair they supply us with all the documents they want to rely on. This is for ease of trial,” she said.
But Samuel Cudjoe rejected the plea and demanded that the DPP brings a formal application so that he can respond to it appropriately, wondering if it was even proper for the accused to provide prosecution with documents even before he opens his defence.
He noted that the documents the prosecution is asking for in advance emanated from her side – COCOBOD.
“You want to discover your own documents? These are documents emanating from them. You cannot tell us to give you what you wrote,” he stated.
Prosecution then threatened that if the request was not met, she will ask for the case to be “stood down” so that she will “confer” with the witness anytime defence want to tender any document.
This, she maintained, was necessary “so that we will not be taken by surprise”.
But Samuel Cudjoe insisted that the documents the prosecution is demanding are documents the witness either wrote or was in copy, and has admitted having knowledge on them.
The trial judge Justice Clemence Honyenuga, was forced to step in and asked prosecution to make her application formal, advising “if proper application comes we will consider it”.
Claims by prosecution witness, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah that, COCOBOD, does not do sole-sourcing in procuring fertilizers and other agrochemicals, was on Tuesday shredded as much as 18 documents with various dates, contents and signatories, including that of the witness, written and sent to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) revealed his claim to be false.
The 67-year old Dr. Adu-Ampomah, a former Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD in-charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, had in his evidence-in-chief, told the court the procurement practice there had always been open and competitive tender.
This he said, were done through advertisement in the papers where product required is specified, and companies registered by CRIG that are interested were required to support their bid with documents.
It, however, turned out in court, that his claim was untrue as several documents dating back to 2011 to 2018 showed that the COCOBOD was doing sole-sourcing of fertilizers and agrochemical running into several millions of dollars and that a lots of the documents were either signed by him or he was copied, therefore, fully aware of the transactions.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, has been testifying in the case in which former Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni, as well as businessman, Seidu Agongo and his company Agricult Ghana Limited, are standing trial for causing financial loss to the state.
Samuel Cudjoe, counsel for the first accused, continuing his cross-examination bombarded the witness with documentary proof of correspondence between COCOBOD and the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), which he was a party to, where requests for sole sourcing for several tons fertilizers and agrochemicals were approved, and purchased.
At least 18 documents, being letters from COCOBOD to PPA, requesting clearance to sole source and approval letters from the Authority, were tendered in evidence through the witness.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who was the Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD between 2009 and 2013, retired and returned to the establishment again in 2017, as Deputy Chief Executive before moving on to the Agric Ministry in October 2018 as the adviser to the sector minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, on cocoa affairs.
He had also served on the Akufo-Addo transition team in 2017 following a change of power from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) to the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
His evidence-in-chief on open tender fell flat as it was proven in court that indeed, the letters to PPA requesting for sole sourcing were written and signed by Dr. Adu-Ampomah himself and was also in copy of the remaining letters.
In one of such letters, the witness wrote to PPA in March 27, 2018 to sole source the purchase of fertilizers costing over 35 million dollars, insecticides for over 21 million dollars and fungicides which was also over 34 million dollars. His request was approved by the Authority on April 5, 2018.
“Dr. AduAmpomah, when you said before purchases are made for fertilizer, it has to be advertised and specifying the product they required, you were not being truthful,” Samuel Cudjoe asked him.
“My Lord I was being truthful. All these letters were written with prices because the entity tender committee had met and decided otherwise, the PPA would have not allowed,” he answered.
The defence counsel pressed further, “in fact I am telling you that all purchases of fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides are done through sole or single sourcing.”
But the witness insisted, “No my Lord it is not the case. Before the prices are determined, the entity tender committee has met and that the single or sole sourcing comes with reasons.”
“Dr. Adu-Ampomah, I am telling you that all fertilizers bought at COCOBOD has been through sole sourcing,” the lawyer put to him, which he replied, “My Lord some of them are not sole sourcing. The entity tender committee always negotiate the prices.”
The case has been adjourned to June 4, 2019 for continuation.