General News Thu, 4 Jul 2019

Certification of Cocoa Nti fertilizer was quickened because it invested heavily – AG’s witness

It has emerged in court that COCOBOD fast-tracked the certification of Cocoa Nti fertilizer because the company “invested heavily” and was also the farmers’ preference though they had not used it on their farms before.

Although a witness of the state, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah who made the revelation in court on Tuesday did not explain what kind of investment the company made during the testing process to warrant the swift manner it was cleared, he said the “interest” shown by the company also influenced COCOBOD’s decision to give approval for the purchase of Cocoa Nti fertilizer in record time.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah, was the Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, when COCOBOD received the scientific report on Cocoa Nti fertilizer in a letter dated March 2, 2018, and on March 5, 2018 a letter was written to PPA to grant approval for the purchase of the fertilizer through sole-sourcing.

Interestingly, in COCOBOD’s application to PPA, it stated that Cocoa Nti was the farmers’ preference even though it was the first time COCOBOD was purchasing the product.

The third prosecution witness has been testifying against the former CEO of COCOBOD Dr. Stephen Opuni and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, who are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of GHC271.3 million to the state which led to the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.

Dr. Adu-Ampmah who also worked at CRIG as the executive director was told by counsel for Dr. Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe that with his experience he would have an idea of how long letters from COCOBOD to CRIG accepting the scientific report take after which a certificate is issued by CRIG.

He replied “My lord, it could be quick or take long depending on the interest the company involved shows.”

Early on, he was asked when COCOBOD granted its approval for Cocoa Nti to be issued with the certificate by CRIG.

His answer was, “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.”

In his evidence-in-chief, the witness told the court that the procurement practice at COCOBOD had always been open tender, but that position was floored during cross-examination. Dr. Adu-Ampomah later contradicted himself when he admitted to over 260 million dollar products he sole-sourced in just one cocoa season.

Source: 3news.com