The state prosecution in the ongoing High Court case against Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, a former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and Mr Seidu Agongo, the CEO of Agricult Ghana Limited has filed documents at the court to prove that contrary to the claim by the lawyer for Dr Opuni, Mr Samuel Cudjoe, COCOBOD did indeed invite companies to competitively bid for contracts, albeit with some restrictions.
The proof was in the form of a letter dated 5th March 2018, from COCOBOD to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) seeking approval to procure agrochemicals through a restricted tendering process, and a response from the PPA granting approval.
In the preceding court hearing on 12th June 2019, the judge for the trail, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, ordered upon the request of Mr Cudjoe that the prosecution should file the document to prove that COCOBOD purchased agrochemicals during the 2017/18 cocoa season through competitive bidding, after its witness, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, mentioned while being cross-examined, that there existed such document.
He said, “some [of the agrochemicals] were purchased through competitive bidding based on suggestions from the PPA, of which there are documents. It put the chemicals in lots.”
He explained in today’s hearing that the request for a restricted competitive bidding instead of an openly advertised one was in compliance with an earlier recommendation made by the PPA. Notably, restricted tendering is a type of competitive tendering as companies must first meet the strict qualification criteria before they even qualify to compete with others for the contracts.
Also, this option was the most suitable due to the technical issues involved in buying agrochemicals for a company like COCOBOD. As such, the tenders were divided into lots because of the technicalities involved and this was all done based on recommendations from the PPA.
The parent company, COCOBOD, relies on recommendations from plant and soil scientists from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) before inviting competitors to bid.
Mr Samuel Cudjoe in his cross-examination of the prosecution’s witness, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who was the Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control from 2017 to 2018, said that restricted bidding cannot be a type of competitive bidding since in competitive bidding, the PPA needs not be informed unlike was stated in the documents filed by the prosecution.
Dr Adu-Ampomah corrected him by saying that, the claim was not true. “That is against procurement regulations,” he said. “You always need approval from the PPA whether it is sole-sourcing or competitive bidding, as is the case with this restricted tendering”.
Mr Samuel Cudjoe also asked of the witness whether he was aware that in all tendering done at COCOBOD, there hadn’t been an instance where agrochemicals had been purchased through open competitive bidding? Dr Adu-Ampomah responded by saying, “My lord, it is not true”.
The case was adjourned for further cross-examination to continue in a week’s time.
Dr Stephen Opuni and Seidu Agongo, are on trial for allegedly engaging in acts that incurred a financial loss of GH¢271.3m in a series of fertiliser deals. The charges brought against them by the Attorney General also include defrauding by false pretences, money laundering, corruption by a public officer and acting in contravention of the Public Procurement Act. The two men face decades in prison if found guilty.