July 16, 2024
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Cocobod trial: Opuni didn’t commit fraud; ‘whatever he did was consistent with policies’ – Ohene Agyekum

The first accused person, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, in the ongoing GHS271-million financial loss case, “during my term of office, did not certainly perpetuate any fraud” as far as the procurement of lithovit liquid fertiliser by the Ghana Cocoa Board is concerned, Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum, a former Chairman of Cocobod’s Board of Directors, has told the high court trying the former CEO together with businessman Seidu Agongo and his company Agricult.

“As a Chief Executive of the board and management of Cocood, and with my little knowledge of corporate responsibility, whatever the Chief Executive [Opuni] did was consistent with the policies of the board,” the former Ambassador said.

Mr Agyekum, who is Dr Opuni’s fourth witness in the four-year trial, told the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga that the board and the entity tender committee he chaired knew what they were about in taking decisions.

“We were not a bunch of ignoramuses”, he told the court while under cross-examination by Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Mr Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited.

He said the members “were aware of the goods or services that they were granting Cocobod approval to procure.”

Reacting to a claim by the 7th prosecution witness, Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer – the investigator, that entity tender committee did not know what it was doing when it approved the lithovit fertiliser for procurement, Mr Agyekum said: “My Lord, my immediate reaction first will be that, that piece of evidence as far as I understand it, is tantamount to insulting the intelligence of the members of the ETC. We knew what we were about”.

“My Lord, with all due respect, we were not a bunch of ignoramuses. Even if we were not experts, we were literate enough, knowledgeable enough and intelligent enough to read to appreciate the distinction between, a solid material and a liquid material,” he added.

“In this particular case, the technical presentation by the experts from CRIG (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana), we clearly understood both the liquid and granular or solid fertilisers that we approved.”

Dispelling claims that the committee approved a worthless agrochemical, Mr Agyekum said: “With all due respect, I find the court’s finding rather strange to me”.

“As a board chairman, I was very much aware that there was a unit within the Cocobod to which I referred in my earlier submissions; that is to say the CHED (Cocoa Health Extension Division). I am very much aware that, that division was responsible for monitoring how the fertilisers and other agrochemicals were applied in the field,” he added.

“And that there was or there should be a report by CHED monitoring team at CHED and I am aware that, my passion for the cocoa farmer and the farming industry as a whole, that, the CHED proceeded to train the cocoa farmers on the proper application of fertiliser and, so, my lord, I am saying that there was a report by CHED or there should be such a report which concluded that, Lithovit liquid fertiliser was effective,” Mr Agyekum noted.

“I had such a passion, so, everything that went on, some of which were not even discussed formally, in an informal way, I will go and ask questions of those who were in charge of the programme to know what is happening”, he explained, concerning how he got that information.

“It was a policy of the board that you don’t simply purchase fertilisers and distribute them to farmers and subsequently fold your arms and not try to find out about whether a particular fertiliser is effective or not”.

“It may be of interest to the court, my lord, that we also had a representative of the cocoa farmers association; I believed from Brong Ahafo, so, my lord, occasionally, we share information in terms of the benefits otherwise, the programs and implementation of the policies that we as a board had adopted,” Mr Agyekum said.

He also stressed that no one person could hijack the decision making process and rig the procurement process.

“My Lord, I can’t imagine. It is inconceivable that any particular individual can or could influence choice or the decision to award a contract in favour of a particular person. It is simply impossible and that it could not and did not happen under my watch during my time.”

He said Dr Opuni “never” influenced the decision making process.

“My Lord, I can state that as far as I am aware, the first accused never acted in a way that could have influenced the decision of either the board or the ETC. And in my dual capacity as chairman for both the board and the ETC, such a thing never happened.”

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