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Opuni to call 8 witnesses in COCOBOD trial

Lawyers of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana COCOBOD has told the High Court in Accra their intention to call eight witnesses to defend their client.

Already,  the first Defence Witness (DW1) Charles Kwao Tetteh Dodoo, a former Director of Finance at COCOBOD is in the witness box as Dr Opuni’s first witness.

In court on Thursday,  December 9, 2021, the presiding judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga asked lead lawyer for Dr Opuni, lawyer Samuel Codjoe how  many witnesses they intend to call.

Lawyer Codjoe in his response said, “we intend calling eight witnesses” adding that, “We also intend to subpoena two out of the eight.”

Asked if he will need the  assistance of the court,  lawyer Codjoe answered in the affirmative, saying “we will need the court’s assistance for one particular witness that is a witness who has health challenges and as a result of that we will pray if his evidence will be taken by video link.”

According to counsel, this witness “sometimes comes to Accra for some medical check ups,  so, I spoke to him last week and he said he will see how best he can help.”

The Director of Public Prosecution, Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa while responding to the request said, the prosecution will not oppose it.

“In this era that we lived in, the use of technology in the adjudication or deciding cases is common and the prosecution has used or relied on witnesses who lived outside the jurisdiction in a number of its cases,” the DPP said.According to her, “once the proper arrangements have been made this can be done.”

Justice Honyenuga,  a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, said  “the application to have the intended health challenged witness through video link is in order.”

“The evidence of the intended witness shall be taken after the evidence of DW1 (First Defense Witness)” the court said.The court has subsequently directed that, “the registrar of this court is to take note of this and make the necessary arrangements with the ICT Department of the Judicial Service.”

Letters for information on fertilizers

Continuing with his Evidence-in-Chief for as the first defense witness,  Mr Dodoo told the court that the procurement unit wrote to a number of institutions requesting for information on fertilizers.

Breaking things down to the court, the witness,  ‘Exhibit 81’ referred to Sidalco’s response  in a letter it received from  COCOBOD on Feb 25, 2014.

He told the court that a response from Louis Breyfus in ‘Exhibit 82,’ was received on Feb 26, 2014.

Again he said, for “Exhibit 83′ which was a response from Wienco was in a letter dated Feb 26,  2014.

For Chemico’ response in ‘Exhibit 84’ he said it was received on Feb 27, 2014 while ‘Exhibit 85’ – Sidalco, he said though  the date it was received on letter was not clear,  that letter was dated  Feb 25, 2014.

These Exhibits he told the court that, “they were all providing information which the procurement unit will use for the preparation of the ….awards and they all relate to different types of fertilizers.”
Opuni does not  influence letters from procurement unit

When counsel asked him of his response to the prosecution claim that, Dr Opuni influenced the procurement process when it wrote ‘exhibit Q’ which was a letter dated Feb 25, 2014 to the PPA seeking approval to sole source fertilizer for Cocoa Hi-Tech program in 2013/2014, the witness said that was not correct.

The Witness said, Exhibit ‘Q’ was written by the Procurement manager and the distribution list of Exhibit ‘Q’ the procurement manager is the last on the list and upward is director of audit, director of finance and the three deputies of Chief executives.

He added that, “The letter (Exhibit Q) was responding to a PPA enquiry and the letter in its response referred to a meeting between the board of PPA and management of COCOBOD which took place in 2008.

“The results of the discussions could be and are with the procurement unit of Cocobod. The letter referred to fertilizers, not particular ones that Cocobod buys through sole sourcing and the correct  price. And so this letter could not be coming from the CEO.

He (Opuni) has no idea what happened in 2008, so,  this letter cannot be coming from the CEO who was not at post in 2008 and as

I have indicated,  the distribution list indicates the one who originated the letter,” the told the court.

He explained that, “letters going out of COCOBOD are to be signed by the Chief Executive even though he doesn’t write them.”

Draft letters

He told the court again that draft letters from the procurement unit are vetted by him before they are put on COCOBOD letter heads which he sent to the Chief Executive to sign before they are subsequently dispatched.

The former Director of Finance while responding to a claim by his successor Peter Osei Amoako, a (Prosecution Witness) cross-examination that, the procurement unit, write only draft letters not the final one for the Chief Executive to sign, the witness said until he excited the system In 2016, that was not the practice.

“What pertained under my watch and before I took over was that, the manager in this case procurement unit issues a draft to me, I will look at the draft, if it is in order before it bring a final letter on Cocobod letter head which I have personally on a number of occasions taken to the Chief Executive office.

“In fact, I stood and he signed and then I picked the letters away and handed them over to the procurement unit for dispatch.

“My Lord, this may happen when the letters need to go quickly but then the manager cannot force his way into the Cheif Executive office. So, I pick the files for the number of letters to sign and I go to his secretariat and he is informed that the director of finance is in the secretariat and wanted to see him with letters to be signed and I take them out and return to my office and I call the procurement unit to come for their letters,” Mr Dodoo told the court.

Lithovit liquid fertilizer

Touching on Exhibit  “BB”, which is a letter dated October 16, 2016, about Lithovit Liquid fertilizer,  he said “This is a letter from Cocobod to PPA seeking approval to sole source Lithovit liquid fertilizer from Agricult limited.”

He told the court that, “This letter Exhibit ‘BB’ was written by the procurement unit and vetted by myself and was signed by the Chief Executive. “Asked if it was practice with respect to writing to PPA for sole source approval of  fertilizers in the 2015/2016 Cocoa season, the witness explained.

“On my earlier submissions,  I made reference to some changes that were made for purchases for 2014/15 and the change was that, CODAPEC HI-TECH unit which until then was reporting directly to the Deputy Chief Executive,  N &QC was placed under the executive director Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED).

He said, “That change in their reporting line when CODAPEC HI-TECH solicited quotes from suppliers went to the office of the chief executive. The responses will go down through to the executive direct of CHED who will inturn minutes it to the procurement unit for the appropriate letters to be generated from there i.e. to approvals to PPA and other relevant bodies.”

The case has been adjourned to December 13, 2021 for continuation.

Dr. Opuni, Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited are standing trial for 27 charges for allegedly causing financial loss to the state, defrauding by false pretenses, conspiracy to commit crime, abetment of crime, money lingering , corruption by public officer and contravention of the PPA Act.

Together, they are accused of causing a financial loss of over GH¢217 million to the state through the sale and purchase of the controversial Lithovit Liquid Fertilizer, which according to the prosecution, was never tested. They have all pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been granted bail.





Source: Starrfm


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