Opuni Trial: COCOBOD’s request for price quotations was in breach of the PPA law


The counsel for businessman Seidu Agongo and his company, Agriculture Ghana Limited, on Friday, resumed his cross-examination of former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni’s first witness.

Mr Seidu Agongo and his company are standing trial alongside Dr Opuni for causing over GH¢217 million financial loss to the state.

The lawyer, Nutifafa Nutsukpui’s cross-examination of Charles Tetteh Dodoo, a former Director of Finance at COCOBOD, revolved around a letter COCOBOD wrote to the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) in 2014 for permission to sole-source some fertilisers and agrochemicals as well as responses from some of the companies COCOBOD bought the products from.

He suggested to the witness that in seeking approval to sole-source, COCOBOD only needed to indicate the total cost at which it was seeking to purchase the particular product as was contained in a letter COCOBOD wrote to PPA on February 25, 2014, and the witness answered in the affirmative.

“COCOBOD did not need to state the delivery period, the delivery site or the terms of payment in the letter to PPA seeking that approval, that is also correct?” the lawyer asked, and the witness affirmed same.

Mr Nutsukpui then suggested to the witness that following the prosecution’s position that Agricult Ghana Limited’s letter responding to the COCOBOD request for price quotations was in breach of the PPA law, then all the responses from Sidalco, Wienco, Chemico and Luis Dreyfus must also necessarily or logically be in breach of the PPA law.

“Yes, my Lord,” Mr. Dodoo responded.

The lawyer asked the witness if he was aware any cases of alleged breach of the PPA law have been brought against Sidalco, Wienco, Chemico, or Luis Dreyfus. The witness answered in the negative.

Mr. Nutsukpui then asked the witness about how the Board of COCOBOD’s attention was brought to any issue about the performance of any of the agrochemicals being applied by the farmers which had been approved by the board.

Mr. Dodoo stated that various divisions including the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) submit their monthly performance reports to management, and when there is any such issue, management will highlight it for the board’s attention.

He added that the board also had two farmers who are representatives, and any adverse performance on crops by agrochemicals will also be brought directly to the board meeting by these two representatives, adding that “coincidentally nothing in that nature happened if my memory serves me right.”

“For a fact, between 2014 and 2016, when you served on the board, there was no farmer complaint or adverse performance against Lithovit Liquid Fertiliser that came to the attention of the board. That is correct?” Mr. Nutsukpui asked.

“Yes, my Lord,” Mr. Dodoo responded.

The court, presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, a Supreme Court judge sitting as an additional High Court judge has adjourned the case to April 11 for continuation.

Dr Stephen Opuni was appointed boss of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) by former president John Mahama in November 2013, a role he assumed after serving at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) as CEO.

His five-year tenure at FDA was a heated one. He came against many companies, seized many goods and destroyed same in the name of public safety, and pharmaceutical giant, Tobinco bore the most severe of his brunt.

Tobinco accused the FDA of witch-hunting and had to petition President John Mahama to intervene in the impasse.

Dr Opuni following these events was removed from the FDA by the president and to the surprise of many appointed to head COCOBOD.

But like the FDA, the trained medical doctor’s tenure at COCOBOD was fraught with many allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the sector that employs millions and generates revenue for the country.

The General Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU) and the Industrial Commercial Workers Union (ICU) launched a scathing attack on the leadership of COCOBOD and its CEO accusing him of presiding over corruption.

GAWU and ICU believed that corruption at COCOBOD was affecting the production of cocoa in the country, but some staff at the Board jumped to their boss’ defense, debunking the claims.

But things took a turn after the New Patriotic Party government assumed power.

During the transition period, it was alleged that Dr Opuni was shredding documents in his office, an allegation we have not independently confirmed.

Member of Parliament for Assin North, Kennedy Agyapong alleged in a radio interview that Dr Opuni was doing so in order to thwart moves by the new government to investigate him.