The Accra High Court, trying the case of Dr. Stephen K. Opuni, was on Wednesday forced to adjourn sitting, following the failures of the Attorney-General and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Public Procurement Authority (PPA), Agyenim Boateng Adjei to furnish it with some vital documents as evidence of COCOBOD’s restrictive tender processes per state procurement laws.
The court on two previous sittings, had ordered Attorney-General’s Department to release to counsel for Dr. Opuni, Samuel Codjoe, proof of claims by third prosecution witness; Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who was the Deputy Executive Officer in-charge of Quality Control and Agronomy until late last year, that COCOBOD, had engaged in both restrictive tender and competitive tender in 2018.
On June 12, 2019,the court ordered the CEOs of PPA and COCOBOD, to furnish it with all letters written by COCOBOD through Dr. Opuni to the PPA for the approval to sole-source contracts for the procurement of all fertilizers from December 2013 to December 2016.
It also demand for all letters written by PPA to COCOBOD, granting approval to sole-source all fertilizers from December 2013 to December 2016, but while the COCOBOD CEO, Joseph Boahene-Aidoo, filed his documents on June 25, 2019, the PPA CEO, has failed to comply with the court order without any explanation.
In court on Wednesday, counsel for Dr. Opuni, the first accused person, reminded the trial judge that, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, leader of the Akufo-Addo Transition Team on Cocoa Affairs during the 2017 change of government from the John Mahama regime to the Akufo-Addo regime, had also failed to file some crucial attachments to a document he had earlier filed in court on June 12, 2019.
The court, therefore, issued a fresh order to be served on the CEO of PPA, Agyenim Boateng Adjei, as a reminder to file the necessary documents required from his office.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who is currently an Advisor to Agric Minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, on Cocoa Affairs, is also to produce the documents on competitive bidding which he had promised he had.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who was recalled by the Akufo-Addo government, after three years into his statutory retirement to the position he had left under the Mahama administration, has been testifying against his former boss Dr. Opuni and businessman, Seidu Agongo, who are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of GHC271.3 million to the state by distributing substandard fertilizer to cocoa farmers.
When the court sat on June 12, 2019, the witness countered claims by counsel for Dr. Opuni, that prior to his second retirement from COCOBOD, all chemicals purchased were through sole sourcing.
In his evidence-in-chief, the witness told the court that the procurement practice at COCOBOD, had always been open tender, but this was deflated during cross-examination with the defense saying there is no newspaper advertisements to prove his claim as required by the public procurement laws.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, had insisted that COCOBOD in 2018, purchased some chemicals through open competitive tendering based on the advice of the PPA, forcing the defence counsel to apply for the documents.
The trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga, ordered prosecution to file the documents to prove that COCOBOD, purchased indeed, agrochemicals for the 2018/19 cocoa season through competitive bidding on the next adjournment date – June 20.
But when the court reconvened last week, June 20, 2019, Lawyer Codjoe, drew the attention of the court to the fact that “they have given us a document with attachments, but they only gave us something without the attachments”.
The representative of the Attorney General on that day, Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, had explained to the court that her inability to file the attachment was an “oversight”.The judge, therefore, gave another order, compelling prosecution to produce the attachments by the next adjourned date – June 26, 2019.
“By court the prosecution is supposed to furnish the court with the attachments to the letter dated 5th March by the next adjourned date and must be served to the defense counsel,” the court ordered.
The letter was from COCOBOD seeking approval from the PPA to procure agrochemicals to “restricted tender to CODAPEC /HITEC programs for 2018/2019 season.The attachments are profiles of companies being engaged for the restrictive tender and other necessary documents.
Notwithstanding the absence of these documents, lawyer Samuel Cudjoe, proceeded with his cross-examination. He put it to the witness, Dr. Adu-Ampomah, “having occupied the position of Deputy CEO A and QC from 2009 to 2013 and 2017 to 2018, you know that there is difference between open competitive and restricted tender?”
The witnessed answered, “No my lord there are technicalities. So that is why there is remark on the lots. So restrictive tendering is the same as competitive tendering”.
“In the restrictive tendering, COCOBOD invited the companies and there were no adverts?” Dr. Adu-Ampomah was asked, which he replied, “My Lord that is why I said generally it should be but Public Procurement Authority advised us.”
In court on Wednesday June 26, Dr. Opuni’s counsel, again notified the court that the order given in the last adjourned date, had been flouted by the prosecution.
However, the DPP, wanted the cross-examination to continue to “deal with other areas and come back to the matter of procurement” later when the documents are ready, but Lawyer Cudjoe, rejected that position, insisting, “the matter of procurement is so germane to this matter and that is why we asked for those documents. I have adequately entered the realm of procurement and I don’t know if it is a strategy to buy time by DPP”.
He was also quick to add, “My Lord, let not the impression be created that we are delaying in this matter”, and the trial judge agreed with Dr. Opuni’s lawyer, saying to the DPP; “they are conducting their cross examination, so let’s look for the documents.”
Mr Codjoe, had on June 20, said: “We’ve been served with the letter dated 5th March 2018 in accordance with the court order. However, this letter, as contained on page 3 has attachments which include the profile of the various companies and other relevant documents. Unfortunately, these were not attached to the letter which was filed by the prosecution. The letter is, therefore, incomplete. We believe it might be an oversight on the part of the prosecution”.
The court, therefore ordered the prosecution to provide the attachments in question to enable Mr Codjoe, continue his cross-examination, but this was also not complied with as of June 26, 2019.
In view of the absence of those documents, the High Court presided over by Justice Clemence Hornyenuga on Wednesday, ruled that the case be adjourned to July 2, 2019 to enable Dr. Adu-Ampomah and the prosecution to file the necessary attachments to enable the case to proceed.
The DPP, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, promised that the order would be complied with by the next adjourned date. This was after she had indicated that the order given by the court, did not include the attachments defence counsel was pressing for.
The DPP, who has not been in court for some time, claimed she was not informed about the crucial attachment by her reps led by Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson.
She, however, assured the court that the attachments to the COCOBOD’s letter to PPA, will be filed before the next sitting.
The trial was therefore adjourned for the Attorney General’s Department to file the attachments to the March 5 letter and other necessary documents.
Sitting resumes on July 2.