Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, the state’s third prosecution witness in the case involving the former CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, on Thursday, 5 December 2019, admitted in court that his committee that was empanelled to investigate alleged fertiliser testing anomalies at the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) did not include an expert in fertilisers or a soil scientist.
Responding to questions posed Mr Sam Codjoe, the lead counsel for Dr Opuni, the AG’s witness said his four-member committee was rather composed of lawyers.
Dr Adu-Ampomah was Deputy Chief Executive, Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD from 2009 to September 2013. After the 2016 elections, he was called back from retirement to head the transition team at COCOBOD, primarily to interrogate the activities of COCOBOD in the previous administration.
In February 2017, Dr Adu-Ampomah was again appointed Deputy Chief Executive, Agronomy and Quality Control. In October 2017, COCOBOD set up a committee chaired by Dr Adu-Ampomah, ostensibly to investigate alleged anomalies in the testing and procurement of lithovit foliar fertiliser supplied by Agricult Ghana Limited.
Other members of the committee included Mr Sefa, Director of Legal Affairs at COCOBOD; Mr Francis Opoku, Solicitor Secretary to the board and Mr Laing, a lawyer from the legal department, COCOBOD.
The committee interrogated scientists who were involved in the testing of lithovit and reported their findings to the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) for further probe.
However, during Thursday’s cross-examination, it emerged that while none of the members of the committee had expertise in fertiliser testing or soil science, the committee also failed to invite Dr Opuni as part of their interrogations of persons involved in the testing and procurement of the lithovit fertiliser.
In response, Dr Adu-Ampomah intimated that his committee’s work dealt with persons still in the employment of COCOBOD and since Dr Opuni had exited, they decided not to summon him for his side of the story but to report him to a state investigation institution for further investigation.
Dr Adu-Ampomah admitted calling Dr Opuni personally within that period to return the official mobile phone given him by COCOBOD.
Mr Codjoe also confronted Dr Adu-Ampomah with statements he had earlier made in his evidence in chief on how Dr Opuni allegedly ordered for the testing periods of fertilisers to be truncated.
Mr Codjoe pointed out that per the dictates of COCOBOD, such important directives would be communicated through letters.
Dr Adu-Ampomah, while admitting that is the norm, maintained that Mr Afrifa, Dr F.M. Amoah and one Dr Acheampong told the committee that they were, at one point, instructed by Dr Opuni to shorten the testing of chemicals; an allegation Mr Sam Codjoe refuted and demanded evidence to that effect.
Here are excerpts of Thursday’s cross-examination:
Q. Dr, the members of your committee which investigated the alleged malpractices in the testing of agrochemicals at CRIG, the report of which was tendered as exhibit H does not include any expert on fertilisers. Isn't it?
A. Yes, my lord.
Q. In fact, the committee is made up of 4 lawyers and yourself. Isn't it?
Q. In your committee's hearing, you never invited 1st accused to appear before you. Isn't it?
A. Yes, my lord.
Q. Dr., although you didn't invite 1st accused, you made adverse findings against him in your committee's report. Isn't it?
A. No my lord, the committee suggested that the 1st accused's conduct should be reported to a state investigation institution for further investigations.
Q. Dr, because you hadn’t given Dr Opuni a hearing, you had no basis for concluding that he pressured scientists to shorten the period for testing.
A. My lord, that was the reason why we said the matter should be further investigated because those who appeared before the committee, their answers suggested the involvement of the 1st accused. That is why we recommended so.
Q. And in fact, Dr Amoah informed the committee that be never succumbed to any pressure from any quarters including from Dr Opuni.
A. Yes, my lord. He said he was being pressurised but never succumbed
Q. In fact, as you sit here and during your entire investigations, there is not a single document from Dr Opuni, directing the CRIG scientists to shorten the testing if any fertiliser including lithovit.
A. Yes, my lord.
Q. And I am putting it to you that Dr Opuni never instructed and or directed any scientist to shorten the test for any fertiliser and or agrochemical including lithovit.
A. No my lord. The committee was told by Mr Afrifa and Dr Amoah and another scientist, Dr Acheampong that they were at one time instructed by Dr Opuni to shorten the testing of the chemicals.
Q. In fact, Dr Adu-Ampomah, from your time as executive director of CRIG and also deputy CE A&QC of COCOBOD, any such serious directive as this in your former institutions would have been in writing and not oral.
A. That should be the norm but, in this case, the scientist, who appeared before the committee, said they were instructed by the 1st accused in his office.
Q. And, in fact, don't you think that is the more reason why it was very necessary for your committee to have at least invited Dr Opuni before coming out with your findings.
A. The committee's work was to investigate the officers who were at post at the time. The 1st accused was not at post at the time of the investigation and that is why we recommended that state investigative bodies should do further investigation on him.
Q. Dr, when you wanted some items of COCOBOD from Dr Opuni and specifically, the official mobile phone you called Dr Opuni yourself and asked him to return these items to you and this was complied with. Isn't it
A. Yes, my lord the norm of the practice is that officers hand over all state property in the case of COCOBOD to COCOBOD when officers are no longer at post and that was what was done
Q. And Dr, before this committee was empaneled, you have told this court that at the transition you suspected and or was informed that there were some anomalies in the procurement and testing of some agrochemicals and fertilizers. Isn't it?
A. Yes, my lord.
Q. And Dr, you were the one, personally, who issued all the queries to the witnesses who appeared before this committee. Isn't it?
A. Yes, my lord.
Q. And you were the same person who sat and chaired this committee?
A. Yes, my lord.
Q. And Dr at the same time, when this committee was sitting, you've also informed this court that you reported the matter to EOCO for investigations. Isn't it?
A. Yes, my lord the two were ongoing concurrently.
Q. And Dr, I am putting it to you that you deliberately didn't call Dr Opuni to appear before the committee because you didn't want to give him an opportunity to defend himself.
A. No my lord. It wasn't within our mandate to call him because he was no longer employed at COCOBOD.
Q. And that if you had given Dr Opuni the opportunity of defending himself, you will not have come out with these findings.
A. My lord, as I said we didn't have the mandate and that is why we concluded that the case be referred to the state investigation authorities to do further probing into the matter
Q. Dr, I am putting it to you that it is highly unprofessional for a committee which doesn't include any expert in the field of fertiliser testing to overrule a scientific report by CRIG.
A. My lord, no. The committee called Dr Ofori Frimpong, a seasoned soil scientist whose name also appeared on the report and interrogated him in the presence of Mr Afrifa the other soil scientist and Mr Dogbatsey another soil scientist and Dr Amoah, agronomist, with me as a scientist also present and during the interrogation we all came to the conclusion that it was unscientific because if you go through the report, you will see that Dr Ofori Frimpong, the senior-most soil scientist at the time stated that it was very unscientific
Q. Dr, in fact contrary to what you are saying, Dr Amoah on page 15 of his cross-examination of 23rd July 2018 states in paragraph 3 that he interrogated the report before submitting it to COCOBOD.
A. Yes, at the committee he said he read through it.
Q. Dr, that you are being untruthful to this court when you state that Dr Amoah informed the committee that he read through the report. You are being untruthful.
A. My lord, it’s not true. At the committee, we interrogated Dr Amoah extensively on this issue because he signed the first certificate and the committee wanted to know why the chemical had not been tested on mature trees but the scientists had concluded that it could be used on mature trees and that was when he said he just read through. And my lord, even though Dr Amoah is an agronomist, he is not a soil scientist and that is why we called in Dr Ofori Frimpong, the topmost soil scientist to assist the committee.
Q. In fact, contrary to what you have just told this court, Dr Ofori Frimpong was not called to assist the committee in respect of lithovit fertiliser in any shape or form.
A. My lord the committee investigated several chemicals. Lithovit which had not been properly tested, Duapa cocoa fertiliser which document had been forged and other insecticides. So, at certain stages we would call various scientists who are relevant to the subject being discussed. I don't have the report here but I know that in several instances, Dr ofori Frimpong was called to assist.
Q. Contrary to what you just told this court, you actually queried Dr Ofori Frimpong to explain why disciplinary actions should not be taken against him for failing to conduct proper testing of a fertiliser called Duapa and not as a witness or expert before the committee.
A. No, my lord. In several instances, in the report, you will see that we have called the soil scientists whose names appeared in the report together with Dr Ofori Frimpong for deliberation. In the case of the query counsel was talking about, it was even shocking to him because he did not know that his name appeared on that report indicating that he had worked on Duapa cocoa fertiliser.
Q. Dr, in a query dated 15th September 2017 which is addressed to Dr K. Ofori Frimpong, you asked him to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him and this is why he appeared before the committee.
A. No my lord. Dr Ofori Frimpong appeared on several occasions. The first one was in response to this query which the committee found that he had wrongly been queried because he was not involved in that forged document. His subsequent appearances were to assist the committee in matters of soil science.
Q. And Dr, I am further putting it to you that in your final evidence in chief, and specifically on page 9 of the proceedings on 20th May 2019, you were being untruthful when you told this court that when Mr Afrifa appeared before the committee he informed the committee that he didn't see any sample of lithovit.
A. My lord no, the committee asked Mr Afrifa whether he instructed Dr Arthur to work on the sample and he said yes. And the committee asked him whether he saw the sample himself and he said no that he instructed Dr Arthur to work on it. And, so, the committee further asked him, is lithovit liquid or powder? And he said it is liquid, 100% liquid. So, the committee was a bit baffled. And when we further probed, he said it was in plastic containers and when we further probed, he said it was looking like sand and my lord, that is why the committee found that Mr Afrifa was not being truthful to the committee
Q. In fact, nowhere in the report did he ever inform the committee that he didn't see the lithovit.
A. My lord, he said he didn't see it.
Q. Show us in the report where he said he didn't see it.
A. My lord, he said it. I can’t show you in this report right now, it is voluminous. Counsel showed us the letter that accompanied the sample from the company on which the director had minuted it to the head of department and the head of department had minuted it to Dr Arthur and normally it is the scientist who is going to work in the sample who opens it.
Q. Dr, I am putting it to you that Dr Stephen Opuni, first accused, has not had any personal chat and or discussions with Mr Afrifa and or Dr Arthur and asked them to shorten and or interfere in their work with lithovit.
A. My lord, Mr Afrifa and Dr Amoah and one Dr Acheampong told the committee that the first accused asked them to shorten test on agrochemicals.