Opuni purchased $19.2m untested fertilizer – Witness

Details are emerging about how the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni, who is on trial for causing financial loss to the state, allegedly purchased an untested liquid fertilizer during his tenure.

A former Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, told an Accra High Court that Dr. Opuni signed a letter requesting Agricult Ghana Limited, a company belonging to another accused Seidu Agongo, to supply 700,000 litres of the liquid fertilizer at the cost of $19,250,000, although the product was not tested.

Dr. Adu-Ampomah was led in his evidence-in-chief by Evelyn Keelson, a chief state attorney, before the Accra High Court.

He told the court that the purchase was detected by a transition team at COCOBOD, which was tasked to look into some anomalies in the procurement of certain fertilizers and chemicals under the leadership of Dr. Opuni at COCOBOD.

The court heard how the Lithovit Fertilizer did not go through the full cycle of testing as prescribed by CRIG, but Dr. Opuni signed a letter to purchase the liquid fertilizer, which was different from the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) submitted by Agricult Ghana Ltd for the testing of the product.

“Testing of fertilizers on cocoa takes a minimum of two years but I left COCOBOD in September 2013 so when I left the testing was ongoing. Then at the transition I got to know that on 25th February, 2014, barely nine months after the sample was submitted, a certificate had been issued for the product and the then Chief Executive Officer had signed a letter requesting the company to supply 700,000 litres of the liquid fertilizer costing $19,250,000 even though the product that had been submitted for testing by CRIG was described in the MSDS as powder,” Dr. Adu-Ampomah stated.

He told the court that the transition team subsequently recommended that the new management at COCOBOD investigate the anomalies in the testing and procurement of the Lithovit Fertilizer which was done.

Request Letter

Dr. Adu-Ampomah was Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Agrochemicals and Quality Control when Agricult Ghana Ltd submitted the Lithovit Fertilizer for testing and it was addressed to him.

He said the sample of fertilizer submitted to COCOBOD for testing was powdery and the accompanying letter and the MSDS – both referred to the product as powder.

The prosecution tendered the MSDS and accompanying letter from the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Agricult Ghana Ltd, Seidu Agongo, requesting testing which all referred to the product as powder.

“In 2013 when I was then the Deputy Chief executive at COCOBOD, Agricult Ghana Limited submitted a sample of fertilizer to my office together with a letter and the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) stating that they wanted the product to be tested by CRIG,” he said.

“The MSDS, which was accompanying the product, is from the original manufacturer, and it stated that it is Lithovit Fertilizer and it’s powdery,” Dr. Adu-Ampomah added.

Hearing continues on May 20 for the witness to continue his testimony.