COCOBOD Buys Us$3.5 Miilion Untested Fertilizer With Forged Document

It has emerged that the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) under the management of its current Chief Executive, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, purchased some 100,000 bags of an untested fertilizer called “Cocoa Nti” worth US$3.5 million, using a forged scientific report which is a subject of controversy at the ongoing trial of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni and Alhaji Seidu Agongo.

The forged scientific report generated by Dr. Alfred Arthur, a key witness of the Attorney General in the case against Dr. Opuni, a former COCOBOD boss, led to a probe in 2016, in which the soil scientist was suspended over forgery and banned from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) for attempting to swindle his superior officers into certifying and purchasing an untested fertilizer.

But in less than a year after the probe, suspension and the ban, the current management of the COCOBOD, used the same scientific report by Dr. Arthur on 'Cocoa Nti’ granular fertilizer supplied by Enepa Ventures Ltd based in Kumasi to allegedly purchase the agrochemical at a price of US$3.5 million.

'Cocoa Nti’ fertilizer manufactured by Morocco-based OCP Group, have not gone through the required testing procedure at CRIG.

Interestingly, the use of an untested fertilizer, is one of the criminal charges levelled against Dr. Opuni and businessman Alhaji Agongo and his Agricult by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Gloria Akuffo.

The Public Procurement Authority’s (PPA) has on its website, confirmed that COCOBOD indeed, awarded the 100,000 bags of 'Cocoa Nti’ fertilizer contract on May 10, 2018, under sole sourcing.

The award of the contract came up in court last Thursday during cross examination of Dr. Alfred Arthur by Dr. Opuni’s counsel, Samuel Cudjoe ,who asked, Dr. Arthur, whether he knew COCOBOD, had ordered for the purchase of 100,000 bags of Cocoa Nti fertilizer worth $3.5 million but Dr. Arthur said, he would not know that.

Lawyer Cudjoe, also asked Dr Arthur whether he knew the PPA has a website, where all procurement of fertilizers from COCOBOD was published, but the witness said he was not privy to that information.   

Mr Cudjoe, pointed to the witness that on the PPA website, there was records of a contract to purchase 100, 000 bags of Cocoa Nti fertilizer through sole sourcing, but the Scientist insisted he was not privy to that information.

An investigative report dated  November 21,  which is before the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenugah, an Appeal Court Judge, sitting as an additional High Court Judge, revealed that Dr. Arthur in 2013, travelled with the local suppliers of ‘Cocoa Nti’ granular fertilizer; Enepa Ventures Ltd to visit the Morocco-based manufacturers of the product and upon his return, he quickly prepared a report on the product without conducting any scientific test on it.

Dr. Arthur’s secret trip to Morocco with the suppliers was discovered by COCOBOD, when in 2016 he quickly submitted the forged scientific report to COCOBOD okaying ‘Cocoa Nti Granular fertilizer. This was after Enepa Ventures had officially applied to COCOBOD for certification and authorization of the product.

Alarmed by the record time in which the test report approving ‘Cocoa Nti Granular fertilizer was submitted, COCOBOD instituted a probe, and it was discovered that the report was forged by Dr. Arthur after his secret trip to Morocco.

He was thus suspended and banned from CRIG over what the then Executive Director of CRIG Dr. G.J Anim-Kwapong said was unethical behaviours of scientists at the research institution.

But interestingly, upon the change of government in 2017, the new management of the COCOBOD, made up of some retired officers, including Dr. Franklin Manu Amoah and Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah, who were recalled by the Akufo-Addo government, lifted the suspension also reversed a key recommendation that Dr. Arthur should not step foot at CRIG as a result of the forgery.

Under cross-examination by Dr. Opuni’s lawyer, Samuel Cudjoe, the Soil Scientist admitted being investigated over the forgery incident and also being driven away from the CRIG, after it was proven that he had travelled to the Kingdom of Morocco with the promoters of ‘Cocoa Nti’granular fertilizer, without the knowledge and authorization of his superior officers at CRIG and COCOBOD.

Dr. Opuni’s lead counsel, had earlier told the court that the reason behind COCOBOD’s instruction to CRIG was that, there were complaints that even though Cocoa Nti granular fertiliser was submitted to COCOBOD in 2016, Dr. Arthur, claimed he had tested and had authored a scientific report on it three years earlier.

The findings of the CRIG Disciplinary Committee, according to Mr Cudjoe, indicated that no such work had been done by CRIG as an institution, adding that Dr. Arthur forged the said scientific report.

Dr. Arthur confirmed going on suspension per the recommendations of the committee but cannot speak to the content of its report because he had not seen it.

However, Mr Cudjoe argued that, even if Dr. Arthur, claim he never had the opportunity to see the findings of the committee, at least, when he appeared before it, he was informed that he was being investigated for claiming he had tested Cocoa Nti granular fertilizer in 2013, when COCOBOD officially had an application in March 2016.

Meanwhile, the Accra High courthas ordered the Executive Director of CRIG to furnish it with some six documents bordering on Dr. Arthur’s conduct, the investigation and his subsequent suspension from CRIG by 30th November, 2018 to ensure a speedy trial in the Lithovit Foliar fertilizer saga.

Both Dr Opuni’s lawyer and Alhaji Agongo’s lawyer, Benson Nutsukpi, demanded the documents which include;

1. A letter headed CRG 39/14Vol22/6450 dated 21st November 2016,

2. A letter with reference number DCE/AQC/FR/AMC/20 dated 26th October 2016

3. A letter with reference Number DCE/A&QC/FR/AMG/23 dated 16th November 2016

4. The query to Dr Alfred Arthur and his response to the said query in respect of Cocoa Ntifertilizer

5. A report on the CTCM testing of Cocoa Nti dated 21st November 2016 and a photocopy of the invoice payment of Cocoa Ntifertilizer dated 21st November 2016

6. The report of the committee chaired by Rev. Fr. Oddoye (PhD) into the investigation of Cocoa Nti fertilizer

Earlier during the hearing, Mr Sam Cudjoe, once again, accused the Attorney General’s second prosecution witness in the GHS271 million Opuni-Agongo fertiliser trial, of lying.

During the cross-examination, Mr Cudjoe accused Dr Alfred Arthur of lying to the police in his statement, which led to his detention.

Below are excerpts of the cross-examination of Dr Arthur by Mr Cudjoe:

Q. I believe you are aware of procurement.

A. Yes

Q. If you know about procurement, then you are aware that COCOBOD has a procurement unit.

A. Yes

Q. You are also aware that the procurement department together with the hi-tech unit determine the quantity of fertilisers to be purchased by COCOBOD.

A. I would not know that

Q. I am putting it to you that it is the procurement department together with the hi-tech unit which comes out with the quantity of fertilisers to be purchased.

A. I'm not aware of this information

Q. In fact the 2 units physically have seen samples of all fertilisers they intend to purchase

A. I would not know that

Q. Because they have seen the fertilisers, they all know Lithovit is liquid hence they are preparing all the contracts for the purchase of Lithovit.

A. I am not aware

Q. I am putting it to you that at the police station on one of your interrogations, you were detained for again lying to the police

A. No. What happened was I was invited to the CID Headquarters on January 16, 2018. I was asked to be there by 10 am. When I got there, I was asked to wait to meet the director. I met her around 3 pm. After several hours of interrogation, they said they needed some information which I told them was in the computer at the office. This was around 5 pm. Then she said it’s late, so, they can't come to Tafo with me, so, they have to keep me and go with me the following day. They kept me at East Legon Police station. We went to Tafo on the 17th. They took my laptop, the office desktop computer and asked me to report to the station on the 18th of January 2018. When I got there, they took the 2 computers to the forensic and cybercrime unit.

The officers there ran a scan and retrieved information related to Lithovit foliar fertiliser after which my computers were handed over to me.