General News of Sunday, 18 March 2018
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Gloria Akuffo must immediately hand over the GHS217 million COCOBOD fraud case to Special Prosecutor Martin Amidu, Bolga Central MP Isaac Adongo has said.
The lawmaker said he does not understand why the offices of Ms Akuffo and Mr Amidu are running parallel systems to do the same thing, describing it as a waste of state funds.
CEO of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and AgriCult Ghana Company Limited, are facing 27 charges of willfully causing financial loss of GHS217 to the state, through three separate fertiliser supply contracts between 2014 and 2016.
The contracts were GHS43.1million (2013/2014 cocoa farming season), GHS75.3million (2014/2015 cocoa farming season) and GHS98.9million (2015/2016 cocoa farming season) totaling GHS217million through sole-sourcing, the state claimed, adding that procurement procedures for sole-sourcing were not followed.
According to the charges, the consignments of Lithovit Foliar were produced locally, contrary to an agreement between COCOBOD and AgriCult Ghana Company Limited that it be sourced from Germany.
Also, the Attorney General claims the fertilisers were manufactured without registration, thereby, flouting the Plants and Fertiliser Act 2010.
According to the state, Dr Opuni also took a bribe of GHS25,000 from Mr Agongo in October 2014 to facilitate the award of one of the contracts by misrepresenting facts to the Public Procurement Authority.
The state also said the 2014 contract was awarded without any price quotation.
Speaking on the issue on Multi TV’s news analysis proramme Newsfile on Saturday, 17 March, Mr Adongo said: “Today we are running parallel systems: Martin Amidu is sitting there and Attorney General is in court doing Martin Amidu’s work. Why waste taxpayers’ money? That is exactly what is happening.
“The Attorney General is roaming there, Martin Amidu is also roaming in the same court on different matters. We are wasting taxpayers’ money. Go and give this case to Martin Amidu. In fact, they should transfer this case to Martin Amidu to do his work.
“Attorney General, Monday [19 March], just transfer this case ‘bokoo’ to Martin Amidu and wash your hands off it because that is what we have agreed as a country to pursue, we don’t want this double standard behaviour, they should just hand over this case to Martin Amidu to pursue it, hand over the docket,” Mr Adongo insisted.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) lawmaker also condemned the manner in which the case is being tried in the media even before the accused persons have their day in court.
“To be honest with you, my biggest fear in all of this is not the fact that the accused will not have their day in court, obviously they will. My issue is even before this issue came out, the way Daily Guide was already reporting snippets of it, and the moment this process was filed, it was all over social media, what was the intent? So, clearly, the trial in the public court has already started.
“In fact, on one of the NPP’s platforms, somebody said: ‘By all means, one of the 27 charges will incriminate them’. So, I get worried. You see, when you listen to the technical issues that have been raised, I mean we have people who have worked so hard to build their business, we mustn’t be seen as a country that pursues an agenda to destroy private businesses and I feel so sad that we’ve already started trying some businesses.
“Who would have known the company that Seidu Agongo is dealing with? It is now one of the accused persons and I know Cocoa Health and Extension Division strongly recommends this product [Lithovit Foliar] to our farmers. We should not be seen to be allowing processes that destroy private businesses. The point I want to make is that; yes, they will have their day in court if they are convinced that they have not done anything wrong, but my point is: the sanctity of contracts. And you asked a very valid question: there are remedies in contracts that we sign, to what extent do we exhaust those processes?”