General News of Thursday, 13 June 2019
It has emerged that the Public Procurement Authority (PPA) in 2017 advised the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) not to do sole sourcing including fertilizers, but it was blatantly ignored.
Prosecution witness Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah suggested in court on Wednesday that Cocobod disregarded the PPA’s directive because farmers were against competitive bidding. He revealed that procurements of chemicals by COCOBOD were done based on the dictate of farmers.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah who was a former Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control at COCOBOD was testifying at the Accra High Court in the case in which former Chief Executive of Cocobod, Dr. Stephen Opuni as well as businessman Seidu Agongo and his company Agricult Ghana Limited are standing trial for causing financial loss to the state in procurement related issues.
The witness who is currently an advisor to the agric minister on cocoa affairs had in his evidence-in-chief, told the court that the procurement practice at COCOBOD had always been through competitive tender.
However, his position could not stand the test under cross-examination as lawyer for Dr. Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe produced several documents exposing the witness of personally participating in procurement processes at COCOBOD through sole sourcing even before and after the tenure of the first accused.
Defence counsel on Wednesday June 12, 2019 dwelled heavily on three letters dealing with COCOBOD’s applications to PPA to “single source procurement” of agrochemicals for the CODAPEC/HI-TECH programme for the 2016/2017 as well as 2017/2018 cocoa seasons.
The PPA had in one of the letters dated June 28, 2017 responded to the COCOBOD’s request to sole source and advised it to renegotiate the price of the chemical. COCOBOD was asked to cut the cost of the product by 15%. Subsequently, based on the Authority’s intervention, the cost of the agrochemical was reduced from US$85 per litre to US$65 per litre.
In another letter from the Public Procurement Authority to Cocobod dated July 11, 2017, was a response addressed to the witness concerning his earlier letter dated July 6, 2017 that had offered clarity to the purchase of agrochemical for the 2016/2017 cocoa season through single source. However, PPA in that letter made a categorical statement about its disapproval of COCOBOD to continue purchasing products using single source.
“kindly note that in granting this approval and other similar requests which PPA has had to process, we wish to inform COCOBOD that going forward in the procurement of insecticides, pesticides, fertilizers and other supplies for cocoa production, the Authority is of the view that, COCOBOD must consider advertising the various formulae which have been used over the years to enable other agro-chemical manufacturers and suppliers to submit proposals for COCOBOD’s testing/quality assurance processes in order to encourage competition.
“We believe this procedure will foster competition and the attainment of value for money in view of the high expenditures/capital outlay that characterizes such procurements.”
Having read the above as stated in the PPA’s letter, state prosecution witness Dr. Adu-Ampomah told the court that the position of PPA showed the Authority’s lack of understanding of the “technicalities” involved in the purchase of products for cocoa production.
He further told the court that PPA’s directive was a clear usurpation of the institution’s powers.
Defence counsel reminded Dr. Adu-Ampomah that the portion he read “can only mean that PPA was advising COCOBOD to henceforth advertise the purchase of pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers.”
The witness replied, “My lord on this occasion, the PPA was usurping its authority on this matter because there are technical issues involved that they would not know.”
Contrary to the allegations of usurpation by the PPA, through its intervention the price was reduced as contained in exhibit 28 and 28B, the lawyer put it to him.
“My lord this was true on the price but on the issue of the sole sourcing they were usurping their authority,” the witness stressed.
The position of the witness could explain why Cocobod in a letter signed by the witness himself, a year after the PPA’s advice against sole sourcing, requested the PPA to grant another application to sole source agrochemicals because they were the choice of farmers.
This also contradicts the state’s third witness’ claims in his evidence in chief that competitive bidding was the practice at COCOBOD when it comes to procurement.
“The sole sourced chemicals are farmers’ preferences and they are being procured to encourage farmers, especially the recalcitrant ones, to undertake the other half of the two (2) spraying regimes (fungal and insect sprayings) after the CODAPEC/HI-TECH programmes.
“If farmers are not encouraged to undertake the full spraying against both fungus and insect attacks, the impact of the programme will not be realized,” Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah stated in his letter to PPA dated 27th March, 2018 in his capacity then as the Deputy CEO of Cocobod in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah who was the Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD between 2009 and 2013, retired and returned to the establishment again in 2017 as Deputy Chief Executive before moving on to the Agric Ministry in October 2018 as the advisor to the sector minister on cocoa affairs.