Former COCOBOD CEO, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo have pleaded not guilty to all 27 charges brought against them.
The representatives of Agricult Limited, the company owned by Seidu Agongo, also pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
The three defendants made the plea during their first court appearance today [Monday].
Former COCOBOD boss, Dr. Opuni; CEO of Zeera Group of Companies, Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana, which also belongs to Mr. Agongo are cumulatively facing some 27 charges, including causing financial loss to the state, abetment of crime and conspiracy to commit a crime.
Seidu Agongo is accused of being a beneficiary of the supposed fraudulent fertilizer contract worth over GH¢43 million.
The state’s argument
The state argued that Dr. Opuni misled the Public Procurement Authority to approve single-source contracts for Agongo and Agricult to provide fertilizers at a different cost.
The Attorney General (AG), Gloria Akuffo, also said Seidu Agongo, acting on behalf of Agricult, submitted fertilizer to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) for testing.
The testing was supposed to be in two phases; to be applied to seedlings and then to matured plants for at least two planting seasons.
AG said the testing was carried out for only first phase, after which a report recommending its use was given without the second phase of testing.
She added that investigations revealed that former COCOBOD CEO, Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni wrote to CRIG asking them to shorten the testing period.
Dr. Opuni subsequently wrote to Seidu Agongo, informing him that his fertilizer had been certified for use on cocoa plantations, after which a certificate was issued by CRIG.
Agricult’s contract was renewed in 2015 and 2016 on the instance of Dr. Stephen Opuni without any further testing, despite not applying for a renewal of their certificates.
Dr. Opuni then applied to the Pubic Procurement Authority (PPA) for approval for Agricult Ghana Limited to be contracted to procure 700,000 litres of the fertilizer, although the conditions for single-sourcing had not been satisfied. In that letter, Dr. Opuni stated the price as $19,250,000.
The nature of the product was captured as liquid despite it being powdery in form. The AG further told the court that at the time of writing to the PPA, Agricult had not written to COCOBOD stating the price as is required by law.
The Public Procurement Authority then wrote to the COCOBOD boss requesting for a value-for-money analysis.
Dr. Opuni, Ms Akuffo said, did not provide this but rather told PPA that, in compliance with advice from PPA Board in 2008, Agricult Ghana Limited had been pre-qualified for the supply of the fertilizer, a statement he knew was untrue.
On that basis, the PPA Board approved COCOBOD’s request for single-sourcing of 700,000 litres of the fertilizer.
Support from NDC
Some key National Democratic Congress (NDC) executives and officials from the erstwhile Mahama administration where at the court in support of Dr. Opuni.
Persons from within the NDC as well as Dr. Opuni’s family have described this prosecution as a witch-hunt.
The National Organizer of the NDC, Kofi Adams described the prosecution of the former COCOBOD boss as an injustice.
He said the government is only making frantic efforts to cause public disaffection towards the previous NDC administration by smearing former state officials with allegations of corruption and initiating legal action against them for same.
By: Fred Djabanor/citifmonline.com/Ghana