Attorney-General Gloria Akuffo has said former COCOBOD CEO Dr. Stephen Opuni could be sentenced to 25 years in prison if found guilty of collecting bribe.
Dr. Opuni who is accused of collecting 25,000 cedis bribe from Seidu Agongo, the second defendant, faces 26 other charges including causing financial loss to the state.
The state says it has established that Seidu Agongo deposited an amount of 25,000 cedis into the account of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni to influence the award of contracts.
On the first day of the trial at the Accra High Court, Samuel Cudjoe, legal counsel for the former COCOBOD boss applied for bail for his client.
Making his case, he argued the state’s claim of bribery amounts to a misdemeanor which attracts a bail for his client.
The Attorney-General who was in court to handle the state’s case did not oppose the bail application.
She, however, reminded her opposing counsel that bribery attracts 25 years imprisonment and is not a misdemeanor.
She asked that bail should be set commiserate with the 25,000 cedis bribery allegation.
A self-recognisance bail to the tune of 300,000 cedis was granted to Opuni together with his accomplice Agongo both of whom have 27 charges hanging around their necks. The two have been directed to deposit their passports with the Criminal Investigations Department of the Ghana Police Service.
Summary of the facts of case presented by Attorney-General Gloria Akuffo
Seidu Agongo acting on behalf of Agricult submitted to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana(CRIG), fertilizer for testing. The testing was supposed to be in two phases; applied to seedlings and applied to matured plants for at least two planting seasons.
AG says testing was carried out for only first phase after which report recommending use was given without second phase testing. She proceeded that investigations revealed that former COCOBOD CEO Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni wrote to CRIG asking that they shorten the testing period. Dr. Opuni subsequently wrote to Seidu Agongo that his fertilizer had been certified for use on cocoa after which a certificate was issued by CRIG.
Agricult despite not applying for renewal of the certificate for 2015 and 2016 as required, upon the instance of Dr. Stephen Opuni had his license renewed and went ahead to further supply the fertilizer without any testing.
Dr. Opuni then applied to the Public Procurement Authority for approval for Agricult Ghana Limited to be single sourced to procure 700,000 litres of the fertilizer although 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 form. The AG further told the court as at the time of writing to PPA Agricult had not written to COCOBOD stating and price as is required by law.
The Public Procurement Authority then wrote to the COCOBOD boss requesting for value for money analysis. According to Ms Akuffo, the first accused did not provide this but rather misrepresented to PPA that in compliance with advice from PPA Board in 2008, Agricult Ghana Limited had been pre-qualified for the supply of the fertilizer although Dr. Opuni knew this was not true.
On that basis, the PPA board approved COCOBOD’s request for single sourcing of 700,000 litres of the fertilizer.
In 2014, Dr Opuni once again wrote to PPA requesting approval to hand Agricult contract to supply a liquid form of fertilizer through sole sourcing even though conditions had not been met, the Attorney General said. The AG said the PPA approved this request. Dr. Opuni then put in another request which was also approved.
In November 2015, the PPA approved the application for single source procurement. Three separate agreements were signed and executed by Seidu Agongo’s Agricult Ghana Limited. Investigations she said had revealed that the contracts were executed when the company did not have a valid certificate to supply the fertilizer.
Whereas the material safety data sheet accompanying the fertilizer that was originally submitted to CRIG for testing described the substance as powdery, Dr. Opuni in requesting quotations for supply and delivery under the three contracts referred to the fertilizer as liquid and quoted in litres, the AG said.
She continued that when the products arrived in Ghana, COCOBOD was required to notify CRIG for testing to ensure it corresponded with what was tested by CRIG. No such testing was carried out.
In 2017, COCOBOD carried out an audit into testing of fertilizers after which it referred the matter for criminal investigations. The investigations the AG said established that the product supplied by Agricult Ghana Ltd was different from the sample submitted to CRIG for testing.
Further tests she said revealed variously that the fertilizer supplied had been adulterated and did not meet the specified standard and that the product could not be used as nutrient on cocoa. Furthermore, the test indicated that the fertilizer could be harmful to humans and animals.
Even though COCOBOD had spent a sum of $55million on the fertilizer, COCOBOD’s records show there was no significant increase in the cocoa yield during the period, the AG stated.
Investigations she stated established that Seidu Agongo deposited an amount of 25,000 cedis into the personal account of Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni to influence the award of contracts.
“It has been established that between 2014 and 2016, contrary to law, Seidu Agongo and Agricult manufactured fertilizer in commercial quantities when it had not been registered by the Ministry for Food and Agriculture.