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Dr Opuni’s modus operandi is giving oral directives-Witness

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Dr Franklin Manu Amoah, a Prosecution Witness in the trial of Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni has told the Accra High Court that the modus operandi of Dr Opuni is to give oral directives but not in writing.

Dr Opuni and Seidu Agogo, Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretence, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They have pleaded not guilty and have been granted a GH¢300,000.00 each self-recognisance bail by the court.

He said the directive by Dr Opuni, the former COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer to reduce the testing period of generic chemicals was made in front of other scientists from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) and this directive was given on many occasions.

Dr Amoah, who was being cross-examined by Mr Samuel Cudjoe, Counsel for Dr Opuni said, “The accused himself knows very well, he gave those directives.”

He was answering to a question from the defence, whether as a professional, who had worked in CRIG for 34 years; he was not supposed to let anyone influence his ethical conduct, especially a research on Lithovit Foliar Powdery Fertilizer.

At the last adjourned date, the witness told the court in his evidence in chief that when they they received the sample fertilizer for testing it came with a cover letter dated May 15, 2013 and signed by the Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control of COCOBOD, Dr Yaw Adu Ampomah.

He said after receiving the samples, he forwarded it to the Chairman of the Committee for Testing Chemicals and Machines, Dr Kwabena Opoku Ameyaw, where he also minuted  on it and sent it to Soil Science Division, where the test was conducted.

He said instead of the minimum two years and maximum three years maturity growth rate for the Lithovit Foliar Powdery Fertilizer for cocoa, the test only went through six month testing period.

According to the witness, when the report got to him, he observed in the period of the testing and he interrogated the scientist only to be told that it was Dr Opuni, who directed him to reduce the testing period for agrochemicals.

He said according to Dr Opuni, generic chemicals should not have to go through the full length of testing, indicating that he had observed, since assuming office that the rate of agrochemicals in the system for farmers were narrow, so his directive was to reduce the high cost of agrochemicals and also prevent few companies from monopolizing agrochemicals for cocoa.

He said other scientists, who worked on the product, also received similar verbal directives from Dr Opuni and they would attest to that fact.

Dr Amoah, who is the Executive Director at CRIG during the time of the testing said Dr Opuni also gave a verbal directive through one Mr A.A Afrifa, a scientist at CRIG for him to recommend to COCOBOD to purchase Lithovit Foliar Fertilizer to pilot a 10, 000 acre cocoa farm.

He said professionalism and ethics were needed in the conduct of their research and operations and not to be influence but this was a situation, where a CEO comes and gives a directive that indicates that he is also a scientist and knows what he was talking about.

Asked, whether CRIG would only commenced testing after payment was done after the submission of the sample, the witness said not always but was quick to explained that during initial analysis in the laboratory before a bill is submitted.

He said this analysis was done to enable the scientist know, what it entails on the field before the real testing was done.

Mr Cudjoe asked the witness that as the Executive Director of CRIG was it mandatory bound to believe the scientific report given by scientists at CRIG before forwarding to COCOBOD without which he would be committing fraud on his employers but Dr Amoah said, “I am not a rubber stamp l interrogate before forwarding the report to COCOBOD.”

The Defence Counsel said it to the witness, he asked ‘so you deceived your employers (COCOBOD) into believing the content of the letter and the test report’ but the witness said no, explaining that reports sent to COCOBOD were subject to approval or otherwise.

He said my Lord there real occasions that such report have been sent to COCOBOD and it was rejected and other instance, where there was recommendations and suggestions for further testing.

Asked, whether Dr Opuni was an employee of COCOBOD before the testing samples were submitted but the witness said he was not an employee.

It was at this point that the defence wanted to tender a test report conducted on Abapa fertilizer through the witness but the Prosecution raise an objection to the tendering, saying the document was not relevant in the matter and prayed the court not to admit the document.

The Court presided over by Mr Justice Clemence Honyenuga rejected the tendering of the document, indicating it was not relevant looking at the charges levelled against the accused.

 At the last adjourned date, the witness told the court in his evidence in chief that when they received the sample fertilizer for testing it came with a cover letter dated May 15, 2013 and signed by the Deputy Chief Executive Officer in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control of COCOBOD, Dr Yaw Adu Ampomah.

He said after receiving the samples, he forwarded it to the Chairman of the Committee for Testing Chemicals and Machines, Dr Kwabena Opoku Ameyaw, where he also minuted and sent it to the Soil Science Division, where the test was conducted.

He said instead of the minimum two years and maximum three years maturity growth rate for Cocoa for the Lithovit Foliar Powdery Fertilizer, the test only went through six months testing period.

According to the witness, when the report got to him, he observed in the period of the testing and he interrogated the scientist only to be told that it was Dr Opuni, who directed him to reduce the testing period for agrochemicals.

The Court adjourned the matter to October 8, for further cross-examination.

source; GNA

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