A-G’s Witness Runs From His Claims At Opuni Trial Again! CRIG has no protocol for testing fertilizers

Thomas-Prempeh-Mercer Thomas-Prempeh-Mercer

The investigator in the trial of former COCOBOD boss and two others, Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh Mercer, has fled from his evidence in-chief again by conceding that the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) does not have any laid down protocol for testing fertilizers.

His admission is in sharp contrast with what he said in his evidence in chief that fertilizers go through a minimum of two years testing period at CRIG before a supplier could be issued a certificate.

The Police Investigator, also told the High Court that the ex-COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni's salary while in office was "way above" the GHC25, 000allegedly deposited into his account by businessman Alhaji Seidu Agongo, which the Attorney-General has described as bribe from the GHC217 million fertilizer contract.

He said these on Monday, March 22, 2021.

Mr Mercer, who is with the Financial Forensics Unit (FFU) of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service, told the court a week earlier that AlhajiAgongo, the second accused person in the GHS271-million Cocobod financial loss case, admitted having paid the GHC25, 000 to Dr. Opuni, the first accused person, to be used as charity for the poor.

His initial claim on the protocol for testing fertilizers, was to give legs to a denied narrative, that former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Opuni, ordered scientists at CRIG to shorten the testing of lithovit fertilizer, to stand on.

Asked if as part of his investigations he found any policy document concerning the testing period at CRIG, the witness said no to the high court presided over by C.J. Honyenuga, a Justice of the Supreme Court sitting as an additional high court judge,.

"Now did you as part of your investigations find this policy in any regulation or any policy document of CRIG," he was asked.

He replied: "No, My Lord. But My Lord this became necessary at the time to enable the senior scientists of various disciplines to review a colleague scientist's work and to make corrections if any just to make sure the testing procedure was properly followed and my Lord through this policy some certificates were withdrawn."

Chief Insp. Prempeh Mercer has been testifying in the trial where the former COCOBOD boss has been accused of facilitating the purchase of "untested" fertilizer by COCOBOD between 2014 and 2016 from Agricult Ghana Limited.

Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Prempeh appeared as the seventh prosecution witness in the trial of Dr. Opuni and Seidu Agongo who is the Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited.

The two are facing a total of 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretense, willfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

Under cross examination on Monday, March 22, 2021, the trial investigator was walked through internal investigations by COCOBOD into the testing protocols at CRIG in 2017, an issue he admitted he was familiar with.

The trial investigator was shown various documents in exhibit, one of them is a query letter signed by Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah in his capacity as the Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control of COCOBOD.

The letter addressed to Andrew Yaw Akrofi, then Head Soil Science Division at CRIG, was to specifically solicit explanation why he should not be sanctioned for a test conducted by the division.

He forwarded the query to his superiors and a response to that query signed on behalf of the Executive Director of CRIG disabused the notion that the Division has set out rules on testing chemicals.

The letter signed by Rev. Fr. E.K. Oddoye, the then Deputy Executive Director of CRIG, which is in evidence as Exhibit 73, dated 22nd September, 2017 under the headline "RE: QUERY – TESTING OF AGROCHEMICALS" reads in full:

"There are no laid down protocols as such. With the advent of the testing of chemicals and machines at CRIG, Scientists in the various Scientific Divisions evolved their own protocol based on standard scientific procedures.

"These methods differ in the various Scientific Divisions and have not been static. They are reviewed from time to time based on inputs from Ghana Cocoa Board, CRIG Management Scientists from the various Scientific Divisions of CRIG and new knowledge.

"Thank you."

Meanwhile, the witness has admitted that his investigations did not find any report documenting any farmer complaints about the use of lithovit liquid fertilizer.

In a related development, Chief Insp. Thomas Prempeh Mercer was shown an exhibit on Omni Cocoa Aduane produced by Omnifert Limited which was bought by COCOBOD in 2018 though there was no document to show that it underwent any field test.

"My Lord just to put on record that we did not investigate Omni Cocoa Aduane," he averred.

The cross examination was conducted by lawyer NutifafaNutsukpui, stand in counsel for the second and third accused persons.

The seventh prosecution witness maintained his story in court on Monday during cross-examination and noted that the money was well within the earning capacity of Dr. Opuni, whose salary at Cocobod, according to him, was heftier than the alleged GHS25,000 bribe.

"Now sir, you told the court that the reason for charging A1 (Dr Stephen Opuni) and A2 (Seidu Agongo) in respect of the GHS25,000 deposit made into A1's account by A2 was the conflicting statements they gave when they were interrogated separately. Am I correct?" asked Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui, counsel for Mr Agongo and the third accused entity, Agricult Company Limited.

"Yes, my Lord", Mr Mercer answered.

"Now sir, as part of your investigations, did you find out how much A1 [Opuni] earned as a monthly salary at Cocobod?" to which he responded: "Yes, my Lord".

"How much did he earn per month?" the investigator was asked.

"My Lord, as part of our investigations, we obtained the pays lips of A1 from the time of assumption of office to the time he left office. And my Lord, I can produce it if I'm asked to. I don't have the exact figure in my head", he told the court.

The counsel then wondered: "Sir, would you remember if that figure would be more or less than GHS25,000?"

The investigator said: "My Lord, it is way above GHS25,000".

"Sir, it is entirely possible that the GHS25,000 is A1's own money; that's correct?" he was asked.

He answered: "My Lord, that is not so".

Mr Mercer explained: "My Lord, I have explained in this court and produced evidence to support that and to tell the court that A1, in giving statement to the police, said he gave the money to A2 to be deposited into his account. A2, on the other hand, said he does not remember but what he did remember was that he paid GHS25,000 into A1's Ecobank account to cater for the needy children".

"Now sir, irrespective of whether or not you believed A1, the GHS25,000 was within his monthly earning capacity at Cocobod; that is correct?"

"Yes, my Lord", Mr Mercer answered.

The case has been adjourned to 29 March 2021.

Find excerpts of the March 22, 2019 cross examination below

Q: Now Sir, you told this court about testing protocol or policy at CRIG, is that correct

Ye s My Lord

Q: Now did you as part of your investigations find this policy in any regulation or any policy document of CR IG.

No, My Lord. But My Lord this became necessary at the time to enable the senior scientists of various disciplines to review a colleague scientist's work and to make corrections if any just to make sure the testing procedure was properly followed and My Lord through this policy some certificates were withdrawn.

Q: Sir, so you found no written evidence of this policy at CRIG but according to you, you spoke to persons including Rev Father Oddoye and Dr F M Amoah

Yes, My Lord amongst other scientists.

Q: Sir, would you remember when you spoke with them

My Lord, from July when we took over till the time we ended the investigations.

Q: Kindly show him Exhibit H. Sir you have seen and reviewed this document. haven't you.

Yes, My Lord.

Q: And you are aware that as part of Cocobod's own investigations, the management of Cocobod sent out queries to the scientists at CRIG to find out what testing protocols were, that is correct.

Yes, My Lord.

Q: Please open to page 70 of Exhibit H. Sir on that page is one of the queries signed by Dr. AduAmpomah in his capacity as the DCE A&QC of Cocobod, is that correct.

Yes, My Lord

Q: Now Sir, who is that query addressed to

My Lord it is addressed to Mr A Y Akrofi

Q: Sir, kindly read the first two paragraphs to the honourable court.

Witness read out

Q: Now please go to page 71. What do you find there

Re: Query Testing of Agro Chemicals dated 22nd September, 2017.

Q: Please who is it addressed to.

The Deputy Chief Executive, A&QC.

Q: Who signed it.

Andrew Yaw Akrofi.

Q: Kindly read the first three paragraphs on page 71

Witness reads out.

Q: Now Sir, please go to page 73 and please confirm to the court that the reference number you just sighted on page 71 is the same reference number on the letter found on page 73 of Exhibit H.

Yes. My Lord.

Q: Please Sir. who signed the letter on page 73

Rev Father E K Oddoye (PhD). Deputy Executive Director for Executive Director.

Q: Sir, that is on a CRIG letterhead. That is correct

Yes, My Lord.

Q: So that is an official CRIG communication, that also correct

Yes. My Lord.

Q: Kindly read that letter to the honourable court.

Witness reads out.

Q: Please show him Exhibit 41. Sir, if you turn to the 3rd page line 7 and 8 of that document that is Exhibit 41. Please read to the honourable court.

Witness reads out.

Q: Now Sir, if you go to the lines 21 to 23 of the third page of Exhibit 41 and kindly read to the honourable court.

Witness reads out. My Lord just to put on record that we did not investigate Omni Cocoa Aduane

Q: Now Sir, during your investigations you came across CRIG certificates in respect of the Lithovit for 2015 and 2016.

Yes My Lord including 2014

Source: www.theheraldghana.com