The 6th prosecution witness in the ongoing trial of former Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD and two others further crumbled the state's case after his own statement to the police as well as COCOBOD documents contradicted his evidence in chief.
Early on, the witness, Peter Osei Amoako who is the Director of Finance at COCOBOD told the court that it was the former CEO, Dr. Stephen Opuni, who authorized all payments to Agricult Ghana Limited for the supply of fertilizers between 2014 and 2016.
He said this on Thursday, November 12, 2020 when he was led in evidence by Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah.
"Looking at Exhibit EE series to GG series, who authorized all these payments," the prosecution asked the witness. He answered, "the payments were authorised by the Chief Executive".
Peter Amoako was further asked to give the name of the Chief Executive who authorized the payments and he mentioned Dr. Stephen Opuni.
However, under cross-examination by Dr. Opuni's lead counsel Samuel Cudjoe, the witness contradicted his own evidence.
He was confronted with his own statement he gave to the police on October 12, 2020 as he was preparing to testify against the accused, and further bombarded with copies of payment files covering COCOBOD's transactions with Agricult.
The witness then opened up, contrary to his evidence in chief, that payments to Agricult were rather authorized by the Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD in charge of Finance and Administration, and the Director of Finance a position he now occupies.
"Mr. Osei Amoako my question is, from the exhibit GG series which you tendered this morning in court shows which official of cocoa board authorised payments for Agricult fertilizers in 2016", Samuel Cudjoe probed.
The witness revealed, "My Lord the payments were authorised by Deputy CE F&A and Director of Finance."
Earlier he confirmed in court that all payment documents approved by the appropriate authority are forwarded to the finance department to confirm if they are contained in the budget of COCOBOD before payment is effected.
He also told the court that payment process is initiated by the Procurement Unit of COCOBOD.
Former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Opuni, businessman Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Company Limited, are facing 27 charges of willfully causing financial loss of ¢217 million to the state, through three separate fertiliser supply contracts between 2014 and 2016.
They have pleaded not guilty to all the charges and are on self-recognition bail of ¢300,000 each.
Read excerpts of the cross examination;
Q. Mr Osei Amoako, Cocobod as a well-structured institution has documents which concerns all aspects of the procurement with respect to the procurement of all fertilizers covering the periods of your stay in Cocobod, isn't it.
A. Yes, My lord
Q. In fact, you gave a statement of the 12th day of October, 2020
A Yes, My Lord
Q. Can you have a look at this statement. this is the statement you gave to the police on the 12th October 2020 isn't it
A. Yes, My Lord.
Lawyer : I want to tender his statement through him subject to we bringing one without any mark
COURT: Statement tendered not objected to, accepted and marked as Exhibit 50 subject to the tendering of a Statement without any markings.
Q. Mr. Osei Amoako in your statement you stated "All documents for procurement activities and payments are in the custody of the Finance/Procurement Department for reference". Isn't it.
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. Then Mr. Osei Amoako, on page 1, you stated the procedure upon award of contract and delivery of goods and services. Isn't it.
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. And according to your statement it is "The Procurement Department initiates all payments after procuring the goods for the user units by preparing documentation and forwarding to Internal Audit." Isn't it
A. Yes My Lord,
Q. Then you also stated that After Internal Audit recommendation all payments are forwarded to the DCE (F&A) or the Chief Executive depending on the amount and approval, Isn't it
A. Yes My Lord
Q. What is the limit by limit I mean the limit of money approval of the Deputy Chief Executive (F&A)
A. My Lord, the limit for the Deputy Chief Executive is GHc10,000
Q. So that between 2014 that is January, 2014 and December, 2016, what was the limit of the Deputy Chief Executive with respect to approval of payment of money
A. My Lord, the limit was GHc10,000.
Q. Then Mr. Osei Amoako, you also stated as follows that "Payment documents approved by the approving authority are forwarded to the Finance Department for confirmation in the budget". Isn't it.
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. Then you stated again, "Finance Department after review initiates payment to the beneficiaries through either cheque or an on line transfer" . Isn't it
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. Then you also stated "Payments are then effective by the banks and evidence of payment in the form of swift/bank statement confirmation is placed on file". Isn't it.
A Yes My Lord
Q. Then Mr Osei Amoako, then from your statement, the only person who approves the purchase of fertilizers can only be the CEO. Isn't it
A. yes my Lord. When therefore in your evidence before this court this morning you stated that the then Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni gave approval for payments to Agricult, he was doing something which every Chief Executive is required to do. Isn't it.
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. In fact, from your statement which I have referred above, "Payment documents approved by the approving authority are forwarded to the Finance Department for confirmation in the budget". By this statement the Finance Department has to confirm before payment is effected, Isn't it.
A. Yes My Lord.
Q. Mr. Osei Amoako. if you look at Exhibit GG series that is the document which covered payments in 2016 and which you tendered in court. Can you have a look, shows the names of the persons who after approval authorized payments. Isn't it
A. My Lord, yes but with explanation. My Lord, in Cocobod, we have two signatories responsible for signing cheques and letters of instructions for payments and on-line payments if the need be. My Lord, the instruction is the Chief Executive and his three deputies, (F&A, A&QC and Operations), so My Lord, the four of them are on the "A" side of the mandate. The Director of Finance, the Deputy Director of Finance and the Accounts Manager are on the "B" side of the mandate. The mandate is A & B for signing of cheques and transfers so My Lord, the Chief Executive and his three Deputies any of them is eligible to sign on the A side. The Director of Finance and the Deputy Director of Finance and the Accounts Manager on the B side any of them is also eligible to sign on the B side. However, generally the Deputy Chief Executive F&A and the Director of Finance signs most of the transactions after approval by the Chief Executive
Q. Mr. Osei Arnoako, my question is from the Exhibit GG series which you tendered this morning in court, which official of cocoa board authorised payments for Agricult fertilizers in 2016.
A. My, Lord, payments were authorized by the Deputy Chief Executive (F&A) and Director of Finance. My Lord this authorization was derived from the approval of the chief executive.
Q. And in fact, before payment was authorised by the deputy CEO F&A and director of finance, all the necessary and relevant authorities in the Finance Department gave the necessary okays as can be seen from the documents accompanying the authorization for payment
A. My Lord, yes with explanation. My Lord, my explanation here is that if you look at the document being referred to there is an approval on the 22nd of February, 2016 by the Chief Executive and that approval was sought by the Deputy Chief Executive (F&A) on the 19th of February, 2016, which gave the Deputy Chief Executive and the Finance Director the authorization to pay
Q. Mr. Osei Amoako, I am putting it to you that this is the right and normal procedure which governs payments in Cocobod
A . Yes My Lord
Q. And Mr. Osei Amoako, the Finance Department of Cocobod together with the Audit Department after the approval will not effect payment if these departments are not satisfied
A. My Lord, yes but I have to explain. My Lord, the Audit Department of Ghana Cocobod will look at the documents available to them and when those documents are okay, will make a recommendation, My Lord, the recommendation is not approval. The approving authority has the right to approve or reject payment. When the approving authority approves the documents then the Finance Department comes in to effect payment.
Q. Mr. Osei Amoako, in all approvals by the chief executive, the Audit department recommended payment before the Chief Executive gave approval. By Chief Executive I mean the first accused
A. My Lord, yes but with explanation. My Lord, at the point of approval by the Chief Executive he has all documents in front of him including audit recommendation and the Chief Executive can decide whether to approve or not.
Q. Mr. Osei Amoako, the Auditors who worked on these approvals are in the employment of Cocobod. Isn't it
A. My Lord, I cannot tell whether all of them are in the employment.
The case has been adjourned to 17th November, 2020 for cross-examination to continue.