Opuni-Agongo trial: A-G’s failure to produce documents stalls proceedings
Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah
The High Court in Accra was forced to adjourn sitting on Wednesday due to dilly-dally on the part of prosecution, having failed to produce the necessary documentary evidence on COCOBOD’s restrictive tendering.
The court on two previous sittings had ordered the state to serve counsel for accused proof of claims by third prosecution witness, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah that COCOBOD engaged in restrictive tender in 2018.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah has been testifying against the former CEO of COCOBOD Dr. Stephen Opuni and a businessman, Seidu Agongo, who are standing trial for allegedly causing financial loss of GHC271.3 million to the state which led to the distribution of substandard fertiliser to cocoa farmers.
When the court sat on June 12, 2019 the witness countered claims by counsel for Dr. Opuni, Samuel Cudjoe that prior to his retirement for the second time at COCOBOD, all chemicals purchased were through sole source.
In his evidence-in-chief, the witness told the court that the procurement practice at COCOBOD had always been open tender, but it was deflated during cross-examination.
Dr. Adu-Ampomah, who is a former Deputy Chief Executive at COCOBOD, insisted that COCOBOD in 2018 purchased some chemicals through open competitive tendering based on the advice of the Public Procurement Authority.
The defence counsel therefore applied for the documents. The trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenuga ordered prosecution to file the documents to prove that COCOBOD purchased agrochemicals for the 2018/19 cocoa season through competitive bidding on the next adjournment date – June 20.
But when the court reconvened last week, June 20, 2019, Samuel Cudjoe drew the attention of the court to the fact that “they have given us a document with attachments but they only gave us something without the attachments”.
The representative of the Attorney General on that day, Chief State Attorney Mrs Evelyn Keelson told the court that prosecution’s inability to file the attachment was an “oversight”.
The judge therefore gave another order, compelling prosecution to produce the attachments by the next adjourned date – June 26, 2019.
“By court the prosecution is supposed to furnish the court with the attachments to the letter dated 5th March by the next adjourned date and must be served to the defense counsel,” the court ordered.
The letter was from COCOBOD seeking approval from the Public Procurement Authority to procure agrochemicals to “restricted tender to CODAPEC /HITEC programs for 2018/2019 season.
The attachments are profiles of companies being engaged for the restrictive tender and other necessary documents.
Notwithstanding the absence of these documents, lawyer Samuel Cudjoe proceeded with his cross-examination last week. He put to the witness, Dr, Adu-Ampomah, “having occupied the position of Deputy CEO A and QC from 2009 to 2013 and 2017 to 2018 you know that there is difference between open competitive and restricted tender?”
The witnessed answered, “No my lord there are technicalities. So that is why there is remark on the lots. so restrictive tendering is the same as competitive tendering”.
“In the restrictive tendering, COCOBOD invited the companies and there were no adverts?” Dr. Adu-Ampomah was asked, which he replied, “My Lord that is why I said generally it should be but Public Procurement Authority advised us.”
No document, no cross-examination
In court on Wednesday June 26, Dr. Opuni’s counsel, Samuel Cudjoe again notified the court that the order given in the last adjourned date had been flouted by prosecution.
However, the Attorney General’s representative for the day, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa wanted the cross examination to continue to “deal with other areas and come back to the matter of procurement” later when the documents are ready.
But Samuel Cudjoe rejected that position, insisting, “the matter of procurement is so germane to this matter and that is why we asked for those documents. I have adequately entered the realm of procurement and I don’t know if it is a strategy to buy time by DPP”.
He was also quick to add, “my Lord, let not the impression be created that we are delaying in this matter”.
Prosecution then indicated that the order given by the court did not include the attachments defence counsel was pressing for.
But the trial judge pointed out to prosecution, “they are conducting their cross examination so let’s look for the documents.”
The DPP assured the court that they will file the attachments to the COCOBOD’s letter to PPA before the next sitting.
The trial was therefore adjourned for the Attorney General’s Department to file the attachments to the March 5 letter and other necessary documents.
Sitting continues on July 2.